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notes on ...

Notes on "I Will"


Notes on ... Series #144 (IW)
  by Alan W. Pollack
       Key: F Major
     Meter: 4/4
      Form: Verse | Verse | Bridge |
                  | Verse | Outro (with complete ending)
        CD: "White Album", Disc 1, Track 16 (Parlophone CDS7 46443-8)
  Recorded: 16th, 17th September 1968, Abbey Road 2
UK-release: 22nd November 1968 (LP "White Album")
US-release: 25th November 1968 (LP "White Album")

General Points of Interest


Style and Form

  Next note This is quite a pink-edged daisy of a song, written in that earnest, fervent melodic style that is only one of Paul's genuine trademarks. And, just as with the likes of "Yesterday", "Hey Jude", and "Let It Be", there is something underlying here that is inscrutably hymn-like, even "religious" in tone.
  Next note The compact form is unusual for the lack of an intro; an outro that is long in proportion to the otherwise short overall length of the song, and the fact that the lyrics of every verse are different; i.e. it may be "short" but it still tells a "story".

Melody and Harmony

  Next note The verse melody is rather jumpy but features nice arches. The bridge tune, in contrast, contains more conjunct motion.
  Next note The verse is built around one of the more persistent cliché chord progressions of pop music, but the song still keeps a few surprises up its sleeve: watch out for that V-of-V near the end of the bridge, the implied diminished vii chords at the start of the outro, and of course, that juicy flat-VI chord just before the ending.


  Next note The backing track is dominated by acoustic guitar, twelve-string, maracas, that funky percussion effect that sounds like a horse cantering slowly, and Paul's scat-sung "bassline" recorded very close up.
  Next note Paul appears to be handling the vocal chores on his own, both lead and harmonizing overdub.

Section-by-Section Walkthrough



  Next note The first section is an unusual nine measures long; to be parsed as a nice, four-square eight-measure verse elided with a two-measure interlude that separates the two verses from each other.
      |F      d       |g7     C       |F      d       |a      F7     |
   F:  I      vi       ii     V        I      vi       iii    V

      |B-flat C       |d      F       |B-flat C       |F      d      |
       IV     V        vi     I        IV     V        I      vi

       |g      C       |
        ii     V

   [Figure 144.1]
  Next note In contrast, the second section is exactly eight measures long, with the F-Major chord sustained for the entire eighth measure; with the added seventh allowing the chord to pivot from I to V-of-IV.


  Next note The bridge is also eight measures in length. Harmonically, the verses are closed in shape, cycling as they do from I back to I. This section contrasts with them by virtue of its start away from I, and its wide open ending on V.
      |B-flat a       |d              |g      C       |F             |
   F:  IV     iii      vi              ii     V        I     (V-of-IV)

      |B-flat a       |d              |G              |C             |
       IV     iii      vi              V-of-V          V

   [Figure 144.2]
  Next note The first two verses had been sung single track. This bridge adds a second track in parallel thirds to the lead. The double tracking is retained for the next verse, though the doubling is then kept in unison with the lead, with the parallel third effect brought back one more time in the outro. That reprising of the harmonizing effect is a classic type of unifying gesture.


  Next note This section is the compositionally most sophisticated part of the song. The final verse is gently morphed in order to motivate the outro, and the outro, per se, is a morphing of the bridge.
  Next note The final verse starts changing in measure 6, going into one of those once-twice-three-times rhetorical loops; let's pick it up below starting in the measure before:
   Sing it|

   |loud ...                 Make it|easy ...                For the|
   |B-flat C       |d e-dim7 F      |B-flat C      |d e-dim7 F      |
    IV     V        vi  vii  I       IV     V       vi  vii  I

   |things you do ...
   |B-flat C       |d               |g      C      |D-flat          |
    IV     V        vi               ii     V       flat-VI

   |-              |-               |F             |-               |

   |Bb     a       |d               |g      C      |F               |
    IV     iii      vi               ii     V        I

   [Figure 144.3]
  Next note The third strike, as I call it, is allowed to grow into a long, complex phrase that runs into that surprisingly climactic flat-VI chord.
  Next note The song quickly recovers and finishes up with a charming scat-sung variation on the first half of the bridge.

Some Final Thoughts

  Next note The theme of wistful longing for a lover from whom one is separated insurmountably runs through many of Paul's songs. Typically, as in the case of "All My Loving" or "Things We Said Today", the relationship has already been well established before the separation, and the separation itself is the conventional one of physical distance.
  Next note In this song, both the romantic relationship as well as the essential nature of the separation are only hinted at in enigmatic, oblique turns of phrase. For all we know, Paul is pining for some elusive and idealized immortal beloved whom he has yet to meet, but in whose existence somewhere out there, he maintains undying faith.
  Next note That said, I still think there is an association to be made between this song subtle song and one of Paul's earliest, most conventional Valentines-From-Across-The-Miles: "P.S. I Love You". The most obvious parallel is the common use of the flat-VI chord, but there's also the way in which the melody entertains octave leaps upward. Now that I think of it, there's also the semi-Latin dance beat.
  Hmmm, ... I wonder what else there is about these two songs.
  Alan (022298#144)
Copyright © 1998 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.