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notes on ...

Notes on "Thank You Girl"


Notes on ... Series #16.2 (TYG.2)
  by Alan W. Pollack
       Key: D Major
     Meter: 4/4
      Form: Intro | Verse / Refrain |
                  | Verse / Refrain | Bridge / Refrain |
            Intro | Verse / Refrain | Outro (with complete ending)
        CD: "Past Masters", Volume 1, Track 3 (Parlophone CDP 90043-2)
  Recorded: 5th, 13th March 1963, Abbey Road 2
UK-release: 11th April 1963 (B Single / "From Me To You")
US-release: 27th May 1963 (B Single / "From Me To You")

General Points of Interest


Style and Form

  Next note "Thank You Girl" is yet another deceptively simple song of the early period. It's a "quick one" (2:05) and a lowly single B-side no less, but one that reveals a variety of surprising twists applied to the old formulas. Beyond the formal and harmonic sorts of details we usually explore, the arrangement here is also something to be savored; in particular, I trust our peek at the vocal parts will, alone, be worth the price of admission.
  Next note At first blush, it appears like we're dealing with one of the very standard forms: two verses, a bridge, and a final verse, the whole thing enclosed by both intro and full-ending outro. But note the following intriguing peculiarities:
  • The intro is repeated before the final verse.
  • The four-bar phrase "And all I've got to etc." is repeated throughout the song as a refrain; it follows the bridge as well as providing the final phrase of each verse.
  • The outro is a neatly crafted extension of material from the intro, and features that three-time repetition of the same phrase which is so much a trademark of the Beatles.
  Next note The lyrics of the three verses create an ABA pattern.
  Next note The intro, verse, and bridge all start off right on the downbeat. The mini-refrain portion of the verse has the smallest of pickups before the bar. Aside from the title phrase per se, the song has notably very little syncopation.

Melody and Harmony

  Next note The melodic shape off all three sections (verse, refrain, and bridge) is predominantly downward, though they each contain at least some amount of counterbalancing upward motion.
  Next note There is a lot of mileage gotten here out of only three chords. The song is in D major, and more than 90% of the music is built on the I - IV - V chords of D, G, and A.
  Next note Only two other chords are used, and these make their first and only appearance in the bridge; i.e. the vi and ii chords of b and e.


  Next note The backing features harmonica, an unadorned root-note bass line and simple rhythm guitar(s). The drumming is mostly in even eighth notes, though Ringo's at least given a chance to break loose in the outro.
  Next note With the exception of the outro, and those harmonica parts, which were recorded separately, the arrangement is sufficiently straightforward to be played and sung entirely in real time without overdubs, giving us a rare chance to hear in a studio context what they must have sounded like "live."
  Next note John and Paul collaborate on the vocals though, strictly speaking, you might say John "leads."
  Next note The Capitol release of this recording on the "Second Album" features additional harmonica dubs and a shamelessly excessive amount of reverb not found on the Past Masters CD release, whose unvarnished sound quality comes across in contrast more like chamber music than a wall of sound, and is to be strongly recommended to those not familiar with it; almost hard to believe it's the same take which underlies the Capitol version.

Section-by-Section Walkthrough



  Next note The intro is only four measures long but is quite rich in detail. Schematically it looks like this:
        |Harmonica ------------ |Voices  -------------- |Verse
Chords: |A          |G          |A           |G         |D
     D:  V           IV          V            IV         I

   [Figure 16.1]
  Next note First off, there's a slight ambiguity as to what key we're in at the outset. By the time you reach measure 5, the music finally lets you know that "this is 'D,'" but until then, there is the suspenseful possibility that we just might be in the key of A, and that the opening chords are I and flat-VII. To put all this another way, this phrase has a "convergent" shape, moving homewards having started in the outfield.
  Next note Turning to the arrangement, we find that by the time the verse begins, there have already been three changes of texture in very short order. The first two measures feature harmonica plus heavy tom-tom drumming which stresses every beat in the measure. The next two measures introduce John and Paul's voices in Everly Brothers' style parallel thirds while the drumming shifts over to the lighter snare and cymbals-tapping work which is used throughout most of the rest of the song. Thirdly, the start of the verse provides contrast with the entire intro in that the chords of the verse are presented in an unembellished oom-pah style, whereas the chords in the intro are all embellished by neighboring tones on the offbeats like so:
         F#-F-    F#-F-|    E-E-    E-E-
    E-E-      E-E-     |D-D-    D-D-
    C#        C#       |B
    A         A        |G

   [Figure 16.2]
  Next note Two other details:
  • The successive harmonica and vocals parts in this intro fit together into a single descending scale of E -» D -» C# -» B -» A.
  • There is a vivid kiss-like sensation embedded in the introductory vocal parts; note how the simple phonemes "oh-mmm-you" are elided to sensual effect; try it yourself and see what it does to you.


  Next note The verse is eight measures long and built out of a virtual repetition of the following four-measure phrase:
      |D   G   |D   G   |D   A   |D   G   |
   D:  I   IV   I   IV   I   V    D   IV

   [Figure 16.3]
  Next note Note that in the second phrase, the D chord of the fourth bar is sustained for the entire measure instead of moving to G in the second half of the measure. If you listen carefully, you'll note that this slight detail was enough to trip up the rhythm guitarist on the first verse. Paul plays the notes D and A on beats 1 and 3 respectively while John (?) plays a G chord on the rhythm guitar. This mistake is not repeated in either of the other verses, though why they didn't stop for this in the first instance remains a riddle considering, as we learn from the outtakes readily available to us these days, that they generally did stop for errors of a similar nature.
  Next note The overall harmonic shape of the verse is rather closed, almost statically bound to the tonic; in fact, that G chord in the second half of measure 4 is quite necessary to leave the first phrase just sufficiently open to allow for a repeat of the phrase in measures 5 through 8.
  Next note Compared to the intro, the verse seems a tad faster and more driving; in large measure, this is due to the up shift of the harmonic rhythm here to two chords per measure from the one-per-measure of the intro. At any rate, do let's move on to the vocal parts.
  Next note When you look at the vocal arrangements of the early period you find the Boys favoring the device of peppering a song that is sung primarily in unison with either occasional notes here and there which suddenly shift into two part harmony (e.g. "Misery") or even whole phrases of two-part counterpoint. "Thank You Girl" has ample examples of both methods of contrast.
  Next note After those vocal parallel thirds of the intro, the first half of the verse is given to us in unison; ever notice how when John and Paul sing together like this, the result is a sort of third voice that sounds like unlike either of them? Even better though is the quintessentially Beatles-esque harmonization of the second phrase; no, it's definitely not something out of the Everly Brothers! Instead of bonehead parallel thirds what we get here is an almost seemingly arbitrary and yet delightfully pungent, dissonant jumble of fourths and fifths mixed among the few, more consonant sixths. But you know, my dear reader, that this strange counterpoint is not at all without motivation — listen carefully and note how the lower line sung by John is none other than the self-same melody sung by him and Paul in the first phrase; check 'em out:
   Paul: |F#      D E G |F#      D E G |F#       D  C#B |A
   John: |A       A B D |A       A B D |A        F# E D |D

   [Figure 16.4]


  Next note This is another short section of only four measures whose harmonic shape is wide open with an emphatic focus on a dominant V chord which goes begging for resolution:
       |G       |A       |G       |A       |
   D:   IV       V        IV       V

   [Figure 16.5]
  Next note I also tend to subliminally associate this section with the intro; we not only have the slowing of the harmonic rhythm back to one chord per measure, but there is also the oscillation between the IV and V chords; granted they're in reverse order this time.
  Next note In spite of the slowed harmonic rhythm in this phrase, there is a subtle feeling of propulsion created by the gentle syncopation of those "Thank you"s in the vocal part.
  Next note The vocal part is quite "Misery"-like: all in unison except for that open sixth which blossoms forth for an instant on the word "do"; not accidentally at the melodic apogee of the phrase. Interestingly, there is more two part harmony added at the end of all the other repeats of this refrain. Now this added bit of harmony not only has on first hearing, that same twangy and dissonant flavor we discussed above in connection to the verse, but on closer examination, is similarly motivated as above; i.e., the new upper part sung by Paul in all refrains except the first one is pitted against John's singing of the identical part they both sung in unison this first time around:
   Paul: |E D     D      |F# E      E     | 
   John: |E D     D      |C# B      A     |

   [Figure 16.6]


  Next note This is an eight-measure section built out of two phrases:
      |b     |D     |A     |-  e  |A     |D     |-     |
   D:  vi     I      V         ii  V      I

   [Figure 16.7]
  Next note Harmonically, we are given some well needed, albeit short-lived relief from our strict diet of only three chords. Melodically, the use of scalar material in the melody provides a unifying association with the refrain.
  Next note Although this bridge section makes a half-hearted attempt at harmonic excursion away from the tonic by starting off on the vi chord, the shape of this section overall is unusually closed for a bridge. As a result, the repeat of the open-ended refrain at this juncture works quite well in the way it sets up the rest of the song.
  Next note As in the refrain, the vocal parts are primarily in unison except for the brief, punctuated repeat of the phrase "way that you do" in parallel thirds.


  Next note The outro consists of three similar phrases, the first of which is six measures long, while the remaining two are four measures each.
  Next note The first phrase repeats the music of the intro virtually verbatim and then tacks on two measures which are harmonically identical to the beginning of the verse section, though in place of the voices we now are given fancy flourishes on the drums.
  Next note The second phrase repeats what were the last four measures of the previous phrase. The third and final phrase begins as though going for yet another verbatim repeat of what preceded but the last two measures now neatly provide the full ending with the same sort of neighbor tone embellishment of the harmony as seen in the opening measures of the intro.
  Next note From the outtakes of this song it not only seems possible that a fade-out ending was originally considered, but that in the several stand-alone takes of the coda, we see the Boys fiddling with the details of the bass line, the voicing of the rhythm guitar chords, and making sure that Ringo's elaborate fills stay within the framework of the backbeat right down to the wire.
  Next note The abrupt editing in of this outro goes down smoothly on casual listening, but once you know that it's there, you're hard pressed to ignore its sudden increase of reverb and even a very slight speeding up of the tempo.

Some Final Thoughts

  Next note Independent of the technical music theory details, I'd suggest that one of the most forward-pointing details in this song is to be found in a fragment of the lyrics; the lines about how "you've been good to me, you made me glad when I was blue."
  Next note Against the backdrop of the other songs of theirs from this early period, in which romantic effusion is more than likely to be prompted by the physical attractions of youthful beauty and technical prowess on the dance floor or in the loving department, here the "girl" is singled out for her having provided emotional support.
  Next note In that sense the song looks ahead to the likes of "Help!" and beyond.
  Alan (101900#16.2)
Revision History
042990 16.0 Original release
101700 16.1 Revise, expand and adapt to series template
101900 16.2 Correct comments re: harmonica overdubs and Capitol mix
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.