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Notes on "I Me Mine"


Notes on ... Series #170 (IMM)
  by Alan W. Pollack
       Key: a minor
     Meter: 3/4 and 4/4
      Form: Intro | Verse | Refrain |
                  | Verse | Refrain | Verse (with complete ending)
        CD: "Let It Be", Track 4 (Parlophone 0777-7 46447-2)
  Recorded: 3th January 1970, Abbey Road 2;
            1st, 2nd April 1970, Abbey Road 1
UK-release: 8th May 1970 (LP "Let It Be")
US-release: 18th May 1970 (LP "Let It Be")

General Points of Interest


Style and Form

  Next note "I Me Mine" is an interesting folk/blues stylistic hybrid with more than just a touch of the hard rocking waltz beat.
  Next note The latter somehow appears to have tickled the fanciful ire of George's mate John. There's both the indelible video image of John and Yoko ridiculingly waltzing to the song just for yuks in the "Let It Be" film, and a bootlegged outtake (Yellow Dog's CD "All Things Must Pass", part 2: acoustic, track 9) on which John not only sings along in a mock schmaltzy operatic voice, but in reaction to the ternary beat tells George, "Run along, son. We're a rock and roll band," and by way of example, recites a four square "boom-pah boom-pah" rhythm. This itself is ironic when you consider John's own penchant for the 3/4 meter, as well as his conspicuous absence from the eventual recording of the official version of "I Me Mine" in early January 1970.
  Next note The form alternates Verse and Refrain sections with no outro, ending off just where you'd expect the usual transition to the next Refrain. In consideration of the recording history and the available outtakes, you get the impression George never had, or took, the time to truly finish the piece; that they might not have taken it as far as they wound up doing if not for a sense of obligation to include it on the album because parts of it would appear in the film; shades of "Across The Universe".
  Next note The early outtakes of the song, all from the 1/8/69 sessions, demonstrate an uncertainty about how to segue into and out of the Refrain, with a variety of experiments using a Flamenco-like beat for the transition that was clearly (thankfully?) lost on the way to the session for the official version a few days shy of a complete year later.

Melody and Harmony

  Next note The foreground of the tune is heavy on repetition and sequencing of downward phrases in three easy steps. The high-level melodic shape (from the Schenkerian perspective) seems to merely alternate between E and and F (i.e. melodic steps 5 and 6 respectively) which only goes to add to the unfinished sense of the venture.
  Next note The verse harmony exploits the modal ambiguities of the alternative melodic/natural/harmonic minor scales, featuring both a Major IV in a minor key, as well as the progression from flat-VII to V with its much Beatles-favored cross relation. The Refrain uses the old blues trio of i, iv, V.
  Next note Both Verse and Refrain sections harmonically open out from i, giving the song the open-ended feeling of a rhetorical question. The latter again, underscores an uneasy feeling of incompleteness that is hardly mitigated by Spector's artificial lengthening of the track. Though, the more I sleep on it, it appears likely that this "effect" was fully intentional on George's part in the first place.
  Next note In a world in which V is the most common of the "open" harmonic targets and "IV" the distant but clear second, the decision to steer the Verse toward the goal of VI7 is about as unusual as the Refrain's ending on V is familiar and predictable.


  Next note The Beatles own arrangement of the song includes some characteristic layering touches. For example, the Intro features organ and lead guitar, with drums and acoustic guitar first entering for the Verse, and a piano part held back until the Refrain.
  Next note Spector's orchestral overdub is completely unnecessary but is also sufficiently straightforward that you can easily mix it out with your mind if you don't want to "listen" to it.

Section-by-Section Walkthrough



  Next note The intro turns out to be identical to the start of the verse, though it is foreshortened to six measures by being elided with the first Verse:
                                                    Verse ...........
       Intro ............................................
      |a       |-       |D       |-       |G       |E7  a   |-       |
   a:  i                 IV                flat-VII V   i

   [Figure 170.1]


  Next note The Verse is an unusually long thirty-two measures, divided up into even phrases that form an AA'BA'' pattern:
      ----------------------------- 2X -------------------------------
     |a      |-      |D      |-      |G       |E7     |a      |-      |
  a:  i               IV              flat-VII V       i

     |d      |-      |-      |-      |E9      |-      |-      |-      |
      iv                              V
line: A      |G#     |G-nat. |F#     |F-nat. .....
     |a      |       |       |       |F7      |-      |-      |-      |
      i                               VI

   [Figure 170.2]
  Next note Paul's bassline makes a not so nasty habit (call it a 'leitmotif') of taking jumps of a third. On chords lasting two or more measures, he moves from root to middle note of the chord, placing the latter appearance of the chord in "first" (a.k.a. 6/3) inversion. Easily heard examples of this include the second measure of the intro, and measure 3 of the four-measure stay on d-minor. The move from G to E toward the end of the first phrase extends the same gesture bassline motif, though in this case, both chords are presented in root position.
  Next note The other notable bassline contribution here is the fully exposed chromatic descent over the first four measures of the final phrase. The Beatles over the long run seemed to prefer the hiding of such chromatic runs in an inner voice (e.g. "You Won't See Me") or over a pedal point (e.g. "Dear Prudence").
  Next note Dissonance appears in the form of the melodically emphatic F-natural pitted against the E-Major V chord, and the free dissonance of the equally emphasized E in the tune over the F-chord.
  Next note The Twickenham outtakes of the song indicate that George was originally toying with playing the E9-chord through all eight measures of the third phrase. That's too much of a good thing, and his revision which places d-minor in the first half of that phrase for the official version is a good example of the musical equivalent of copy editing prose.


  Next note The refrain surely would be (wants to be?) a classic twelve-bar blues frame but for the transition that "prematurely" leads it back to the next Verse after ten measures:
   |a       |-       |-       |-       |

   |d       |-       |a       |-       |
    iv                i

   |E       |-       |

   [Figure 170.3]
  Next note The change of metrical gears coming into and going out of the Refrain is done with casually impressive arithmetic precision. It is by no means approximate, capricious, or arbitrary.
  Next note The metric modulation from 3/4 to 4/4 is accomplished by treating a half measure of the 3/4 tempo (i.e. a syncopated beat and a half) as equivalent to a quarter note in the new meter. The modulation back the other way is done by scanning a half measure of the 4/4 tempo as slow (quarter note) triplets and allowing each of those triplet beats to equal a quarter note in the 3/4 meter.
  Next note Wanna see the arithmetic?
  • Verse 3/4 tempo is 1 measure per second; 60 measures to the minute; a heart pounding 180 beats per minute.
  • Divide those measures into syncopated halves (dotted quarter notes equal to 3 eighths each) insteads of three beats, and you have 120 of those dotted quarters per minute. Now, let this be the value of the new 4/4 quarter notes. Thus, the Refrain procedes in a nice and genuine march tempo.
  • When ready to switch back consider the 4/4 measure divided into two halves of two beats each. Those weigh in a 60 per minute.
  • And what do you know! 60 per minute is equal to the value of the original 3/4 tempo measures. Slick as hell if you ask me.
  Next note In any event, a subtle reminder of the Verse's ternary feel is suggested even in the 4/4 of the Refrain section by the filling of its quarter note beats with rapid triplets.

Some Final Thoughts

  Next note Is it possible that no amount of musical pleasantry and production values can make up for the extent to which this song is perilously over the top in the Department of Preachiness?
  Next note Throughout the ages a genuinely self-effacing "love of reproof" has been defined as one of the key prerequisites for making an advance in the realm of the spirit. Yet it seems almost comical to contemplate just how far out of fashion such an notion would have seemed during the "do your own thing, man" period into which this song along with really the entire output of the Beatles was first launched.
  Next note John at least had the clever instinct to couch his "Nowhere Man" in terms of describing an individual in third person, and for good measure, to make explicit at the end that he, in no way, considered himself above reproach for the same foibles to which he himself was calling attention.
  Next note But here, in "I Me Mine", I fear that George unwittingly traps himself in the pit of self righteousness, not only by his indiscriminite inclusion of "everyone" as his target, but by the essential scenario of the song in which an individual zealously condemns the entire community for being self-centered.
  Next note Robert Crumb deftly demonstrates this trap in a short strip on the inside back cover of "Zap Comix" No.1 dated 1967. The text of his eight panels speaks for itself, I dare say, even without Crumb's characteristic graphic accompaniment:
  • (Title) "Let's Be honest" featuring Shuman the Human.
  • "Hey, listen everybody! I have just thought of something brilliant!"
  • "Let's all stop playing ego games right now!"
  • "Okay? No more games when I say "go" ... "GO!"
  • (Group silence)
  • (Silence continues)
  • "Wow! Now wasn't that a great idea?"
  • "Oops!"
  Alan (071899#170)
Copyright © 1999 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.