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Notes on "Her Majesty"


Notes on ... Series #193 (HM)
  by Alan W. Pollack
       Key: D Major
     Meter: 4/4
      Form: Intro | Verse (abrupt ending)
        CD: "Abbey Road", Track 17 (Parlophone CDP7 46446-2)
  Recorded: 2nd July 1969, Abbey Road 2
UK-release: 26th September 1969 (LP "Abbey Road")
US-release: 1st October 1969 (LP "Abbey Road")

General Points of Interest


Style and Form

  Next note Just when you think the last recorded Beatles album is over, just as you're letting out a deep sigh in reaction to "The End", you're startled by one crashing D-Major chord that's followed by this irreverent little fragment of a ditty. Its ending is as abrupt as its start is sudden. Before you've quite had a chance to react to it, it's already altogether come and gone.
  Next note By this point, the Beatles had pulled this kind of stunt just enough times for you to recognize it with an indulgent smile, but not too many times that you'd be annoyed that it's getting old. In contrast to "The End", "Her Majesty" it provides sufficient comic relief to those for whom the previous track is too sombre or stuffy, without ruining or even diluting that same track's lush sentiment for those who like it just the way it is.
  Next note Lewisohn's characterization of Paul arriving early at the studio on July 2, 1969 to quickly get this song down on tape before the others arrived implies that the song was hot off the composer's pen that very morning. However, an outtake of "Her Majesty" from the 1/24/69 "Get Back" sessions at Apple shows the song was already quite worked out well in advance. This outtake runs for over two minutes and consists essentially of five repeats of the single verse we find on "Abbey Road"; there is no alternate bridge section, nor even extra lyrics for a second verse, aside from some scat singing in places. What sounds like George and Ringo attempt half-heartedly to vamp along, but even at this early date, Paul clearly performs here what we are familiar with as the finished guitar part.
  Next note In terms of style, "Her Majesty" sounds like a strange cross between "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" and the "Goodbye" song Paul wrote for Mary Hopkin.

Melody and Harmony

  Next note The tune covers the range of about an octave, which is unusually large considering its pattering, non arch-like character.
  Next note The chord set is dominated by the standard I, ii, IV, V, but is also spiced up by a couple secondary dominants and a diminished seventh chord.


  Next note It doesn't get any simpler than this on a Beatles recording: just acoustic guitar and single track lead vocal. No hand claps, no foot taps, not even a ticking metronome.

Section-by-Section Walkthrough



  Next note Thud; this is what otherwise would have been the final chord of "Mean Mr Mustard". It's in D Major but sounds ever so slightly out of tune with respect to what follows.


  Next note The verse is an unusual eighteen measures long, featuring a sixteen-measure four-square quatrain, followed by a two-measure petit reprise of the last phrase. The quatrain itself parses out into an AA'BA'' pattern:
  line:  D     C#    |B     A     |E
Chords: |D           |-           |E9    A     |D           |
     D:  I                         V-    V     I

        |D           |-           |E9          |A           |
         I                         V-of-V       V

        |b           |-           |D7          |G           |
         vi                        V-of-IV      IV

        |E#          |D     B     |e     A13   |D     B     |
         #ii4/2 dim.  I     V-     ii    V      I     V-
                             of-ii                     of-ii

        |e     A13   |D  (cut off after second beat)
         ii    V      I

   [Figure 193.1]
  Next note The first two measures of the first two phrases provide a good example of what I've labeled elsewhere as an "harmonic envelope." The D chord is really sustained over both measures with a walking bassline moving beneath it. You do (should) not need to parse every half measure as a different "chord".
  Next note The first phrase has a closed harmonic shape; the second phrase is open to V. The third phrase opens on vi and closes on IV; a fine example of harmonic "misadventure" even in a tiny song like this. And the final phrase is convergent on the home key.
  Next note The harmonic rhythm is kept flexible throughout. No rigid pattern is followed but the pace at which the chords change is noticeably picked up for the final phrase.
  Next note The prominence of F# in the tune makes a couple of the E chords into E9's and A chords into A13's.
  Next note The diminished chord that starts the fourth phrase is the very same one we saw last time in "The End". The fact that it shares the note D with the I chord that follows it might lead you to think it's rooted on D, but the chromatic voice leading forces you to root it on E#:
   B  -» A
   G# -» A
   E# -» F#
   D  -» D       
  Next note The master recording ends with an A-natural on the second beat of the final measure. What should be the last two beats of that measure filled with a D-Major chord are clearly missing. This is an effective demonstration of how well conditioned we all are to wanting the V chord implied by the final A-natural to resolve to I, and how equally disappointed we feel when it doesn't happen.

Some Final Thoughts

  Next note This pass of our studying the songs of the Beatles is concluded.
  Next note The next order of business is to upgrade the "original 28" notes to the template and level of detail adopted for the remainder of the series. There's also a long list of corrections and additions I need to make to many of the other notes; the one on "Drive My Car", in particular, begs for me to recant.
  Alan (020900#193)
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.