alan w. pollack's
notes on ...

Notes on "Tell Me What You See"


Notes on ... Series #67 (TMWYS)
  by Alan W. Pollack
       Key: G Major
     Meter: 4/4
      Form: Intro | Verse | Verse | Bridge | Verse | Bridge |
                  | Verse | Outro (with complete ending)
        CD: "Help!", Track 11 (Parlophone CDP7 46439-2)
  Recorded: 18th February 1965, Abbey Road 2
UK-release: 6th August 1965 (LP "Help!")
US-release: 14th June 1965 (LP "Beatles VI")

General Points of Interest


Style and Form

  Next note In context of some of the more innovative songs of the "Help!" / "Beatles VI" era, this one is part of a small group of songs that might be described as nice but non-blockbuster. Several by now well-established Beatles' trademark devices and novel touches are apparent here at the detailed level; the larger than usual number of cross-references and associations with other Beatles' songs mentioned below indeed seems to reflect this.
  Next note Nonetheless, the overall mood and technique here are relatively simple and straightforward. I'm sure there is at least one of my readers who has been in love with this one since the first time s/he heard it, and that's fine :-) Just remember, I did say it's nice, didn't I?
  Next note On the surface, the form is yet again the familiar one of two-bridges-but-no-solo, yet the verse section here is unusual in that its second half sounds a bit like refrain; compare this with the earlier example of "Thank You Girl". Even more unusual is the way that a mini-solo is worked into the second half of the bridge itself.

Melody and Harmony

  Next note The song is clearly and unrelievedly in the key of G Major. A recurring emphasis on the flat seventh scale degree (F-natural) at the beginning of each bridge lends some touch of the blues, but compared to examples like "A Hard Day's Night" or "Ticket To Ride", this one contains an extremely mild dose it.
  Next note The harmonic diet is very plain, being limited to the major chords of G, C, and D (i.e. I, IV, and V). The G chord that opens the bridge with an F-natural in the melody actually functions as a V-of-IV, but regardless of how you parse it, it's still a chord rooted on G.
  Next note Harmonic rhythm is more varied in the service of formal articulation and this somewhat makes up for the small number of chords.


  Next note The prominent solo part for electric piano as well as the several exotic percussion instruments which substitute during most of the proceedings for the usual full drum kit provide quite a bit of novelty to the backing track. This texture also turns the song into the most strongly Latin-flavored of any Beatles' original since the days of "Ask Me Why" and "P.S. I Love You".
  Next note The vocal arrangement features two voices throughout, though the two parts alternate frequently between phrases sung in harmony and those sung at the unison or octave. To the extent that the words communicate the kind of desire for loving union that will never accept 'no' for an answer in spite of all distance and other obstacles, this device takes on an almost programmatic significance; the operative phrase in this regard being "we will never be apart if I'm part of you."
  Next note I definitely hear John in there for at least parts of the song, but in some places, I have a hard time determining whether its the Two of Them, or just Paul over-dubbed with himself.

Section-by-Section Walkthrough



  Next note With just two measures of vamping on the I chord (G), the predominant mood and texture is quickly established.
  Next note The music starts a small instant before the downbeat and this subtle gesture has a way of pulling you into the song as if by the hand, so to speak. Compare this to "I'll Cry Instead" and "The Night Before".


  Next note The verse is sixteen measures long. Though it parses neatly, on one level, into four phrases that are equal in length, the structure here is more accurately described as two eight-measure couplets; the first being verse-like and the second sounding more like a refrain, with its suddenly slower harmonic rhythm and hook-phrase ending:
      |G      C       |D      G       |G      C       |G              |
   G:  I      IV       V      I        I      IV       I

      |G      C       |D      G       |C      D       |G              |
       I      IV       V      I        IV     V        I

      |C              |G              |C              |G              |
       IV              I               IV              I

      |C              |G              |C      D       |G              |
       IV              V               IV     V        I

   [Figure 67.1]
  Next note The tune is distinguished by its opening with a dramatic upward leap of an octave and its abundance of appoggiaturas. In terms of shape, it gets rather obsessively stuck around the fifth scale degree (D) and curiously contains no appearance of the seventh scale degree (F#).
  Next note The opening line of the verse (and much else) is scanned so as to place virtually all rhythmic emphasis off the beat. This nicely cuts across the underlying smooth and steady back-beat.
  Next note The vocal arrangement features two-part harmony in first two measures of the first couplet (with John on the tune) but the remainder of this section has them singing in unison.


  Next note The bridge is an even eight measures but its structure is unusual. Only three of the four measures in the first phrase are sung, featuring the title phrase declaimed as though it were a kind of categorical imperative. This phrase is rounded out by a fanfare-like riff on the electric piano (featuring a slow triplet, no less), and leads to a second phrase that is entirely instrumental:
   |G              |-              |C              |-              |

   |G              |D              |G              |-              |

   [Figure 67.2]
  Next note Other sources of bridge-ly contrast here are the dramatically still slower harmonic rhythm and the sudden appearance for the first time in the song of the complete drum kit.
  Next note A unifying connection with the music of the verses is found in the continued high quotient of appoggiaturas and that leap upward at the end of the piano solo; a sixth this time instead of an octave, but the gesture still resonates with the tune's opening.


  Next note The outro is a compressed variation of the bridge in which only the first phrase is presented as modified so as to lead directly to a complete ending.
  Next note The surprise touch of humming without words here at the end had been used to equally satisfying effect by John way back in "All I've Got To Do."
  Next note A peculiar loud amount of hiss can be heard right at the end on the right channel, leading me to suspect that someone must have been caught asleep at the sliding fader switch.

Some Final Thoughts

  Next note That the group had a longstanding sweet tooth for the Latin flavor in their cover repertoire can be traced along a trajectory that runs from "Besame Mucho" through "Mister Moonlight" with several other examples coming in between. But you wouldn't necessarily say the same thing about their repertoire of original songs, especially during the year or so that preceded our current number.
  Next note Granted, during much of 1964 they could be seen as branching out into unaccustomed styles and cross-blends, but the marked trends we've noted are in the direction of first bluesy, and later folksy elements. The turning here toward their erstwhile favored Latin beat is at first glance a mildly shocking surprise, or even an anachronism.
  Next note On another level though, you might say this also shows not only a flexible versatility, but even a restless determination to keep trying new things and not repeat themselves overmuch. In perspective of what was first yet to come from them over the next several years, you might call this otherwise simple song yet another clue to the one of several new directions.
  Alan (100592#67)
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.