alan w. pollack's
notes on ...

Notes on "Not A Second Time"


Notes on ... Series #41 (NAST)
  by Alan W. Pollack
       Key: G Major / e minor
     Meter: 4/4
      Form: Verse (initial) | Verse (variant) | Refrain |
                  | Refrain (solo) | Verse (initial) |
                  | Verse (variant)| Refrain | Outro (fade-out)
        CD: "With The Beatles", Track 13 (Parlophone CDP7 46436-2)
  Recorded: 11th September 1963, Abbey Road 2
UK-release: 22nd November 1963 (LP "With The Beatles")
US-release: 20th January 1964 (LP "Meet The Beatles")

General Points of Interest


Style and Form

  Next note Though far from having been one of the big hits of its period, this one has its own share of small-to-medium sized stylistic innovations; especially in terms of form and key definition.
  Next note The middle section of the song would appear to be much more of a refrain than a bridge according to the couple of principles suggested for making such a distinction back in our notes on "All My Loving". After all, it does feature the song's lyrical hook at the end and feels overall more like a fulfillment of the verses than a contrasting interlude away from them. Nevertheless, it's still an unusual sort of refrain for its convergent harmonic shape and the way in which it sounds like a continuing outgrowth of the verse instead of a discrete section on its own. You also expect a refrain to be a bit more tunefully catchy if not downright jingle-like than this one is; think of examples such as "She Loves You", and "It Won't Be Long", and of course, "All My Loving".
  Next note The appearance of the instrumental solo in a section based on the refrain instead of the verse is another unusual formal feature here. So is the fact that this solo-refrain immediately follows another refrain section.
  Next note Less unique but nonetheless noteworthy is the use of a variation of the original verse section for those verses which immediately precede a refrain.


  Next note The harmonic vocabulary is relatively straightforward. A total of six chords is used though they are all part of the set that is diatonically available within the home key. Unusually, the diminished chord on vii is used but the more common IV chord is not.
  Next note The identity of the home key is less clear. Though ostensibly in G Major, there is quite a bit of emphasis given to the relative minor key of e by virtue of heavy use of the I -» vi chord progression in the verses and the way in which the refrain veers toward the key of vi. This I/vi ambiguity had been used rather incidentally by the Boys in such past songs as "From Me To You" and "All I've Got To Do". Here though, seemingly for the first time, it provides a programmatic touch of pathos that belies the plain meaning of the words.
  Next note The lyrics would seem on the surface to articulate a feeling of unbendable resolve not to be taken in or fooled any more, yet the manner in which the resolute harmonies of G Major repeatedly give way in the refrain sections to surprising turns toward the more mournful, disappointed key of e minor would indicate that the hero is not quite so able to follow his own best advice. In "Classical" usage, such deceptive cadences to the relative minor are typically done as a tease, after which, things are quickly put right. Our song, in contrast, allows this last minute change to hold sway, making it feel all the more ominous.


  Next note Keyboards show up relatively frequently in the songs on the "With The Beatles" album, though the piano part is especially prominent in a bottom heavy way on this track, with its solo part played in the unusual baritone range.
  Next note John appears vocally double-tracked throughout and it's a rare track indeed from this early Beatles period in which literally no other backing voice parts are included.
  Next note A resolute rhythmic figure ("bom - pause - b'bom - ching!"), one quite reminiscent of "There's A Place", pervades much of the song. By no coincidence, "There's A Place" turns out to be a yet another song in which a tension between decision and doubt would seem to reign.

Section-by-Section Walkthrough


Initial Verse

  Next note The lack of an intro is partially compensated for by the way the drums come in at the beginning of the fifth measure of the first verse, making the first half of the initial verse feel somewhat like an intro in retrospect.
  Next note The tune is heavily pentatonic though not exclusively so; reminiscent of what we saw in "All I've Got To Do", right down to the detail of the way in which the non-pentatonic seventh degree of the scale (F# in this song) is used as an expressive "9-8" appoggiatura over the vi chord (e-minor); refer to the fourth measure of the verse on the word "why".
  Next note The verses all have an odd length of seven measures which parses into sub-phrases of 2 + 2 + 3 measures:
       -----  2 -----  ------ 2 ------ ---------- 3 ----------
      |G      |e      |G      |e      |D      |G      |D      |
   G:  I       vi      I       vi      V       I       V

   [Figure 41.1]

Verse Variant

  Next note The primary difference between the initial verse and this variation of it is in the change of the chord in measure 6 from I (G-Major) to ii (a-minor). Even though both verses otherwise have the same length, subphrasing, and open harmonic ending on V, this isolated chord change still does make for a subtle difference.
  Next note In the initial verse, the appearance of the I chord in measure 6 provides a palpable sense of closure, almost as though the verse were really six measures long, with the V chord of the seventh measure being an appendix put there specifically to motivate the following verse. This is especially true in the first appearance of the initial verse where the vocal part ends in measure 6, leaving measure 7 fully exposed as a filler.
  Next note By contrast, the ii chord in measure 6 of the verse variant extends the open-ended feeling of the V chord that precedes it in measure 5. As a result, one can feel a sense, building all the way through the last three measures of this verse variant, of expectation that is ultimately fulfilled with the arrival of the refrain.


  Next note As we alluded up top, this refrain is unusual in many respects. For starters, it is ten measures in length and breaks down into a number of rhetorically short phrases of varying lengths which lend a free-verse feel to the music that is very typical of John Lennon even in this relatively early period:
   You're giving me the same old line/I'm wondering why (2 + 2)
   You hurt me then/you're back again                   (1 + 1)
   No, no, no, not a second/time.                       (2 + 2)

   [Figure 41.2]
  Next note Note, by the way, the powerful effect here which stems from the fact that the only one of the little phrases which begins emphatically on a downbeat is the one beginning with "No".
  Next note Harmonically, we find a vague restlessness in the chord progression of this section. For one thing, not all the chords are articulated clearly by the fuzzy texture of the arrangement; e.g. is the chord in the third measure below G-Major with an added sixth of e in the melody, or an e-minor chord in its so-called first inversion with the note G in the bassline? And for another thing, the bassline snakes around (especially in the second half) in a way which further blunts the sense of clear root chord movement:
 Chords: |a       |b       |G or e? |e       |
   Bass:  A        B        G        E
      G:  ii       iii      I or vi? vi

 Chords: |a       |f# dim  |b       |f# dim  |e       |-       |
   Bass:  A        A        B        A        E
      G:  ii       vii      iii      vii      vi

   [Figure 41.3]
  Next note In fact, I believe that the bassline movement in measures 5 - 8 is one of the critical elements in setting up the sense of "deception" when the e-minor chord appears in place of G-Major in measure 9. Even if you don't explicitly "listen" to the bassline during the song or read music, I still think that you expect the bassline to move scale-wise to a chord on G, rather than take the plunge to e at that point.
  Next note Curiously, no V chord is used in this refrain. Instead we have the diminished chord on vii, which is not only a very reasonable surrogate for the V of the Major key, but is also one of those chords which enharmonically can also be substituted as the V of the relative minor. In other words, those diminished triads in measures 6 and 8 might be either the vii of G or e depending on how they're "spelled", and it is this ambiguity which helps smooth over the deceptive cadence and makes it the more believable when it happens.


  Next note The outro consists of an harmonic vamping on the I -» vi progression with the vocal part being a medley being built out of pentatonic fragments of what had been the tune of the verse sections. In terms of what I've described above as "programmatic significance", this repeated alternation of I and vi into the fade-out would seem to just about sum up the underlying mood of the song.
  Next note As a break from the straight double tracking heard in the rest of the song, there is a small spot during the outro where John's second part is cascaded against the primary track. One can only guess whether this is an accidental glitch or an intentional special effect. Perhaps it serendipitously started out as the former, and they decided to keep it as the latter once they heard what it sounded like; just maybe.

Some Final Thoughts

  Next note The story of a love-hate relationship in which someone is trapped between their rational side which says "go" while their weaker heart cries "stay anyway, or at least for now" is surely one of the standard pop-song pollens of all times. But whereas the songs by other artists which come to mind (e.g. "You Really Got A Hold On Me" or "You Keep Me Hanging On" just to name a pair off the top of the head) seem to place the dialectic tension of the situation right on center stage of the lyrics, it is quite striking to note the extent to which John would be capable of trying to hide the waveringly weaker side of the story behind an apparently straight-faced and tough-minded lyrical exterior as he does here.
  Next note Even more striking is the unexpected way in which this sort of ironical use of musical subtext shows up later in his non love songs. You'll likely have to wait a couple of years or so for it at the rate at which I'm making progress with the series, but some day when we get to a detailed Note on it, you may be surprised to discover how the same Major/minor musical card trick is tucked beneath the otherwise arch-blase and disaffected lyrics of no less an epochal song than "A Day In The Life". Same exact chords and keys, no more, and certainly no less.
  Alan (120891#41)
Copyright © 1991 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.