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notes on ...

Notes on "She's A Woman"


Notes on ... Series #56 (SAW)
  by Alan W. Pollack
       Key: A Major
     Meter: 4/4
      Form: Intro | Verse | Verse | Bridge | Verse |
                  | Break (guitar solo) | Bridge |
                  | Verse | Outro (fade-out)
        CD: "Past Masters", Volume 1, Track 15 (Parlophone CDP 90043-2)
  Recorded: 8th October 1964, Abbey Road 2
UK-release: 27th November 1964 (B Single / "I Feel Fine")
US-release: 23rd November 1964 (B Single / "I Feel Fine")

General Points of Interest


Style and Form

  Next note This one was one of Paulie's big personal triumphs. Not only was it a staple of the Beatles' stage repertoire for the season of 1965, but as recently as the "Unplugged Special" of last year, it was clearly on the composer's own short list of Beatles' songs he's proud to still play in public.
  Next note At the time of its initial release, "She's A Woman" was Paul's most outrageous vocal performance since his earlier rendition of "Long Tall Sally", and it was also his first foray into this genre with an original effort. As I commented back in my note on the "Long Tall Sally" EP, the underlying gesture of this stylistic masquerading would have far-reaching repercussions for the Beatles in mid-to-late career. In terms of Paul's own contribution, we can trace a relatively direct line between our current song and the likes of "Get Back"and "Oh! Darling".
  Next note This song would be just about the Beatles' most blues-like number to date on compositional grounds, as well as those of performance style. The tune and the chord choices are bluesy in flavor, and the instrumental break and outro sections even sport a true-blue twelve-bar form. Even the verses turn out to be in a subtly disguised expanded variation on the standard twelve-bar framework.
  Next note As we've seen in other songs from this period, the bridge provides the only respite here from the blues. This particular one is extremely truncated in length to an extreme that one tends to hear what is actually the beginning of the next verse as though it were a continuation of the bridge itself.

Melody and Harmony

  Next note The melodic hook of the song is to be found in the quite distinctive melodic lick which opens the verse, with its dramatic initial upward jump of a minor sixth, and the craggy manner in which it works its way back down the other side of the arch. It also contains a tangy implied cross-relation between the opening C# (on the word "my") and the later C-natural (on the first syllable of the word "presents".)
  Next note The opening jump takes Paul all the way up to high A, a note that is barely within his comfort zone. In fact, the predominant range of the tune (the fancy technical word for this is the "tessitura") is on the high side. Paul's evident strain in trying to reach the mark indirectly adds an earthy, humanizing factor to the proceedings. And for your information — for "Unplugged", the older Mr. McCartney saw it as prudent to transpose the whole thing down a full fourth, all the way to the key of E!
  Next note With the exception of the two brief bridge sections, the chord selection is strictly I, IV and V, though the bridge does manage in its terse way to provide some respite.


  Next note In trademark fashion, the entry of the percussion (both drums and "chocalho" — sounds like maracas to me) are delayed until the second half of the intro. Furthermore, the style of drumming is modified for the bridges and outro.
  Next note The overdubbed piano, which doubles the guitar on those off-beat chords in the intro (or is it actually some tricky double tracking of the guitar, alone?), sits out the first verse, only to return for the duration in the next section with a part that is primarily chordal but which also features the hook phrase of the tune in mockingbird like antiphony with the singer; compare the latter effect with the handling of the lead guitar lick in "She Said She Said".
  Next note There is some nice, ongoing interplay established between the bassline and the piano, though for one precarious instant in the verse which follows the first bridge, the ensemble between the two of them sounds almost ready to fall apart.
  Next note Macca sings solo throughout, though he is rather loosely double tracked for the bridges. From one verse to the next, he employs an uncommon (for him) amount of improvised variation on the basic tune. These little twists seem to get steadily freer, louder, and more extroverted as the song progresses; as well they should.

Section-by-Section Walkthrough



  Next note The available outtakes of this song with their inevitable count-ins show us that the music was conceived as being in a very rapid 4/4 meter. By this rule of thumb therefore, the intro is eight measures in length:
      |E       |-       |D       |-       |
   A:  V                 IV

                                  1*2*3 4
      |A       |-       |-       |- E     |
       I                            V

   [Figure 56.1]
  Next note The outtakes also show that the unaccompanied chords played on the off-beat were sufficiently clever to trip up the group virtually every time. Even the flawless official version maintains the power to throw you, the listener, off base a bit no matter how many times you've ever heard it.


  Next note The verse is twenty-four measures long and though its formal outline is very similar to that of the standard twelve-bar blues frame, that familiar structure here unfolds at half the normal pace (compare, by the way, with the Larry Williams cover, "Slow Down"), and its resemblance is also further obscured by the recurrence of the D-Major (IV) chord in the midst of what would be, in a more pure blues number, measures of just the plain A (I) chord:
    ------------- 2X --------------
   |A      |D   A  |A      |-      |
    I       IV  I

   |D      |-      |-      |-      |A      |D   A  |A      |-      |
    IV                              I       IV  I

   |E      |-      |D      |-      |A      |D   A  |A      |-      |
    V               IV              I       IV  I

   [Figure 56.2]
  Next note An hypnotic mantra-like effect is created by the four-fold reiteration of the distinctive hook phrase over the course of this section. The only other contrasting melodic material comes in little phrases that move stepwise around a single note, and these too are repeated to hypnotic effect.
  Next note The first verse is slightly different from all the rest, with its lack of a piano part and its ending on a syncopated V chord, just like the intro. Once the piano enters, it seems that whenever the hook phrase occurs, the piano repeats the D -» A chord change in measure 4 of that phrase even though the bassline appears to hold to the sustained A chord pattern established in the first verse.


  Next note As mentioned already, the bridge is a scant four measures in length. It is built out of a repetition of the same two-measure melodic phrase, and provides a terrific example of the way in which different chords used under identical melodic conditions change the "feeling" of the melody in each case:
   |c#          |f#          |c#          |D     E     |
    iii          vi           iii          IV    V

   [Figure 56.3]
  Next note Appropriate bridge-like contrast is provided by several factors — the non-bluesy melody for a change, the new couple of chords, and the brevity of the section itself.
  Next note After having discussed in our Note on "I Feel Fine" the relative propensity of the iii chord to be followed by vi versus IV, we ironically find in this next song an object lesson in which iii is alternately followed by each of those targets. I have a reasonable doubt regarding whether that chord on f# is a Major or minor triad; if the former, then change my label to V-of-ii, and add a footnote about how that chord suggests, but far from consummates, a potential modulation to the key of b minor that is left hanging in mid-air.

Break (Guitar Solo)

  Next note In the guitar solo section, the music abandons all disguise and once and for all offers us a classic twelve-bar blues frame. Note both the strange stereo mixing of the solo, as well as the manner in which it manages to sound spontaneously improvised even while it incorporates pieces of the opening hook phrase.


  Next note The outro features a break out into the twelve-bar improvisatory style seen earlier in the solo section, this time including Paul's own vocal part based on the title phrase.

Some Final Thoughts

  Next note I've suggested on a number of occasions the seemingly far-fetched possibility that there may have been times when John and Paul would, if not quite compositionally compete with each other in any explicit, technical way, subliminally work out some similar musical problem in parallel with each other; the result of which might be two very different songs which, nonetheless, betray a similar lyrical thesis or technical structure at a level below the surface.
  Next note I first suggested this way back in connection with "She Said She Said" versus "Good Day Sunshine", and "It Won't Be Long" versus "All My Loving". We saw it more recently with "You Can't Do That" and "Can't Buy Me Love". I predict we'll see it yet again when we get to "Rain" versus "Paperback Writer", and even "Strawberry Fields" versus "Penny Lane".
  Next note Indeed, the flip sides of singles seem to have been a frequent and fertile place for this to happen. I suggest we have this same phenomenon here between "I Feel Fine" and "She's A Woman". In this case, I am particularly struck by the euphoric subtext of the words, the stylized handling of the blues, and especially the V -» IV -» I intro in which the ensemble doesn't quite start until the I chord.
  Next note Paul's got one leading edge here with a small yet stylistically prophetic bit of wordplay — the manner in which he rhymes "jealous" with "well as" seems just a tad too coincidentally similar to those rhymes of "doin'" with "blue an'" and "runnin'" with "fun in"; to be found in "What You're Doing", recorded more or less during the same group of sessions as " "She's A Woman". What a guy!
  Alan (051892#56)
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.