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notes on ...

Notes on "I Call Your Name"


Notes on ... Series #47 (ICYN)
  by Alan W. Pollack
       Key: E Major
     Meter: 4/4
      Form: Intro | Verse | Verse (variant) | Bridge |
                  | Verse (variant) |
                  | Verse (variant, for guitar solo) | Bridge | 
                  | Verse (variant) | Outro (fade-out)
        CD: "Past Masters", Volume 1, Track 11
            (Parlophone CDP 90043-2)
  Recorded: 1st March 1964, Abbey Road 2
UK-release: 19th June 1964 (EP "Long Tall Sally")
US-release: 10th April 1964 (LP "The Beatles' Second Album")

General Points of Interest


Style and Form

  Next note The style of this one is not easily pigeon-holed; somewhat bluesy in flavor, but not at all in form; more like pop, or even jazz, than the predominantly harder rock songs which chronologically surround it.
  Next note The form is "full", including two bridges that are separated by two verse sections, one of which is an instrumental. A slight variant of the initial verse is used for all verse sections except the first one. The length of each verse is quite short and this makes the first pair of them sound almost as though they comprise one longer couplet-like section. Similarly, the remaining verses, all built on the "variant", sound a bit unnaturally truncated.
  Next note During the solo section, the back-beat is modified even while the tempo is kept constant. When the original beat returns after this break, it too sounds like a change yet again! This is possibly the first time we've seen this trick in a Beatles' song, though in the future it would become one of John's own trademarks; viz. "We Can Work It Out", "Girl", and many later songs such as "Good Morning Good Morning", "Yer Blues" and "Happiness Is A Warm Gun".


  Next note The song is unrelievedly in the key of E Major with the exception of the intro section which contains blue hints of the parallel minor of e. Though only seven different chords are used throughout, three of them (almost half the budget) are altered or borrowed ones, not occurring naturally in the home key. In order of appearance these are:
  1. The V-of-V-of-V (C#-Major); something I don't believe we've seen before now in a Beatles' song.
  2. The V-of-V (F#-Major); which on the contrary, we've seem time and time again in our studies.
  3. The flat-VI (C-Major); sometimes jokingly referred to as the "Peggy Sue" chord, we've seen it before in "P.S. I Love You", "It Won't Be Long", and the much later "Birthday".
  Next note Although the harmonic rhythm is quite relaxed throughout most of "I Call Your Name", with chords tending to change only once every other measure, the frequent use of the three non-diatonic chords listed above create a sense of continual, restless motion even in absence of a clear modulation of key.
  Next note By the way, we observed an analogous harmonic scenario to this one in "Hold Me Tight" although the implementation details there were very different.


  Next note The tune has an underlying pentatonic flavor; note the E -» G# -» B -» C# hook phrase (on the words "but you're not there". Overall, it's not as strictly pentatonic as, say, "All I've Got To Do", since the seventh scale degree (D#) is used liberally within the tune. By the same token though, the other non-pentatonic scale degree (i.e. the fourth — A) is carefully avoided.


  Next note The change to a jazzy "ska" beat in the guitar solo is the result of several factors: Ringo's shift from even eighth notes to a more limping dotted rhythm, Paul's shift from bassline work that is primarily root-note oriented to a stepwise walking pattern, and of course, George's solo itself.
  Next note John's double-tracked solo is the only vocal part. Inexplicably, the synching of the overdub is much looser than usual. This is especially noticeable in the second half of the song following the guitar solo; check out "but just the same" in the last verse.

Section-by-Section Walkthrough



  Next note The intro provides four measures of instrumental lead-in to the first verse. It is unusual both for its harmonic start away from the home key, as well as the deceptive way in which the nature of the opening guitar lick (with its G- and D-naturals) misleads you into thinking the song is going to be more bluesy than it actually is:
      |F#     |B      |E      |B      |
   E:  V-of-V  V       I       V

   [Figure 47.1]


  Next note The initial verse consists is eight measures long and it parses into four short phrases equal in length. Harmonically it opens up wide with three dominant seventh chords in a row:
      |E      |-      |C#     |-      |
   E:  I               V-of-(V-of-V)

      |F#     |-      |B      |-      ||
       V-of-V          V

   [Figure 47.2]
  Next note The appoggiatura in measure 5 of D# -» C# sung in the melody over the F# chord below it would be expressive under any circumstance, but the effect here is enhanced by the fact that the D# is the first occurrence in the melody of a non-pentatonic scale degree.

Verse (variant)

  Next note The variant starts off very much in parallel with the initial verse, but in the second half both the choice of chords and the pace at which they change is modified to help articulate a sense of closure:
      |E      |-      |C#     |-      |
   E:  I               V-of-(V-of-V)

      |F#     |A      |E      |-      ||
       V-of-V  IV      I

   [Figure 47.3]
  Next note The final cadence here is made via the IV chord instead of the more "standard" V, in spite of the fact that the initial verse had ended on V, and this second verse happens to set up its own expectation of the V with a V-of-V chord in measure 5. Following the V-of-V with IV connotes a subtle sense of deferred gratification and it would become a long-favored Beatles' trademark; we saw it in our look at "Eight Days A Week", but it also shows up in the canon as late as the title track on "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band".


  Next note The bridge is another eight-measure section, and it too parses into four short phrases of two measures, each:
      |A      |-      |c#     |-      |
   E:  IV              vi

      |F#     |-      |C (nat)|B      ||
       V-of-V          flat-VI V

   [Figure 47.4]
  Next note Harmonically, this section has a roving feeling of being ungrounded in any one specific key from the way in which the I chord of the home key is avoided throughout.
  Next note A sense of climax is provided by the manner in which the open ending on V is set up by the flat-VI chord and the fact that the melody of this section peaks out at an ever so slightly higher pitch than do the verses.
  Next note Further bridge-like contrast is found here use of an ostinato figure (similar to one heard in the verses of "Hold Me Tight") in the lead guitar.


  Next note The outro is uncannily similar to the one in "Don't Bother Me" including such details as the title hook phrase, the I -» IV chord progression, and the usage for the first time in the song of the syncopated chord change on 'four-and'.

A Final Thought

  Next note The lyrical theme is angst-ridden to an extent that is consonant on some level with other trends in the rest of the group's music at this point in time and yet the song seems a little detached albeit not insincere. I'll stand by my opening comment regarding the way in which the whole production of this one is stylistically anomalistic. Perhaps this is bound up in the fact that it was written with the apriori intention of being given away to Billy J. Either that, or maybe I've just been spoiled over the years by the image of the later cover by the Mamas and Papas :-)
  Alan (012092#47)
Copyright © 1992 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.