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notes on ...

Notes on "Good Day Sunshine"


Notes on ... Series #11.1 (GDS.1)
  by Alan W. Pollack
       Key: A Major
     Meter: 4/4
      Form: Intro | Refrain |
                  | Verse  | Refrain |
                  | Verse / Break | Refrain |
                  | Verse | Refrain | Refrain | Outro (fade-out)
        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")

General Points of Interest


Style and Form

  Next note We're going to sneak a bit further ahead in the chronology this time from where we've been mostly hanging out to look at the song that opens what quaintly used to be called the "B side" of the "Revolver" Long Playing (LP) record album.
  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, nostalgic and folksy way amply demonstrates the sort of willingness to experiment, both with musical syntax, combinations of styles, and recording techniques, which is often glibly said to characterize the so-called Late Middle Period.
  Next note I was rather surprised to discover here 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 outro, 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. Check it out below.
  Next note The form is essentially that of a folk ballad, with strictly alternating refrains and verses. The intro, outro, and semi-instrumental middle verse lend an explicitly "pop" cross current.
  Next note The ballad format encourages the different lyrics we find in each verse.
  Next note The refrain commences right on the downbeat. The verse starts with a pickup.
  Next note The fact that at the very time this song was being recorded at Abbey Road in June 1966 a comparably sun-drenched song titled "Daydream" by the Loving Spoonful was topping the charts in America strikes me as a remarkable coincidence, perhaps, worthy of enquiry.

Melody and Harmony

  Next note The melodic material fills slightly more than an octave's space, but is aligned "below" the scale of the home key; i.e. topping out perilously on step 7 (G#), and bottoming out on step 6 (F#) nine notes below.
  Next note The verse's initial couple steps upward are more than amply balanced out by downward gestures that follow as the consequence of upward jumps. The refrain's downward jabs are counterbalanced by the upward pressure (F# -» G#) of its overall contour.
  Next note Only four chords are used throughout, B/E/A/D, but they carry considerable spice because they are all Major chords positioned around the "pure" cycle of 5ths. In other words, two of the four are "altered" chords that don't occur naturally within the home key. You might say this harmonic pattern is a major source of the nostalgic effect of the song.


  Next note The backing track prominently features piano, drums, and even hand claps but there is little in the way of guitars.
  Next note Paul single tracks the lead vocal in the verses, and is harmonized with by John and George for the refrains.
  Next note Among the various overdubs are relatively well developed whole second tracks for both drums and piano. This is an excellent example of where you can get a clear sense of how the Beatles would layer an arrangement by comparing the separated stereo tracks.

Section-by-Section Walkthrough



  Next note The intro consists of four full measures of a plain E chord (actually just an open fifth instead of the complete chord). This intro, tapped out in a mechanical four-to-the-bar, provides contrast with what follows, but also seems like a hint from the composer not to be lulled into metrical complacency.
  Next note 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 out loud, if it helps!
  Next note The track starts off entirely without percussion, but we quickly have the staggered entrance of drums, followed a few beats later by a cymbal roll, mixed in respectively from left to right.


  Next note The refrain is six measures in length with a phrasing pattern of AAA' and an harmonic shape unusually opened at both ends, though still convergent upon the home key.
  Next note The six measure length is deceptively simple once you get it parsed out in "straight" 4/4. 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]
  Next note 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 in each phrase divided into a 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 "Here Comes The Sun" and the intro to "Because".
  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. Until 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. The chord progression from V-of-V back to its own V rather than forward to the V of the home key is musical kind of "approach avoidance."


  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 clear establishment of the home 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/refrain.
  Next note The verse is a fully squared off eight measures long, with a phrasing pattern of AA, and a closed harmonic shape:
       --------------------------- 2X ----------------------------
      |A      F#7    |B7            |E7            |A             |
   A:  I      V-of-   V-of-V         V              I

   [Figure 11.3]
  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 starting only from here to the end of the song is a choice detail; note again the use of overdubbed "stereo drumming." 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, having both the modulation and the brief, half-length solo in the same place are out of the ordinary.
  Next note The key switch to D is done as a classic pivot. The A chord in measure four is first heard as I in A Major, but retrospectively is understood as a punning V of D Major. Similarly, the shift back to A Major makes a pun on the D-Major chord:
      |A      F#7    |B7            |E7            |A             |
   A:  I      V-of-   V-of-V         V              I
              (V-of-V)                          D:  V

      |D      B7     |E7            |A7            |D      B      |
   A:                                               IV     V-of-V
   D:  I      V-of-   V-of-V         V              I

   [Figure 11.4]
  Next note The cross-relation briefly exposed here (the only place in the entire song) by the sequence of D-Major and B-Major chords demonstrates the less-is-more wisdom of restraint.
  Next note This section is followed by another refrain and a third eight-measure verse, musically identical to the first with the exception of hand claps now added to the mix on beats 2 and 4 of each measure; fussy and fastidious.


  Next note The third verse is followed by a final pair of refrains and an outro, making for a longer than usual coda.
  Next note 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 six (refer back above); i.e., the second measure of the sustained E chord is only three beats!
  Next note But the real frosting on the cake is what the outro, proper. 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 Oldies afficionados will recognize this effect of modulating up a step at the end as a fairly widely used cliche of golden aged rock and roll. The Beatles however make limited use of it, all three examples in the canon interestingly provided by Macca; in addition to "Good Day Sunshine", we also have "And I Love Her" and "Penny Lane".

Some Final Thoughts

  Next note I'd be hard pressed to account for every item in the Lennon and McCartney songbook as being one side of a yin/yang parallel effort of John and Paul to solve similar compositional challenges. By the same token, for the third time in a row, we've got a pair of songs intriguingly worthy of comparison and contrast.
  Next note Check out the finale to the next note, on "She Said She Said". One additional point of contrast with "Good Day Sunshine" is the way Paul's song turns out to fit the 4/4 meter as a point of technicality. John's approach to metrical disruption operates under no such scruple.
  Next note ... And moving from the ridiculous to the sublime, what do you make of that funny bit of muttering from Ringo in the final verse where he mimic's Paul on the words "she feels good"; yet another clue or just a bit of troublemaking?
  Alan (073000#11.1)
Revision History
092089 11.0  Original release
073000 11.1  Revise, expand and adapt to series template
Copyright © 2000 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.