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notes on ...

Notes on "Yes It Is"


Notes on ... Series #66 (YII)
  by Alan W. Pollack
       Key: E Major
     Meter: 2/4 (6/8)
      Form: Intro | Verse | Verse | Bridge | Verse | Bridge |
                  | Verse | Outro (with complete ending)
        CD: "Past Masters", Volume 1, Track 17 (Parlophone CDP 90043-2)
  Recorded: 16th February 1965, Abbey Road 2
UK-release: 9th April 1965 (B Single / "Ticket To Ride")
US-release: 19th April 1965 (B Single / "Ticket To Ride")

General Points of Interest


Style and Form

  Next note Comparisons of this song to "This Boy" are inevitable and ubiquitous. Yet, for all their similarities, "Yes It Is" is arguably the more fully developed and "mature" of the two songs.
  Next note Behind the standard two-bridge-no-solo form, and in spite of its B-side status, "Yes It Is" features lyrics that are more clever, an harmonic palette more rich, and a mood more sharply characterized than the earlier song.

Melody and Harmony

  Next note The verse melody is constrained to an almost entirely pentatonic range of six notes; from E up to C#. The bridge opens this range way the heck up to G#; an unusually high note for John.
  Next note The roster of chords appearing in the song is relatively standard but both the ordering of their progressions, as well as the voice leading transitions between some of them, is extraordinary. Only the bridge section and the first phrase of the verse are made up of chord progressions that approximate cliché patterns of the period. The remaining three-quarters of the verse is pure Lennon and McCartney with its twice-surprising deployment of flat-VII and the last-minute deceptive cadence to the relative minor key.
  Next note This latter gambit, in a song that is otherwise clearly in a Major key, of hovering around the relative minor chord to such an extent that the identity of the actual home key becomes a tad or more ambiguous, was something for which the Boys had a real penchant; e.g. check out our studies of "Not A Second Time", "And I Love Her", and "I'm Happy Just To Dance With You". "Yes It Is" is not quite as extreme an example as these others, but the principle is the same. To the extent that "And I Love Her", "I'm Happy Just To Dance With You" and "Yes It Is" are in the same key, I wonder if they somehow had some a subliminal association of the gambit itself with the world of four sharps!
  Next note Back in "This Boy" we had already commented on their use of an harmonic technique that had been popular in the late-Romantic / Impressionistic periods of so-called classical music; the one in which the resolution of ninth, eleventh or thirteenth chords is delayed until the point at which the root of the chord has already changed, conjuring a feeling as if one chord has melted into the one that follows it. The same technique is brought forward in the current song to the point where some of the higher-order dissonant chords are found to never quite resolve.
  Next note The bridge section offers a short-lived but real modulation for a change; something we haven't seen all that often in our studies.


  Next note The three part vocal arrangement of the verse is dense and dissonant, and its level of compositional sophistication begs some intriguing questions about the working mode of the group and the involvement of George Martin as a coach. Bootlegs of the unmixed final take 14 belie the cream-finished haziness of the officially released product and betray just how dry and close-up the vocal parts were originally recorded.
  Next note In the bridge we have John's double tracked solo in the first half with George and Paul coming back in to give him appropriately moaning support for the big climax.
  Next note The rhythmic scanning of the words contains a large amount of syncopation and two-against-three cross rhythms which cut across the evenly lilting triplet rhythms of the backing track. You might go as far as to describe this as the rhythmic analogue to the dissonant harmonic elements described above.
  Next note George's "tone pedal" guitar adds an ethereal touch that is as novel as it is complementary to the vocal texture.

Section-by-Section Walkthrough



  Next note Given just two measures of the I chord, this intro sets forth the basic back-beat and instrumental arrangement for the entire song.
  Next note The piece begins with a guitar pickup of low B-natural on "four". As we did back on "Don't Bother Me", I propose that this song be parsed as though its measure lengths were half as long as the four-in-the-bar count-in heard in the outtakes would imply; otherwise, the phrase lengths come out looking absurdly short.


  Next note The first verse is an unusual fifteen measures long. It starts off with a couplet of two phrases, each of which is four measures long. This is balanced out by a closing phrase of six measures plus one last measure of plain breathing space before the next verse begins:
      |E              |A              |f#             |B              |
   E:  I               IV              ii              V

      |E              |A              |D              |B              |
       I               IV              flat-VII        V

      |E              |-              |A              |D              |
       I6                              IV              flat-VII
        3 (first inversion with G# in bass)

                                                      |verse #2 & 3 ...
      |c#             |E              |-              |-              |
       vi              I
                                                   A:  V

   [Figure 66.1]
  Next note The second and third verses, both of which are followed by a bridge section, use a rhetorical repetition of the closing hook phrase to extend this section out to a more typical sixteen measures. This allows the sustained E-Major chord at that point to be punningly leveraged as not only the plain I, but also the V of the key of A, which nicely sets up the modulation to that key just in time for the bridge.
  Next note The flat-VII chord is used in two different and unusual ways in the second and third phrases respectively. In the first case it is used as a surprise surrogate for the ii chord heard in the corresponding context of the previous phrase. The resolution of of this same chord to vi (the relative minor of the home key) in the third phrase is even more unusual, and quite evocative of the bitter-sweet message of the song's lyrics.
  Next note Some quick examples of the free dissonances created by the lead vocal against the underlying chords: an A9 in measure 2, a f#11 in measure 3, and a D-added-sixth (called a thirteenth by some) in measure 7. I believe one senses a feeling of exquisite yearning in the implied resolution of the note D-natural upward to D# over the barline between measures 7 and 8; the effect is ironically enhanced by the fact that the voices actually drop out for measure 8, leaving this D -» D# literally implied rather than spelled out.


  Next note The bridge is ten measures in length and it follows a similar plan to that of the verse, with the second of its somewhat parallel phrases being elongated; i.e. a 4 + 6 subdivision of the ten measures:
      |b              |E              |A              |f#             |
   A:  ii              V               I               vi

      |b              |E              |c#             |E              |
       ii              V               iii
                                   E:  vi              I

      |F#             |B              |
       V-of-V          V

   [Figure 66.2]
  Next note Formal contrast is provided in this section by the change of vocal arrangement, a temporary cutback in the level of dissonance, a large-scale opening up of the melodic melodic range, and the clear, obvious build to a climax; the latter following on the heels of a verse which had no such sense of dramatic shape.
  Next note The modulation that is first hinted at by the E7 chord at the end of the second verse is not fully consummated until the third measure of this bridge. In fact, the continued use of D#'s in the melody of this further serves to blunt one's sense of a modulation having taken place in so many words, or perhaps I should say chords :-).
  Next note The reappearance of the c#-minor chord right at the start of what is the quickening toward climax touches one as being somehow ominously appropriate.


  Next note The full ending is crafted out of a last-minute variation on the sixteen-measure form of the verse, the two final reprises of the hook phrase now being harmonized as follows:
   |E       |-       |G#      |A       |E       |
    I                 V-of-vi  IV       I

   [Figure 66.3]
  Next note The appearance of G#-Major at this turn half-surprisingly hints that a belated modulation to the relative minor key of c# might yet actually take place, but it even more surprisingly resolves deceptively to IV and from there to the final I chord.
  Next note The riff of pedal guitar notes which float away after the last chord has already been sounded — D# -» B -» G# -» C# — close things up in the freely dissonant mode that characterized most of what preceded.

Some Final Thoughts

  Next note Over the long run, John is nothing if not consistent in the style of his wordplay. The "red" / "blue" pun which runs through the current song has as its precedents not only the "black" / "blue" obvious example of "Baby's In Black", but also the "this" / "that" motif of "This Boy", and many others as well.
  Next note A number of equally familiar verbal pirouettes reappear here, some of which go beyond cleverness to hint at emotional content with almost subconscious indirection. We have, for example: a vague reference to something spoken offline from the song proper ("remember what I said tonight"), a hint that the hurt of love lost is exacerbated by a feeling of public humiliation ("everybody knows, I'm sure"; and "but it's my pride"), and just plain small talk clichés thrown in for good measure (the title phrase, and "it's true.")
  Next note Most potent of all is the ironic place of honor given in the song to the persistence of memory; ironic because of the manner in which the tyrannical, debilitating power of such memory is contrasted with the simple, mundane objects and sensations of life which are capable of triggering such hot flashes. Granted, John had already dealt with this theme as early as the song "Misery", but you can intuit that a more permanent and serious attachment was at stake in our later song from a subtle shift in emphasis. Back in "Misery" the tears were shed over the memory of "all the little things we've done". Here in "Yes It Is" we're now talking about "the things we planned."
  Alan (090892#66)
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.