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Notes on "Good Day Sunshine"


Notes on ... Series #11.0 (GDS.0)
  by Alan W. Pollack
       Key: A Major and D Major
     Meter: 4/4
        CD: "Revolver", Track 8 (Parlophone CDP7 46441-2)
  Recorded: 8th, 9th June 1966, Abbey Road 2
UK-release: 5th August 1966 (LP "Revolver")
US-release: 8th August 1966 (LP "Revolver")
  Next note I was personally surprised to analyze "Good Day Sunshine" and discover that what I'd been thinking of for years as a fancy change of meter in the refrain section actually isn't there for the most part; with the exception of the coda, the meter is a solid 4/4 throughout, and what feels like a change of meter is actually a s-l-o-w syncopation. "Oh?", you say.

Change of Meter Dispelled

  Next note To get right to it, the refrain section ("Good day sunshine ...") is a deceptively simple six-measure phrase in "straight" 4/4, and this is how I believe it is to be parsed. The first two measures like so:
     Beats: |1     2     3     4     |1     2     3     4     |
   Accents:  »                 »                  »
     Words:  Good    Day       Sun      shine       (daa-de-da-de)
    Chords:  B                 F#
         A:  V-of-V            V-of-(V-of-V)

   [Figure 11.1]
  The next two measures are a repeat of the above followed by this:
     Beats: |1     2     3     4     |1     2     3     4     |
   Accents:  »                 »                  »
     Words:  Good    Day       Sun      shine           I take a...
    Chords:  E7

   [Figure 11.2]
  Next note We essentially have eight beats divided into a repeating pattern of 3 + 3 + 2. This is a type of syncopation you're actually rather familiar with, but you've probably seen it in much faster tempos. For example, a lot of jazz riffs played in even eighth- or sixteenth-notes are accented in this "3 + 3 + 2" manner. Closer to home, you have the harpsichord-like intro to "Because".
  Next note Preceding this refrain are four full measures of a plain E chord (actually just an open fifth instead of the complete chord). This intro, tapped out in an almost mechanical four-to-the-bar, on the one hand, provides contrast with what follows, but it also seems like a hint from the composer not to be fooled; if you're interested in trying to count through the syncopated refrain, you'll find that the intro is quite helpful in getting yourself firmly in the 4/4 groove before the turbulence starts. (Literally get up and march around the room, counting aloud if it helps!)
  Next note The meter isn't the only thing that almost eludes our grasp in this refrain; the key is also equivocal at this point, and is not settled until the verse begins. Unless proven otherwise, we would assume from the opening, that the key of the song is going to be B rather than A as it later turns out.
  Next note At any rate, onwards.

The Verse

  Next note In contrast to the refrain, the verse is comparatively straightforward. Note both the contrast provided by the return to an unequivocal 4/4 beat and the key of A Major, as well as the beautiful economy provided by a recycling of all (and with the exception of the A chord, no more than) the chords used in the intro. The verse is turned into a full eight measures by a repeat of the following:
      |A      F#7    |B7            |E7            |A             |
   A:  I      V-of-   V-of-V         V              I

   [Figure 11.3]

The Break

  Next note The first verse is followed by another six-measure refrain. The consistent use of the "rat-ta-ta-tat" triplet figure in the snare drum to punctuate the last two beats of measures 2 and 4 of each refrain from here to the end of the song is a choice detail; note the use of "stereo drumming" here — probably a simple overdub. This sort of repeat of a background figure starting only in the second verse or refrain is a Beatles' trademark going all the way back to those "do dah doos" in "Do You Want To Know A Secret".
  Next note Moving on, we get next a second eight-measure verse. In an unusual move, the second four measures of this verse are in the key of D and are presented as a solo for piano. In other songs we certainly have seen guitar solos in this same architectural position, but in this case, both the modulation and brief, half-verse duration of the solo are out of the ordinary.
  The key switch to D is done as a classic pivot. The A chord in measure 4 is first heard as I in A Major, but retrospectively is understood as a punning V of D Major.
  Next note This section is followed by another refrain and a third eight-measure verse, musically identical to the first.

Beware of the Coda

  Next note The third verse is followed by a final pair of refrains and an "outro", making for a longer than usual coda.
  In these two immediate repetitions of the refrain we actually do get a break in the 4/4 meter for the first time; a tremendous illustration of the secret art of knowing when to avoid a foolish consistency. The break in the meter occurs in measure 6 (refer back above); i.e. the second measure of the sustained E chord is only three beats!
  But the real frosting on the cake is what I've called the outro. Instead of something more obvious like a third repeat of the refrain going into the fade-out, we are treated to the harmony taking an enigmatic half-step upward (to an F7 chord), and the vocal arrangement suddenly being refracted into a series of cascading echoes.
  Next note Granted, "Good Day Sunshine" contains no exotic instruments, tape loops, or drug references, but nonetheless, this song in its own quiet, feel-good way amply demonstrates by such details as this coda, the sort of willingness to experiment, both with musical syntax and with recording techniques, which is often glibly said to characterize the "Revolver" period.
  ... And moving from the ridiculous to the sublime, what do you make of that funny bit of muttering from Ringo in the final verse on the words "she feels good"; yet another clue or just a bit of troublemaking?
  Alan (092089#11.0)
Copyright © 1989 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.