alan w. pollack's
notes on ...

Notes on "She Loves You"


Notes on ... Series #5.1 (SLY.1)
  by Alan W. Pollack
       Key: G Major
     Meter: 4/4
      Form: Intro | Verse | Verse | Refrain |
                  | Verse | Refrain | Outro (with complete ending)
        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")

General Points of Interest


Style and Form

  Next note "She Loves You" is one of the very first Beatles songs most of us Americans ever heard. Over time, it has achieved an iconic status with respect to time and place that ironically transcends the Beatles, per se, even while it so aptly characterizes them in their early career.
  Next note Against the backdrop of the first few articles in this series, in which I've chosen to pull apart individual Beatles songs that demonstrate a conspicuous willingness to deal adventurously with compositional parameters such as form, harmony, phrasing and the like, there are a number of significant ways in which "She Loves You" is not particularly daring; shades of Norm's warning to the group, "let's not pull any strokes or do anything I'll be sorry for." In particular:
  • 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 chords generally change every two measures. The few places where this pattern is broken by chord changes every measure would seem to be carefully staged, however subconsciously.
  • The harmonic scheme, in spite of a few localized touches of color, is rather static; the song is firmly in G throughout.
  Next note And yet, the song contains a musical vocabulary and arrangement that is shot through with quirky details and nuances that were soon to develop into trademarks of the group; their special "sound" is already apparent.
  Next note The first notable thing about "She Loves You"'s form is the use of a "refrain" (a.k.a. "chorus") for the contrasting sections rather than a "bridge." Refer to my sidebar on the hook/verse/refrain question in Note's on "All My Loving". For now, just note that "She Loves You" is the first time in this series we've run into the "refrain."
  Next note Even more notable is the one-track-mind ubiquity of this refrain. The intro and outro turn out to be variations of it. The second half of the verse could be said to, content-wise, overlap with it.
  Next note Finally, the fact that no final verse intervenes between the second refrain and the outro is an unusual detail.
  Next note Each of the three verses feature some unique lyrics. While the plot line here of a third party go-between who advises his friend on how to make up to her is one of a small group of archetypal Top 40 themes that hardly originates with the Beatles, I think the focus here on extreme, raw feelings in the choice of words and imagery is a fresh twist; "she almost lost her mind," and "pride can hurt you too."

Melody and Harmony

  Next note The tune covers the range of a full octave. Upward motion in the form of the verse's opening scale and the title phrase's jumping motif is nicely balanced out, especially by the downward "yeah, yeah, yeah" motif. Also enjoy the way in which that opening verse scale outlines an awkwardly pungent Major seventh; from the word "think" up to "saw." It's the musical equivalent of getting your arm locked/twisted in a funny position.
  Next note Five out of seven diatonically available chords in the Major home key appear in the song: I, iii, IV, V, and vi. They are joined by two altered chords: the already familiar V-of-V and, making its first but by no means only appearance in this series, the minor iv chord; borrowed, as it were, from the home key's parallel minor mode.

The Added-Sixth Chord

  Next note 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, either to a note that is part of the current or following chord. The most classic example of this is the way in which the "7" of the V7 chord resolves to the "3" of the I chord:
       F -» E
       D -» C
       B -» G
       G -» C
   C:  V    I

   [Figure 5.1]
  Next note Textbook dissonance treatment would demand one of the following options of our added-sixth chord of G, B, D, E:
  • Resolve the sixth down to D as the fifth of the current chord.
  • Resolve the sixth down to D as a member of a chord that follows.
  • Let what is now the sixth (E) be repeated or sustained in the next chord of which it should be a member. In this case you rationalize added-sixth dissonance as an "anticipation" of the second chord.
  Next note By the end of the 19th century, this strict treatment of dissonance broke down even within the so-called classical domain though not without many raised eyebrows; the free 9 and 11 chords of Debussy for example were quite the talk of music theory classes a hundred years ago. And if you want to hear a particularly early and lush usage of the added sixth, then check out the ending of Mahler's "Das Lied von der Erde" (1908).
  Next note Here, it is the repetitious insistence of the yeah-yeah-yeah motif (melodically descending G -» F# -» E) enables the G6 chord to sound flawlessly logical. In the refrain section, that motif always repeats three times in a row, each time over different chords: e-minor, A-Major, and then C -» G-Major. The note "E" is a perfectly legitimate member of the first two chords. By that point, the melodic pattern is sufficiently well established for you to accept it over the G chord even though it doesn't belong there, strictly speaking.
  Next note In the final result, 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. You might also want to think of it fancifully as if it were the I and vi chords superimposed upon each other; i.e. the Major home key melded with its relative minor.


  Next note The backing track sounds like the standard Beatles live combo of bass, lead, rhythm guitars, plus drums. Paul and John provide a two-part lead vocal in their characteristically which vacillates between unison and flashes of their characteristically funky counterpoint. George assists in the refrains.
  Next note As mastered on CD, the track is maddeningly thick, opaque, and unclear sounding. Alas, it sounds no better on the vinyl so-called "stereo" pressings from Capitol. I'm frankly of divided opinion whether to think it either scandalous or ironically appropriate that the nominally authoritative version available to us in the year 2000 of such an important classic sounds no better than it did at the time of its original release as heard over a cheap transistor AM radio.
  Next note You can find a number of interesting details here in spite of the wall of sound first impression:
  • Ringo uses sizzling cymbals only in the verse section; the intro, refrains, and outro omit them.
  • Each verse is introduced by a growling, fanfare-like guitar lick that contains a number of minor key inflections.
  • Each refrain is introduced by a short burst of signature falsetto singing on the phoneme, "whooo."
  • Paul's bass part uses a rhythmic pattern of dotted quarter followed by an eighth note and half (the boom pah'boom pattern heard years later in "All Together Now") just about everywhere in the song except on that syncopation in the third line of the verse.
  • Ringo tries for a wrenching syncopation in parts of all the non-verse sections, placing his accents on the eighth notes preceding beats 3 and 4.
  Next note Quite apart from its from harmonic implications already discussed, the added-sixth chord is a factor in the arrangement; being a surprisingly early example of what, over the long run, would emerge as a Beatles penchant for mixing stylistic elements that seem to be mutually antagonistic and/or individually anachronistic in ways that create surprising, Nouvelle cuisine-like effects. George Martin himself is reported as having tried to talk them out of using the added sixth here, saying it sounded too much like a throw back to the Andrews Sisters, what you might call a kind of girl group from the Big Band era of the 1940s. Fans of old Abbott and Costello flicks may recall them as having provided the musical respite in the 1941 features, "Hold That Ghost" and "Buck Privates"; speaking of Million Dollar Movie :-)

Section-by-Section Walkthrough



  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. The intro is eight measure long and its phrasing pattern is 2 + 2 + 4, AA'A":
      |e       |-       |
   G:  vi

      |A7      |-       |

      |C       |-       |G       |-       |
       IV                I

   [Figure 5.2]
  Next note The use of the V-of-V moving to the IV (with the inevitable cross relation) is an early example of what we saw 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, among other place, "Help!".


  Next note The verse is sixteen measures long with four equal phrases that make a pattern of AABB'. The harmonic shape of this section, in contrast to the intro, is "open," by virtue of starting on I and ending on V:
    --------------- 2X ----------------
   |G       |e7      |b       |D       |
    I        vi       iii      V

   |G6      |-       |e       |-       |
    V                 vi

   |c       |-       |D       |-       |
    iv                V

   [Figure 5.3]
  Next note Harmonic rhythm is increased temporarily to a chord change every measure for just the first two lines of the verse. You don't quite realize this has happened until it already shifts back to changing every other measure.
  Next note There's another striking free dissonance near the beginning of the verse: the e7 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 second and third beat of the measure; try this — tap straight 4 with one hand and sneak in a hard whack between 2 and 3 with your other — you'll see what I mean about falling out of your seat.
  Next note 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 it's 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 a quote of the "yeah, yeah, yeah" motive of the intro and 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?
  Next note 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 possess 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 tonic (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.
  Next note 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.
  Next note In "She Loves You", the effect is more exotic than sentimental mainly because the iv chord is jumped into (from e-minor, which forces yet another cross relation: e-natural versus e-flat) instead of being set up as it more usually is by the Major IV. But it's nothing to get hung about.


  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. The end of the refrain is the only place in the song where we ever hear a complete V -» I cadence.
  Next note The refrain is eight measures long and bears comparison with the intro. Both converge harmonically on the home key, both have 2 + 2 + 4 phrasing. But the specific chord progression is different, as well as the phrasing pattern; here it is AA'B:
   |e       |-       |

   |A7      |-       |

   |c       |D       |G       |-       |
    iv       V        I

   [Figure 5.4]
  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; i.e. it forces a double cross-relation of C/C# as well as E/Eb.
  Next note Harmonic rhythm here is increased to a chord change every measure just for the first three measures of the second phrase.


  Next note The outro grows out of the final refrain with yet another example of the familiar three-times-you're-out gambit. Interestingly, the third petit reprise is truncated by two measures, yet it also momentarily steps out of tempo:
   |e       |-       |A7      |-       |
    vi                V-of-V

   |c       |D       |G       |e       |
    iv       V        I        vi

   |c       |D       |G       |e       |
    iv       V        I        vi

   |c       |D       |
    iv       V

   [Figure 5.5]
  Next note The latter is followed by the outro, proper; yet another variation on the eight/bar intro/refrain. Note, in particular, the unique use of the cliché rock chord progression this time, only:
   |G       |-       |e       |-       |
    I                 vi

   |C       |-       |G6      |-       |
    IV                I

   [Figure 5.6]
  Next note The first iteration of the yeah-yeah-yeah motive in the outro is purely instrumental, with the voices singing only the final two repeats. Their pride in the sound of that final chord, with their three voices singing B, D, E, close together, is manifest in the way they sustain it a brief instant after the instrumental sound has died away. The sensuous experience of single three note like that with two of your friends is worth having at least once in a lifetime; something about what acousticians call the rapid "beats" that result from small intervals that are not perfect consonants.
  Next note Again, observe the subtle throttling of harmonic rhythm through this entire section.

Some Final Thoughts

  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".
  Next note For some reason, the sparking variety seems to particularly show when they sing open fifths or fourths. 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.
  Next note Nonetheless, they somehow 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 pair of sparkling open fifths in every verse; in the second measure (as on the word "love)" and in the tenth measure (on the word "bad.")
  Next note There's not much more your learned astronomer (shades of Walt Whitman) can say about this effect; the theoretician stands in awe of a natural, miraculous phenomenon.
  Alan (031200#5.1)
Revision History
062889 5.0 Original release
031200 5.1 Revise, expand and adapt to series template
Copyright © 2000 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.