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notes on ...

Notes on "She Loves You"


Notes on ... Series #5.0 (SLY.0)
  by Alan W. Pollack
       Key: G Major
     Meter: 4/4
        CD: "Past Masters", Volume 1, Track 4 (Parlophone CDP 90043-2)
  Recorded: 1st July 1963, Abbey Road 2
UK-release: 23rd August 1963 (A Single / "I'll Get You")
US-release: 16th September 1963 (A Single / "I'll Get You")
  Next note As an early work, there are a number of significant ways in which "She Loves You" is not particularly adventurous; shades of "let's not pull any strokes or do anything I'll be sorry for." In particular:
  • The form is a rather straightforward:
      Intro | Verse | Verse | Refrain | Verse | Refrain | Coda
  • The phrasing throughout is totally four-square.
  • The verse is four-times-four, and the refrain is a true middle eight.
  • The harmonic rhythm is fairly regular throughout with no extremes.
  • The harmonic scheme, in spite of a few localized touches of color, is rather static.
  • The song is firmly in G throughout.
  And yet, the song contains a musical vocabulary and arrangement which is shot through with details and nuances that were soon to develop into trademarks; the special "sound" is already apparent.
  Next note Rather than try for anything comprehensive this time, let's simply examine some of the highlights, roughly in order of their appearance.


  Next note To borrow a phrase from ancient Greek drama, the song begins "in medias res". We get a little drum roll and the intro starts off as though the song were already in progress. The fact that the intro is actually nothing other than a variation on (an anticipation of?) the refrain is what creates this effect.
  Next note The feeling of having started in the midst of the action is heightened by the opening chord progression. We're not "in" G as much as we are heading toward it:
       e     -» A7    -» C     -» G (with added sixth!)
   G:  vi       V-of-V   IV       I

   [Figure 5.1]
  The use of the V-of-V moving to the IV (with the inevitable cross relation) is an early example of what we hear in "Eight Days A Week". The opening chord progression which doesn't start on I and takes four somewhat disorienting chords to finally get there shows up again in "Help!".
  Next note And what about that added-sixth chord, eh? According to Lewisohn, George Martin tried to talk them out of it saying it sounded too much like the Andrew Sisters. Clearly, it's a sound more typical of forties pop music rather than the sixties but it certainly seems to fit here. Part of what helps make it work is the repeated melodic motive ("yeah, yeah, yeah") ending on the note E; on a more subliminal level that added sixth chord creates a superimposition of the opening vi chord on top of the I.
  On a theoretical basis, that added sixth is called a "free" (in the sense of gratuitous, or non-functional) dissonance. In most tonal music until the twentieth century, any note appearing in a chord that was not part of the chord's root triad was considered a dissonance. As such, it was expected to be well behaved by "resolving", typically stepwise downward, to a note that is part of the triad either during the current chord or on the very next chord. The most classic example of this is the way in which the (flat) "7" (seventh) of the V7 chord resolves to the "3" (third) of the I chord:
       F (flat-7) -» E (3)
       D (5)      -» C (1)
       B (3)      -» G (5)
       G (1)      -» C (1)
   C:     V          I

   [Figure 5.2]
  By the end of the nineteenth century, this strict treatment of dissonance broke down even within the so-called classical domain though not without many raised eyebrows; the free ninth and eleventh chords of Debussy for example were quite the talk of music theory classes eighty years ago.
  Next note In "She Loves You", that E sitting on top of the G triad serves no structural musical purpose other than to give sensuous delight. Think of it as a spice as opposed to a nutrient.


  Next note There's another striking free dissonance near the beginning of the verse: the e-minor seventh chord formed by the D in the voice part (i.e. it's at the top of the rising scale on the word "love"). In a more straightlaced context, that D would want to get resolved to a C on the next chord. This e7 here is not such a big deal per se, except in consideration of the period and genre in which it appears.
  Next note There's a heavy syncopation that just about pulls us out of our seats at the beginning of the third line of the verse. It comes right after "She said she loves you" and it occurs on the off-beat between the third and fourth beat of the measure. Try this: tap straight one, two, three, four with one hand and sneak in a hard whack between "three" and "four" with your other — you'll see what I mean about falling out of your seat.
  The fact that this sort of syncopation is used so sparingly within this song makes this instance the more powerful. Indeed, there are two additional reasons for the powerful effect here yet again teaching us how "less is more":
  • The same syncopation is not repeated in the next phrase where (rote) symmetry would have argued for it; play it out in your head — it's very reasonably symmetrical but overall, it vitiates the power of the first one.
  • The chord for our syncopation is G but the choice for the low note in the bass is B, putting the chord in its first inversion which carries less weight than the root position. Again, play it out in your head — the note G in the bass makes for a harder blow, but it's almost too hard and a little difficult to bounce off of; like stamping hard into mud.
  Next note In the second half of the phrase which contains the syncopation, we have the lead guitar fill in a space with an anticipation of the "yeah, yeah, yeah" motive of the refrain. It's always been there so you take it for granted but step back and think of the song as a whole; what a unifying impact the use of this motive has on it!
  Next note Then of course there's that c-minor chord which begins the fourth phrase and seems to get people in quite a stir. It's actually not that far out a chord; none other than the iv chord borrowed from the parallel minor of G Major. Huh?
  [Technical background on]
  Not to be confused with the concept of relative Major/minor keys, parallel Major/minor (PMM) keys are simply the Major and minor modes of the same tonic root; e.g. G Major and g minor. PMM's posses a paradoxical quality — they have different key signatures (and hence a slightly different set of chords) yet they don't really sound at all like remote keys from each other because of the common root of the tonic (I / i). Going way back into the classical period, composers frequently have borrowed chords from the parallel minor when in a Major key for effect. The particular favorites choices in this regard are the iv and vi which contain the flattened sixth degree of the scale; that flat sixth has a very strong melodic pull downward toward the fifth degree of the scale.
  [Technical background off]
  In spite of all of the scholarly verbiage used here, the minor iv chord is quite a garden variety effect. Think of the line in "Home On The Range" which goes "where seldom is heard a discouraging word"; a typical harmonization of this line puts the Major IV under the word "discouraging" and then changes it to a minor iv for the word "word". If you're in the key of G, you're moving in this example from C-Major to c-minor and you can hear that E slide down to E-flat in the inner voice; you can even hear the E-flat slide down to D in the next line of the song. This sort of barbershop harmony is quite sentimental in effect.
  In "She Loves You", the effect is more exotic than sentimental mainly because the iv chord is jumped into instead of being set up as it more usually is by the Major IV. But it's nothing to get hung about.
  Next note Speaking of exotic inflections to the Major scale, don't overlook that wonderful guitar lick which introduces each verse like a fanfare. I believe that the lick contains at least F-natural and A-flat in it, neither of which belongs in G; very piquant.


  Next note The verse ends on nice fat V chord which resolves "deceptively" to the vi which starts the refrain. This provides some relief from what otherwise (with the exception of the minor iv) is a very straight harmonic scheme.
  Next note The minor iv makes a second appearance in the refrain. This one sounds even more exotic than the earlier one because of it's juxtaposition to the A7 (V-of-V) chord.

The Vocal Parts

  Next note Have you ever noticed the peculiar property of the voices of John and Paul heard in close harmony? Sometimes they sound like a third voice which resembles neither of their own, and sometimes they quite simply make vocal "sparks".
  For some reason, the sparking variety seems to particularly show when they sing open fifths. It's a wonder that they ever stumbled onto this. Open fifths in most Western music sounds like an archaic allusion to Medieval times; thirds and sixths being the typical means of harmonization.
  Nonetheless, they went out of their way to sing open fifths and though it's an incidental detail, it is also a tell tale signature of their early sound. In "She Loves You", there's a sparkling open fifth on every occurrence of the word "bad" as in the phrase "and you know that can't be bad." There's not much more your learned astronomer can say about this one; the theoretician stands in awe of a natural phenomenon. "Sie denkt, ja, nur an dich, und du sollte zu ihr gehen."
  Alan (062889#5.0)
Copyright © 1989 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.