alan w. pollack's
notes on ...

Notes on "Long, Long, Long"


Notes on ... Series #151 (LLL)
  by Alan W. Pollack
       Key: F Major
     Meter: 3/4
      Form: Intro | Refrain | Verse | Refrain |
                  | Verse | Bridge | Refrain | Verse' |
                  | Outro (with complete ending)
        CD: "White Album", Disc 2, Track 7 (Parlophone CDS7 46443-8)
  Recorded: 7th-9th October 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 In this one of his relatively scattered turns at bat George gives us an off-beat mixture of styles typical of the times: a three-way cross between jazz waltz, folk song, and late sixties psychedelia. Roughly in order of appearance you find a ternary meter, a couple of ninth chords, an essentially acoustic backing track, form dominated by rote pairs of refrains and verses, a sitar, and a non-sequitur outro.
  Next note The song completes the third side of the "White Album" with a whimpering gesture not much different from what "Julia" does for "Side 2". From a surface glance, you might call this one George's own take on "I'm So Tired"; low, low, low-key soliloquy of lugubrious longing (watch it, Alan, you're overdoing it), produced in such a way that you worry that the protagonist won't have the energy needed to perform satisfactorily.
  Next note A game of approach-avoidance is neatly played out in the harmony, with every section starting off away from the home key and several of them ending similarly away from it. It's as if the protagonist is dealing with a hot potato of an emotion that he cannot acknowledge except obliquely, and that he feels nervously in need of retreat the minute he finds himself confronting it head on.
  Next note Feelings of discouraged low energy are conveyed by the several phrases that extend a lingering measure or more longer than they strictly need to.

Melody and Harmony

  Next note The tune covers a relatively broad range in spite of the fact that much of the local motion of it is simply step-wise. The breadth is accomplished primarily by virtue of placing the individual sections of the tune in different segments of the overall range.
  Next note The song is clearly in F Major throughout, but your sense of home key is subtly challenged by the extent to which so many of the sections avoid starting or ending on the I chord.
  Next note The verse features a jazz-like stream of triads. A larger than average number of ninth chords appear over the course of the track.


  Next note The mix of styles is not limited to the arrangement, though it is especially apparent in this area: simple strummed chords on acoustic guitar, organ part mastered with an almost comically extreme amount of flutter, the lead guitar riffs provided by sitar that I dare say it intended to serve as a trippy guitar rather than anything explicitly "Indian", and the exploitation at the end of a reportedly accidental sound effect caused by the resonant rattling of a wine bottle.
  Next note The vocal track sounds like George double or triple tracked, singing in some place with himself in two or three part harmony.
  Next note The dynamic range goes to one extreme or the other, with the drums and piano providing the reinforcement needed for the louder parts. Keep an eye on the phrase endings of refrain and verse sections, as well as the entirety of the bridge. The only place on the track where percussion is used to quiet effect is the soft brush work of the second pair of refrain and verse.

Section-by-Section Walkthrough



  Next note The otherwise minimalistic sounding six measure intro manages to expose the sotto-voce atmosphere, the approach-avoidance strategy with the chord progressions, and the signature sitar riff with admirable efficiency:
      |g       |B-flat  |g       |F       |C       |-       |
   F:  ii      [?]                I        V

   [Figure 151.1]


  Next note The refrain is as aphoristic as the intro, with a single four measure phrase followed by the sitar riff:
      |B-flat  |a       |g     C |F       |
   F:  IV       iii      ii    V  I

      |B-flat  |F       |
       IV       I

   [Figure 151.2]
  Next note A V chord is clearly implied by the bassline on the last beat of measure 3; the D in the tune at that instance makes the C chord into a V9.
  Next note In spite of the V chord, the overall harmonic impression created by the chord stream in the first phrase is the emotional free fall often associated with total loss of hope.
  Next note The G-natural in the bassline on the downbeat of measure 5 somehow does not completely prevent your hearing the chord as rooted on B-flat.


  Next note The verse is an unusual thirteen measures long in an AA' pattern (6 + 7) whose phrases are both unusually stretched out and unequal in length:
      |C       |-       |g       |-       |F       |C       |
   F:  V                 ii                I        V

      |g       |-       |F       |C       |-       |-       |-       |
       ii                I        V

   [Figure 151.3]
  Next note The second phrase starts rhetorically in the same "logical" place as the third measure of the first phrase, allowing the C-Major chord at the end of the first phrase to pivot as though it were also the first measure of the second phrase.


  Next note The bridge provides a unique point of climax for the song in terms of momentarily sweeping aside all torpor and giving the song some shape and a sense of direction.
  Next note The bridge is fifteen measures long with an AA' couplet (6 + 9) whose phrases, just like in those of the refrain, are stretched out and avoid rote symmetry:
      |B-flat  |F       |C       |g       |-       |-       |
   F:  IV       I        V        ii

      |B-flat  |F       |C       |g       |-       |C       |
       IV       I        V        ii                V

      |-       |-       |-       |

   [Figure 151.4]
  Next note The harmony nicely underscores the rhetorical parallelism between the phrases. The ii chord at the end of the first phrase begs for resolution to V (all the more so because it is sustained for an "extra" third measure), but you're forced to go back and repeat yourself from the start of the phrase in order to achieve your reward. Learn a lesson about climax-building from the fact that the ii chord is sustained for only two measures on the repeat!
  Next note Again, the tune creates ninth chords on some of the C-Major and g-minor chords in this section.


  Next note The outro builds off the final verse section, abbreviating the second phrase, repeating that shortened phrase two more times (the old three-strikes-you're-out routine), followed by one last repeat which lands with enigmatic finality on the V chord.
  Next note Taking it from the start of the final verse, it parses this way:
      |C       |-       |g       |-       |F       |C       |
   F:  V                 ii                I        V

       --------------- 3X ----------------
      |g       |-       |F       |C       |
       ii                I        V

                                                   |rattling ...
      |g       |-       |F       |C       |-       |-       |...
       ii                I        V

   [Figure 151.5]
  Next note The song ends with an harmonic envelope full of strange effects on top of the V chord; in addition to all the rattling there's off key chanting in falsetto, and at the very end, the acoustic guitar playing wisps of both I and ii chords, and just when you think the track is completely finished, a final whack on the drums.

Some Final Thoughts

  Next note Quite independent of its intrinsic musical quality, the song serves for me in its context as a letdown. Am I possibly alone in this feeling?
  Next note By textbook rules, "Long, Long, Long" would seem to be uncannily made to order for its place in the album running order. With the exception of track three's "Mother Nature's Son", this side of the "White Album", while not without variety, is still relentlessly some alternating combination of fast, loud, hard, raucous, and/or strange. And even if the need for a change of pace to the softer side had not already been building up, along comes "Helter Skelter", the proverbial hard act to follow if ever there was one, surely insisting on a dramatic response.
  Next note And yet, back in that era in which you actually had to drag yourself off the couch in order to turn the record over for "Side 4", I'm embarrassed to admit that some large percentage of the time, I would just as soon likely skip this track and move straight on to "Revolution 1".
  Next note I suspect one of two factors is operative here. Either, contrary to all conventional wisdom, contrast is in fact not at all what is wanted here; rather the opposite, a sustaining of the hard fast piece. Or else, contrast per se may not be out of line, but the particular extreme to which this particular song goes may be a miscalculation; in baseball terms, an underswing.
  Alan (060798#151)
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.