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Notes on "Fixing A Hole"


Notes on ... Series #110 (FAH)
  by Alan W. Pollack
       Key: F (Dorian minor and Major)
     Meter: 4/4
      Form: Intro | Verse | Verse | Bridge |
                  | Verse | Verse (guitar solo) | Bridge |
                  | Verse | Outro (fade-out)
        CD: "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band",
            Track 5 (Parlophone CDP7 46442-2)
  Recorded: 9th February 1967, Regent Sound Studio;
            21th Febuary 1967, Abbey Road 2
UK-release: 1st June 1967 (LP "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band")
US-release: 2nd June 1967 (LP "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band")

General Points of Interest


Style and Form

  Next note This song has a split stylistic personality: the verse is a Gershwinesque jazz/blues hybrid, while the bridge is more of a torch-song pop march.
  Next note The form, on the other hand, is one of the standard two-bridge models; this one belonging to the sub-category which has two middle verses, the second of which is an instrumental solo.

Melody and Harmony

  Next note Both the melody and harmony of the verse are cast in a variety of f minor (the flat third) that is tinged by both the blues (the flat seventh), and the Dorian mode (the raised sixth). The verse harmony is also characterized by a descending chromatic line in a middle voice. The bridge, in contrast, opts for the harmonically clean cut Major mode.
  Next note In many other notes, we've talked about the dramatic sentimentality of the minor iv chord when used in a Major key. In this song, the unusual mode conjured up in the verse sections creates the reverse harmonic scenario: i.e. a Major IV chord in a minor home key, the effect of which is, to my ears, one of casual, hard-boiled urbanity.
  Next note The melodic contours of the verse and bridge are as complementary to each other as is their harmonic profiles. The verse covers a complete octave plus a third (from F up to A-flat) with a rather sensual mixture of steps and skips. The bridge restricts itself to only a fifth (C to G), consists of repeated hammering on a subset of those five notes, and though placed high in the range, still tops out a half-step lower than the verse. That high A-flat of the verse (pushed even further in the final verse to a B-flat -» A-flat appoggiatura) remains the melodic high point of the entire song.
  Next note This song, by the way, resonates uncannily with "Lucy ..." of all songs, for the way its signature descending chromatic line is exposed blatantly in the intro, and the way its bridge so sharply contrasts with its verse; more subtle "competition" 'tween Messrs. Lennon and McCartney, I wonder!


  Next note The backing track is dominated by the unusual appearance of a "rhythm harpsichord" part, still more of McCartney's hyperactive basswork, and obbligato-like commentary from the lead guitar. I am particularly fond of the way George scans the majority of his big solo at a syncopated cross current to the back beat.
  Next note As we've seen with some of Paul's other songs on this album, the vocal arrangement here again is elaborate:
  • First verse: Paul, solo, with double tracking only at the end where it gets high.
  • Second verse: Ditto, though this second time around he sounds hoarse.
  • First bridge: Paul, now double tracked. Note, too how the drumming is modified for the bridges. The guitar comes in at the end of the first phrase and stays in all the way through to the downbeat of the next section.
  • Third verse: Like before, only this time he doubles the guitar lick when it appears.
  • Fourth verse: Guitar solo, with Paul's doubling of the lick at the end of the previous section overlapping at the beginning.
  • Second bridge: Add backing voices for the first time: cooing thirds in the first half, and scatting "dit dit" for the second.
  • Fifth verse: Backing voices stay in through to the end. Again, Paul continues to double the lead guitar lick.
  • Outro: Paul fully double tracked, improvising on the original tune.

Section-by-Section Walkthrough



  Next note The intro consists of a brief harpsichord solo followed by some riding on the hi-hat cymbals, and seems to be a strange two-and-a-half measures long:
                                            - 2 beats -
 Chords: |F       C-aug   |F9      B-flat 9|-          |
    Top: |C               |-               |-          |
 Middle: |A       G#      |Ab              |-          |
 Middle: |F       E       |Eb      D       |-          |
      F:  I       V5+      i7-     IV

   [Figure 110.1]
  Next note You might want to notate my G# in the second chord as an A-flat because it is sustained as an A-flat for the remainder of the phrase. However, I'll stick with my enharmonic notation of G# to the extent that I hear that second chord as a V with a raised fifth; in which case, its correct spelling is with G#, not A-flat.


  Next note The verse is eight measures long and derives from the chord progression of the intro, with its rapid shift from F Major to f minor; shades of "Michelle", written in the same key, no less. The whole section parses as one long six-measure phrase with a trailing two-measure obbligato:
 Chords: |F      C      |f             |              |              |
    Top: |F  C C C  C D |F Eb C C  Bb  |C  F   F  Ab  |Bb C C   C  Eb|
 Middle: |A      G#     |Ab            |-             |-
 Middle: |F      E      |Eb     D      |Eb            |D             |
    F/f:  I      V5+     i              i7-            IV6/4 [?]

 Chords: |f             |Bb            |f             |Bb            |
    Top: |F      Ab     |F             |              |              |
      f:  i              IV             i               IV

   [Figure 110.2]
  Next note I hear the chord in measure 4 as some kind of Major IV chord, though the placement of F in the bassline and the melodic emphasis given to the non-harmonic tone of C sure push the envelope.


  Next note The bridge is also eight measures long, but the feel of it is entirely different from the verse, what with the shift to Major mode, the faster harmonic rhythm, and the different drumming:
      |F      C      |F      C      |F      C      |F             |
   F:  I      V       I      V       I      V       I

      |C      G      |C      G      |C      G      |C             |
       V      V-of-V  V      V-of-V  V      V-of-V  V

   [Figure 110.3]
  Next note And don't you gotta love Macca for those trick rhymes like: "If I'm wrong I'm right where I belong"?


  Next note The outro is built on the plan of one-and-a-half verses, with the vocalist improvising nicely on the tune, and the fade-out well in evidence before the end of the first eight measures.

Some Final Thoughts

  Next note The message of the words here is superficially similar to "Getting Better", but this song is the more complex, varied, and ultimately more profound of the two.
  Next note In the previous song, something has already happened to the protagonist that makes him prospectively certain that from here on in, it's going to be better. In our current song, though, the protagonist speaks from the very midst of proactively effecting a change in his circumstances. Yes, in "Getting Better", he eventually gets around to telling us that he's changing his scene, but in "Fixing A Hole" we catch him in action, so to speak, from the start; fixing a hole, filling the cracks, painting a room, taking the time ...
  Next note Even better, the shifting back and forth between the mixed-mode vague anxiety of the verses and the Major mode self-certainty of the bridges resonates so truthfully with the experience of all of us who have ever been at one of life's crossroads. Especially that ending — because no matter how sure of yourself and the upcoming change you may be in your better moments, the uncertainty of change not yet completely implemented tends to dog you into the fade-out.
  Alan (010596#110)
Copyright © 1996 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.