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Notes on "Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except For Me And My Monkey"


Notes on ... Series #148 (EGSTHEFMAMM)
  by Alan W. Pollack
       Key: E Major
     Meter: 4/4 (with 3/4 surprises)
      Form: Intro | Verse | Refrain (abridged) |
                  | Verse | Refrain |
                  | Verse | Refrain | Outro (fade-out)
        CD: "White Album", Disc 2, Track 4 (Parlophone CDS7 46443-8)
  Recorded: 26th, 27th June, 1st, 23rd July 1968, Abbey Road 2
UK-release: 22nd November 1968 (LP "White Album")
US-release: 25th November 1968 (LP "White Album")

General Points of Interest


Style and Form

  Next note This is yet another one of John's broad-gesture songs. It's an early foreshadow of the primal scream style that he would increasingly be drawn to in some of his "solo" work with Yoko, but as a Beatles' track, this one bears comparison with "Yer Blues" in terms of its heavy guitar texture and sometimes wrenching meter.
  Next note The painfully slow harmonic rhythm combined with the virtually unnoticeable borderline between the verse and refrain sections creates the impression of an improvisatory rave-up that could go on seemingly forever; as if, as actually happens in the case of the later "Dig It", the officially released track was just a conveniently-sized slice lifted out of a much longer, complete studio performance.
  Next note The "wrenching meter" effect here is caused by switching the meter from 4/4 to 3/4 for two measures of the last phrase of the refrain. John had used essentially the same gambit in "Strawberry Fields Forever"; but you won't read about that in the newspapers :-)
  Next note The lyrics are a rather extreme example of John's talent for milking poetic ambiguity from small bites of clichéd small talk: "Come on / take it easy". The amazing thing is how the roots of this go as far back as such early tracks as "Yes It Is".

Melody and Harmony

  Next note Most of the melodic material is from the realm of rapping chant. Only for the title phrase followed by the lead guitar solo does it rise to the level of memorable tunefulness.
  Next note Harmony is predominated by what I call the "Hey Jude" trio of I, IV, and flat-VII. This is rounded out by the inclusion of flat-III (the next hop around the cycle of fifths from flat-VII), and the garden variety V chord. The juxtaposition of V with flat-VII, and I with flat-III creates two classic cross-relations.


  Next note The backing track is thick and heavily pulsing with the sound of many guitar overdubs, the bass, and drum kit.
  Next note The shaken (cow?) bell only seems to be incessant. If you manage to track it (come on, you can do it yourself this time), you'll note how neatly it is dropped out and back in over the course of the song; typical Beatlesque attention to detail.

Section-by-Section Walkthrough



  Next note The intro is eight measures long and features a syncopated vamp on the I -» IV chord progression repeated four times. We're parsing the tempo here as a fast 4/4:
       ------ 4X -------
      |E       |A       |
   E:  I       IV

   [Figure 148.1]


  Next note The verse in each case is twelve measures of jamming on the I chord. No small amount shuffling action underlies the otherwise moribund harmony.
       --------------- 3X ----------------
      |E       |-       |-       |-       |
   E:  I

   [Figure 148.2]


  Next note The complete refrain is twenty-four measures long and is built out of an unusual poetic pattern; the first two phrases seem like just a direct continuation of the talky verse, the next two phrases have singing only in their first halves, and the final two phrases are left entirely instrumental. Paradoxically, though the harmonic rhythm steadily picks up pace in this section, the spoken word becomes increasingly more sparse.
       --------------- 2X ----------------
      |E       |-       |-       |-       |
   E:  I

      |A       |-       |-       |-       |

      |D       |-       |-       |-       |

      |B       |-       |-       |-       |

      *** 3/4 *** 3/4 *** 4/4 ...
      |E       |D       |G       |-       |
       I        flat-VII flat-III

      *** 3/4 *** 3/4 *** 4/4 ...
      |E       |G       |D       |-       |
       I        flat-III flat-VII

   [Figure 148.3]
  Next note The first refrain is actually eight measures short, starting as it does where the chords change to A-Major, below. If you imagine the song without this shortcut, you can sense the danger of boredom quickly setting it by too much unrelieved exposure to the E-Major chord.
  Next note By no coincidence, the metrical shift directly coincides with, and its dramatic effect is intensified by, the most memorable guitar solo lick in entire track.
  Next note The reversible deployment of the chord progression in the final two phrases nicely resonates with the inside/outside running joke in the lyrics.


  Next note The instruments drop out for the first four measures of the outro, leaving the noise-making vocalists momentarily in the spotlight.
  Next note The remainder of the outro suggests a kind of never-ending repeat of the verse section.
      |E       |-       |-       |-       |
   E:  I

      |-       |-       |D       |-       |

      |-       |-       |-       |-       |

       --------------- 3X ... ------------
      |E       |-       |-       |-       |

   [Figure 148.4]

Some Final Thoughts

  Next note Here we have an example where the Esher demo [**], compared to the official version, is unusually sketchy with respect to musical detail: e.g. no intro, the chord progressions are incomplete and in some places different; the guitar work lacks punch, the tune doesn't fit properly above the chords, and the most distinctive melodic riffs do not appear to have yet been composed.
  Next note By the same token, the broad strokes are already quite in evidence: the verses with their pattering lyrics rapped out over repetitive harmonies, and the refrains with their sparser lyrics declaimed over more chord changes more clearly directed.
  Next note In my humble opinion, the extent to which the demo successfully captures the fundamental essence of the finished product in spite of all sketchiness only goes to underscore the notion that this song is, at heart, big gesture-oriented.
  [** The so-called Esher demos consist of 26 demos recorded at George Harrison's Esher bungalow, between the return of Lennon and Harrison from Rishikesh, India, in April 1968 and the start of the recordings for the "White Album" on the 30th of May 1968. Some of these were released on "Anthology", Volume 3.]
  Alan (051098#148)
Copyright © 1998 by Alan W. Pollack. All Rights Reserved. This article may be reproduced, retransmitted, redistributed and otherwise propagated at will, provided that this notice remains intact and in place.