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notes on ...

Notes on "Why Don't We Do It In The Road?"


Notes on ... Series #143 (WDWDIITR)
  by Alan W. Pollack
       Key: D Major
     Meter: 4/4
                   --- 3X ---
      Form: Intro | Refrain (with complete ending)
        CD: "White Album", Disc 1, Track 15 (Parlophone CDS7 46443-8)
  Recorded: 9th October 1968, Abbey Road 1;
            10th October 1968, Abbey Road 3
UK-release: 22nd November 1968 (LP "White Album")
US-release: 25th November 1968 (LP "White Album")

General Points of Interest


Style and Form

  Next note This is one of what I call Paul's "bonsai tree" songs; refer back to our study of "Wild Honey Pie" for an introduction to the concept. This particular song features minimalistic (albeit vividly colorful) content, stick-figure form, outrageous-giddy attitude, and is sequenced in a context where it provides some kind of comic relief, and presages a shift in mood back toward serious, loving intimacy for the last couple tracks on "Side 2" of the "White Album".

Melody and Harmony

  Next note A self-consciously "heavy" blues flavor dominates both the tune and the chord choices.


  Next note The backing track of piano, guitar, bass guitar and drum set was almost completely self-produced by the composer. Detailed instrumental variations from section to section are neither as dramatic nor as neatly choreographed as usual, but they are in evidence, nonetheless.
  • The intro features a staggered layering of three percussion elements. Hand banging on the back of an acoustic guitar leads off, echoed hand claps come in second, and finally the drums, which have made a furtive appearance just before the clapping starts, enter in earnest.
  • Paul's raucous vocal is recorded close up and "too" loud to the point of distortion throughout the track. The second section includes a couple short, intermittent patches of what sounds like double tracking, and, of course, the final section opens with some falsetto yelping.
  • The guitar part is held in abeyance until measure 13 of second section, but from there on, it remains a part of the backtrack.
  • The bassline features an unvaried thumping on the root notes of the chords for most of the song, though it shifts to Paul's jumpy, melodically riffing style in the final section.

Section-by-Section Walkthrough



  Next note The intro is eight measures long with three successive percussion layers added over the course of the first six, and the stuttering musical question that gives the song its title filling out the last two.


  Next note The refrain or chorus section is a stretched out classic blues frame; the tempo is fast, but the harmonic rhythm slowly bides its time.
      |D     |-     |-     |-     |-     |-     |-     |-     |
   D:  I

      |G     |-     |-     |-     |D     |-     |-     |-     |
       V                           I

      |A     |-     |G     |-     |D     |-     |-     |-     |
       V             V             I

   [Figure 143.1]
  Next note In contrast to "Rocky Raccoon", which finds a way to project a semblance of normal song form in spite of the fact that each section is built on the same blueprint, this song wouldn't dream of trying to disguise its one-track-mind, jam-session gesturing. Of course it's no random accident, either, that this unvaried chorus repeats itself three times, precisely. Figure it yourself, Goldilocks: one or two would be too hot; four or more, too cold; but three times is "just right".
  Next note The song abruptly ends with a loud, lingering cymbal crash on the downbeat of measure 21 of the last refrain. Paul cleverly twists his rhythmic delivery of the song's final line so that the last word falls with underwhelming syncopation on the beat just before the final blow; kind of gives you a bit of whiplash.

Some Final Thoughts

  Next note The transcendent naughtiness of this song's message could be said to have been socially redeemed at the time of its initial release by its cute, tongue-in-cheek delivery.
  Next note By today's very different standards, you might argue that the song survives by virtue of its being able to balance the same old equation in reverse; i.e. the over-the-top cuteness of delivery is excused by the underlying willingness to be naughty.
  Alan (020898#143)
Copyright © 1998 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.