alan w. pollack's
notes on ...

Notes on "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away"


Notes on ... Series #18.1 (YGTHYLA.1)
  by Alan W. Pollack
       Key: G (Mixolydian) Major
     Meter: 3/4
      For": Intro | Verse | Verse' | Refrain |
                  | Verse | Verse' | Refrain |
                  | Verse / Solo (with complete ending)
        CD: "Help!", Track 3 (Parlophone CDP7 46439-2)
  Recorded: 18th February 1965, Abbey Road 2
UK-release: 6th August 1965 (LP "Help!")
US-release: 13th August 1965 (LP "Help!")

General Points of Interest


Style and Form

  Next note From the upbeat self confidence of "Thank You Girl" and "Any Time At All" we move this time to the other end of the emotional spectrum with "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away", a song that further exemplifies some of John's signature style traits as much as it breaks some new ground for its time.
  Next note The form is a cross between the two-bridge pop song and the verse / refrain alternating folk ballad, with a central unit of two verses plus a refrain repeated twice, preceded by a scanty intro and followed, quite unusually, by an instrumental verse that wraps the whole thing up. The verse pairs are internally differentiated between a "primary" version and a slightly modified variant that leads more smoothly into the refrain.
  Next note I find it intriguing that many people hear the influence of Dylan in this song. Beyond John's vocal style and the lyrics, I wonder if part of this reaction is based on the use of this form; think of how many of Zimmy's own ballads save the harmonica solo for after the final verse!
  Next note And this is our first encounter with a ternary time signature. I'm parsing this as an up tempo 3/4 both for simplicity and because John himself counts it out that way on the outtake of the song included on Anthology 2. But one could just as easily transcribe it as a moderate 6/8 with two of my 3/4 measures to one of the 6/8 measures.
  Next note Perhaps the following will come as no surprise to those resident teenagers out there who make a religion out of knowing such details, but a search through the Beatles' songbook reveals John to be the most partial of the four toward songs written with at least an entire section in a ternary meter. Of course, songs in such time signatures comprise only a small fraction of the total canon, but I thought it was interesting to note to whom the lion's share of these belonged:
  Next note Given George's small "market share" of the official canon, it's significant that in this category, he comes in tied with Paul.
  Next note The four sung verses all contain different lyrics which adds to the ballad (versus pop) side of the equation.
  Next note All the sections rhythmically start right on the downbeat, a gesture that resonates with the depressed affect of the song's mood, in the sense that it somehow takes more energy to come in before or after the beat.
  Next note The refrain and final phrase of the primary verse section both feature unusual phrase lengths of six measures.

Melody and Harmony

  Next note The broad melodic range and large leaps of the refrain contrast dramatically with what might be called the claustrophobic narrowness of the verse. The refrain opens with the jump of an octave downward and covers an overall range of eleven notes. The primary verse contains no larger interval than a minor third and covers a range of only five notes; the secondary verse, a range of seven notes.
  Next note The short downbeat melismas, as found for example on the word "on" in the phrase "can't go on," are a veritable Lennon / Beatles' trademark. Compare this example with "Any Time At All" and "Eight Days A Week".
  Next note It's tempting to attribute what I describe as John's penchant for harmonic frugality as more a reflection of a limited vocabulary than a conscious element of style. But while the latter may be a slight exaggeration, the former would be grossly unfair; granted, much of his output — both early and late — is heavily blues based or influenced, but at the very least, during the "Sgt. Pepper" and "White Album" period, we have several examples, such as "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "I Am The Walrus" which are quite imaginative in chord choices and progression.
  Next note But at any rate, with our current selection, we have yet another song built exclusively out of four chords; in order of appearance, you have G, D, C, and F. The key is G Major, so grammatically, in addition to the standard I, V, and IV, we also have the modal sounding "flat-VII" chord.
  Next note The use of such a limited harmonic palette contributes to the extremely closed tonal shape of the song. There are no excursions or modulations away from the home key. Luckily, as a matter of avoiding a stultifying sense of stasis, each of the two phrases of the verse section respectively opens up to either the IV or V chord which at least help "motivate" the refrain, and similarly, the two phrases in the refrain section each end on V that neatly leads back around into the next verse.
  Next note In contrast to the "modal purity" of "She Said She Said", I describe the harmonic style of "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away" as "almost modal" because of the use here of the Major V chord together with the flat-VII. In "She Said She Said" we saw how the modal spell is kept unbroken by using the minor v chord.
  Next note One spicy by-product of this almost purely modal style is the repeated cross-relation exposed by the juxtaposition of the F-sharps in the D chord with the F-naturals in the F chord. This could have been easily "avoided" by substituting the C-Major IV chord for flat-VII in every place it is preceded by V, but try it out as an alternative and note how very much more ordinary (albeit bluesy) it sounds compared to what John decides to go with.

The Rise of the flat-VII Chord

  Next note The flat-VII chord turns out to be a Beatles' favorite over the long run, and though you can find a small but constant scattering of examples of it in the earlier albums, it seems to get a major boost in popularity on the "Help!" album.
  Next note Look back, you'll be amazed to note that flat-VII appears for the first time on the "Please Please Me" album in "P.S. I Love You" and the cover, "Taste Of Honey". "With The Beatles" has "Don't Bother Me" (hey, George!) and "All My Loving". "A Hard Day's Night" has the title track,"A Hard Day's Night, "When I Get Home", and "I'll Be Back".
  Next note On the "Help!" album, you find that in addition to the title track, "Help!", the next four Lennon and McCartney songs on side one all contain this special chord; i.e. "The Night Before", our current song, "Another Girl", and "You're Going To Lose That Etc.". Does this perhaps give you the feeling that the composer(s) were having a field day playing with a new harmonic "toy" so to speak?
  Next note An exhaustive exploration of where the Beatles got the flat-VII chord from and the different ways in which they used it would require searching through one or both of the following:
  • Any song covered by the Beatles that has the chord.
  • Any song from the pre-Beatle era pop song repertoire correlated with music the Beatles would have been familiar with even if they didn't include it in their repertoire.
  This is way more than I can deal with at the moment but I'll leave it here as another good sample thesis topic. Any takers?


  Next note The arrangement of this song is notable on two grounds: the almost exclusive use of acoustic instruments (sorry, Mark L., but this boy-o hears an electric Hoffner), and the first (!) use of a hired studio musician to supply a part played on "exotic" instruments; i.e. alto and tenor flutes. At risk of belaboring the obvious, this latter tactic became a major clue to the new direction of the boys for many albums to come.
  Next note The backing track is predominated by acoustic rhythm guitars, bass guitar, soft brush work on drums plus additional sparse percussion, and John's single tracked vocal.
  Next note By the same token there are the typical orchestrated details:
  • Verse 1: No additional percussion.
  • Verse' 1: Add tambourine on the downbeat of even-numbered measures.
  • Refrain 1: Continue with the tambourine and adds maracas playing three-in-the-bar.
  • Verse 2: Keep the tambourine this time.
  • Verse' 2: Same as before.
  • Refrain 2: Ditto.
  • Verse 3: Keep all percussion and add pair of flutes doubling each other at the octave.
  Next note The outtake on Anthology 2 is enjoyable but reveals little more about the composition and recording. To be sure, you get to hear an alternate vocal with slightly different scanning of the lyrics, plus the final verse minus the flute overdubs. But I'll wager these are overshadowed for most listeners by the characteristic snippet of "Paul broke a glass" teasing studio chatter that precedes the music.

Section-by-Section Walkthrough



  Next note The intro is just two measures of the I chord, which establish the home key, meter, and backing texture.


  Next note The primary verse is an unusual eighteen measures long. It has a phrasing pattern of ABAB' (4 + 4 + 4 + 6) in which B' is a rhetorically extended version of the original B phrase:
      |G           |D           |F           |G           |
   G:  I            V            flat-VII     I

      |C           |-           |F           |C           |
       IV                        flat-VII     IV

      |G           |D           |F           |G           |
       I            V            flat-VII     I

      |C           |-           |F           |C           |
       IV                        flat-VII     IV

      |D           |-           |

   [Figure 18.1]
  Next note The harmonic shape of each couplet is open, first to IV and then to V. The harmonic rhythm is one chord change per measure except for the final phrase where it creates a slow / fast / slow-again pattern.


  Next note The only difference between the secondary verse form and its primary counterpart is the addition of two measures at the end to further extend the final V chord, this time over a descending line in the bass. The latter adds a sense of both closure to the verse pair and one of inevitability with respect to the upcoming bridge.
  Next note Verse' then weighs in at twenty measures long with its ABAB' pattern stretched out to 4 + 4 + 4 + 8. The latter more closely matches my experience of this section than parsing it as though it were five phrases of four measures each.


  Next note The refrain is twelve measures long with a phrasing pattern of AA (6 + 6):
    ------------------------ 2X -------------------------
   |G       |-       |C       |-       |D       |-       |
    I                 IV                V
                                        4 -» 3 -» 2 -» 3

   [Figure 18.2]
  Next note Again, the harmonic shape is completely open. And the slower harmonic rhythm creates a free-verse leisurely feeling that nicely resonates with the final phrase of the verses.
  Next note That turn around the F# of the D chord in the final two measures is a relatively garden-variety harmonic effect that for some reason you do not find often in the Beatles' songbook.

Final Verse (Outro)

  Next note The final verse is an instrumental based on the primary verse with the last measures modified to provide an harmonically closed ending; one created by a double plagal cadence, no less:
   |C        |-       |F       |C       |G       |-       |
    IV                 flat-VII IV       I

   [Figure 18.3]
  Next note Even the usage of a plain old transverse flute would have seemed unusual at this stage of their career. The usage of the over-sized alto and tenor flutes, the likes of which are considered pretty exotic even within the realm of the concert or studio ensemble, is rather extraordinary. Those lower-pitched flutes have actually been around since at least the turn of the 20th century. The alto flute, for example, makes a conspicuous appearances in Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" and works by Debussy and Ravel. In our own times, it is popular on TV and movie soundtracks (e.g. the "Mission Impossible" theme) but still remains a specialty item used for the purpose of creating special atmosphere.
  Next note The solo itself is an improvisation closely modeled on the tune, though the way it's ended off on the fifth degree of the scale is distinctively unusual.

Some Final Thoughts

  Next note Though you know I generally don't get too involved with the words, being pretty much a meat-and-potato chords-and-form sort of fellow, I can't quite ignore what seem to me to be the strange aspects of this song's lyrics.
  Next note We tend to take for granted our biographical knowledge about how that young rebel who was suspended by Headmaster Pobjoy for throwing a blackboard out of a classroom window actually was someone with an insecure, and vulnerable soft core. For every song like "You Can't Do That", there is also one like "Misery". Whenever you find him talking about striking back, if you just wait a minute, you'll also hear him focused only on the heartache that motivates it.
  Next note But I do believe that "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away" is unique even in this context. Here we find our hero immobilized to the point where vengeance is the least thing on his mind because it hurts so badly that he can't even stand to be around other people; an even greater emotional crash than "I'll Cry Instead", for example. In spite of this, we are privy to his state — as though we could read his mind or his private journal — and it is from this unusual sense of intimacy that I believe the song derives much of its impact. It's interesting to note how such a similar song in tone as "Yes It Is" was recorded in the same week!
  Next note But there is a delightful, almost Dylanesque ellipticality to these lyrics as well. The phrase "if she's gone" is intriguingly ambiguous. What does the "if" mean here? Is the hero merely rehearsing in advance his fear of the possibility of her leaving in the future, or does it more likely convey the real-time immediacy of his just now being hit with the news of her leaving, and he's and talking out loud trying to digest what it means.
  Next note Similarly, the line "how could she say to me love will find a way" is very difficult; it's the sort of comment you expect someone to make when s/he's trying to keep a relationship going no matter what, against all odds and obstacles, not when one is ramping down or breaking off. But then again, maybe our hero is himself perplexed and hurt by this very difficulty. For when love somehow cannot find a way, when such a thing is just not possible, is there ever any middle ground left to which such a relationship can move?
  Alan (112300#18.1)
Revision History
051590 18.0 Original release
112300 18.1 Correct, 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.