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notes on ...

Notes on "I Need You"


Notes on ... Series #71 (INY)
  by Alan W. Pollack
       Key: A Major
     Meter: 4/4
      Form: Intro | Verse | Verse | Bridge | Verse |
                  | Bridge | Verse | Outro (with complete ending)
        CD: "Help!", Track 4 (Parlophone CDP7 46439-2)
  Recorded: 15th, 16th February 1965, Abbey Road 2
UK-release: 6th August 1965 (LP "Help!")
US-release: 13th August 1965 (LP "Help!")

General Points of Interest


Style and Form

  Next note We have another intriguing stylistic mix here, this time from George. The pop-rock core is augmented by a folksy undercurrent that manifests itself most strongly in the haunting pseudo-modality of the tune.
  Next note The choice of form is the shorter two-bridge model where the bridges are separated by only one section.
  Next note George's proclivity for blurring somewhat the division between verse and bridge sections by the phrasing of the lyrics shows up again here though in not as pronounced a form as the one observed in "You Like Me Too Much".

Melody and Harmony

  Next note A relatively large number of chords is used (seven!), though there is nothing more exotic in this entire bundle than a V-of-V. George's taste for weakly transitive chord progressions is reflected here in both the holding back of the V chord for as late as the bridge, and his reliance in the verse on IV -» I and the even more indirect stepwise choice of ii -» I to establish the sense of home key.
  Next note George uses an effective trick of his mates in keeping the melodic pitch content and style of the verse and bridge sections distinctively different. Whether or not you're willing to accept this notion as operable on even a subconscious level, you can't deny how striking is the de facto evidence of this effect.
  Next note The verse derives a folksy modalism from the manner in which its melody is restricted to a pentatonic scale (A - B - C# - E - F#) with the solitary exception of one note that is a flat-seventh (G-natural), not strictly speaking part of the scale for the home key; look out for it at the very end of the second phrase. This tune is also made distinctive by its large number of appoggiaturas, several of which leave dissonant, non-harmonic tones hanging at vocal phrase endings; see below.
  Next note Just as the V chord is held back until the bridge, so does the non-pentatonic fourth scale degree suddenly make a featured appearance in the tune of that section. In the second half of this bridge we also find a very non-folksy chromatic shifting amongst D-natural -» D# -» D-natural that is reminiscent to the trick we saw Paul play just last time out in "The Night Before".


  Next note The backing track has a nicely balanced, airy texture of acoustic rhythm guitar mixed with a part for electric pedal tone guitar in which the latter instrument sounds almost like a keyboard.
  Next note The vocal track is pure Middle Period Beatles almost as though it were a recipe-pattern done up "by the numbers": the composer double-tracked on the lead and the two others (with very rare exception, such as "Carry That Weight" where you can hear him right through the heavy mix, Ringo didn't "do" backing vocals) providing an instrumental-like backwash of "Ahhhs" in second half of verse and bridge.
  Next note Those mockingbird pedal tone fills at the phrase endings become a leitmotif for the song. As we'll see below, in a couple of instances where the vocal phrases end up on an unresolved dissonance, these guitar fills actually are necessary to tie up what would otherwise be a disconcerting loose end.

Section-by-Section Walkthrough



  Next note The intro is a mere two measures worth of vamping on the I chord, but in it are quickly introduced both the basic instrumental texture of the entire song as well as the melodic two-part turn 'round C# (C# -» B, D -» C#) which recurs as a motif in all the verse sections which follow.


  Next note The verse is an unusual fourteen measures in length made up of four phrases which create a classic AA'BC pattern. The last phrase is half the length of the other three and this asymmetry lends a subtle feeling of poetic, free-verse to the whole:
       ----------------------------- 2X ------------------------------
      |A              |D              |A              |-              |
   A:  I               IV              I

      |f#             |c#             |f#             |b              |
       vi              iii             vi              ii

      |A              |-              |

   [Figure 71.1]
  Next note The pedal tone guitar turn around C# heard in the intro (or a slight variation on it) reappears at the end of the three of the four phrases of this verse, overlapping in each case with the last two notes of the vocal line in each case.
  Next note In the first two of these phrases the vocal line binds off unusually with an appoggiatura that creates an unresolved dissonance against the chord below it. If you've ever been nearly so depressed, yourself, to the point that you no longer have the energy or motivation to quite finish your sentences before they trail off a few words or so before their proper ending, then you'll likely relate to the poetic effect created by these dissonant, tentative phrase endings.
  Next note In the first and second phrases, you have C# -» B and A -» G respectively sung against an A-Major chord. Without the D -» C# resolution offered by the second half of the guitar turn which follows, you'd be left hanging in each of these cases as though waiting for a shoe to drop. Try imagining this scenario out in your mind.


  Next note The bridge is nine measures long and its two unequal phrases present an elongated free verse effect that is the exact opposite to the similar truncated effect seen in the verse:
   |D              |E              |A              |-              |
    IV              V               I

   |D              |E              |B              |E      |-      |
    IV              V               V-of-V          V

   [Figure 71.2]
  Next note To the extent that this bridge section provides any contrast to the surrounding verses it is because the home key is established here with more forceful clarity than anywhere else in the song; note the use in this section of both V and V-of-V. We're actually much more used to the opposite effect: of the home key having been established to an almost monotonous fault over the course of the first couple of verses, and the bridge providing contrast by making a brief excursion away from it.
  Next note And ever true to the by-the-numbers recipe for contrasting bridge sections you'll note the addition of a cowbell to the percussion track for just this section.


  Next note The eight-measure coda is developed as an extension to the final verse, and it kicks in right where the truncated fourth phrase of the verse section is usually to be found:
   |A      |-      |f#     |-      |D      |-      |A      |-      |
    I               vi              IV              I

   [Figure 71.3]
  Next note Harmonically, the coda is built out of the I -» vi -» IV cliché minus the expected V chord, but the omission of the latter chord is very much in keeping in this instance with the rest of the song.
  Next note The vocal line at this late stage of the song turns around and plays the same mockingbird game as did the pedal tone guitar earlier on. Here, the vocal line repeats three times the same exact melodic phrase of three notes (A -» B -» C#) over each chord change. The effect is especially striking where the ending on C# creates a Major seventh dissonance against the D-Major chord; the resolution to which, as always, is provided ultimately by the now familiar D -» C# of the guitar part.

Some Final Thoughts

  Next note We find George at his absolutely most vulnerable in this song. Granted, he had appeared pretty crashed out way back in "Don't Bother Me", but with the net result of his being unable to speak directly to his erstwhile love, or anyone else for that matter. In "You Like Me Too Much", on the other hand, he not only seemed sufficiently recovered to address The Girl directly, but he even swaggered a bit before her with his gentle chiding. And in the likes of "Think For Yourself" would come just around the next corner, he would raise the emotional ante from mere negativity all the way to disdain and ridicule.
  Next note Viewed from this perspective, "I Need You" scores uniquely for its bitter-sweetly mixed tone of plaintive, terminal desperation.
  Alan (120792#71)
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.