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Notes on "You Never Give Me Your Money"


Notes on ... Series #13.0 (YNGMYM.0)
  by Alan W. Pollack
       Key: a minor / C Major / A Major
     Meter: 4/4
        CD: "Abbey Road", Track 9 (Parlophone CDP7 46446-2)
  Recorded: 6th May, Olympic Sound Studios; 1st July, Abbey Road 2;
            15th July, Abbey Road 3; 30th, 31st July, Abbey Road 2;
            5th August 1969, Abbey Road 3
UK-release: 26th September 1969 ("Abbey Road")
US-release: 1st October 1969 ("Abbey Road")
  Next note "You Never Give Me Your Money" is a lot of song for the money. There is a large amount of musical material per "square unit" here, and furthermore, it's formally organized in a way that defies easy analysis, being akin to a medley within a medley. No high-flown aesthetic ruminations this time! Let's just jump in. The song is built in three different sections which are compatible, but virtually unrelated to each other. We'll examine each section in turn and come back later to consider how a feeling of unity is brought to bear on such diversity.

Section X - "You never give me your money ..."

  Next note This section is built out of three repetitions of the same eight-measure phrase; first an unusually long instrumental introduction, followed by two verses of song. The harmony of this eight-measure phrase is a full, albeit diatonic, circle of fifths:
      |a             |d              |G              |C             |
   a:  i              iv              VII (V-of-III?) III

      |F             |b-dim   E      |a              |-             |
       VI             ii      V       I

   [Figure 13.1]
  Next note Several comments on this:
  • This progression creates an ambivalent impression of being at once both placid and forward moving. The placidity comes from the slow and (except for measure 6) even harmonic rhythm. The movement derives from the "transitive verb"-like quality of chord progressions which move in fifths. The dynamic quality is heightened on the one hand by the appearance of every chord in root position, but softened at the same time by the fact that the chords all appear "au naturel". In other words, the effect could be either further softened by use of some chords in inversions, or further heightened by turning some of the chords into "V-of ..." chords with a couple of sharps scattered about.
  • Although I've notated the chords as simple triads, this phrase contains a liberal measure of functional dissonance which also helps push it forward; many of the chords contain sevenths or other appoggiaturas on the down beats.
  • Rhythmically, this phrase makes early use of the syncopated accent on the eighth note that falls between the second and third beat of the measure. This is a sufficiently garden-variety device for music of this period and genre, but it's worth singling out here because, as will see, its recurrent appearance in several otherwise unrelated sections of this song becomes a subtle source of alliterative unity. In phrase X, this syncopation appears in the melody in measures 2 and 8, and it also shows up in the harmonic rhythm in measure 6.
  • The twenty-four measures of section X ends with a simple pivot modulation to the key of C, leading directly into section Y.

Section Y - "Out of college money spent ..."

  Next note This new section is cleanly set-off from the preceding by a new texture as well as a change of key. The tempo is the same as before, but the quickening of the harmonic rhythm to two chords per measure, plus the boogie woogie background beat make it all seem faster. Also note how this section also has the distinction of itself dividing into two contrasting subsections.
  Next note The first subsection (call it YA — "Out of college money spent ...") is built out of two repeats of this four-bar phrase:
      |C      E      |a      C7     |F      G      |C          |
   C:  I      V-of-vi vi     V-of-IV IV     V       I

   [Figure 13.2]
  There's no full circle of fifths this time, but it's still heavy on the verb-like root progressions of a fifth. If anything, the harmony is harder driving in this phrase because of the frequent use of secondary dominants.
  Next note The second subsection (call it YB — "But oh that magic feeling ...") brings a return of the "twixt two-and-three" syncopation and a harmonic switch from C Major to C Mixolydian. The section is built out of an unusual five repeats of a three-measure phrase, the harmony of which is none other than our old friend, the "Hey Jude"-progression:
      |B-flat        |F             |C             |
   C:  flat-VII       IV             I

   [Figure 13.3]
  The sudden return to a harmonic rhythm of one chord change per measure creates a strong initial sensation of putting on the brakes. However this feeling is modified to one of gradually rising expectations by the prime number of repeats of a phrase whose length is also asymmetrical.
  Next note As an aside, I actually hear an alliterative connection between this phrase and the reappearance of the same chord progression in, of all places, "Polythene Pam". Total coincidence??
  Next note At any rate, this segues right into section Z.

Section Z - "One sweet dream ..."

  Next note Like section X, this section begins with an extended instrumental introduction which is partially built out of the material that will appear in the upcoming verse. Like section Y, this section also subdivides into two contrasting subsections.
  Next note The first subsection (call it ZA) contains an eight-measure introduction followed by an unusual seven-and-a-half-measure verse.
  Next note The introduction is one of the most interesting phrases in the entire song. The first four measures are in a chromatically inflected C Major; the use of the D-Major and E-flat chords being slightly unusual:
      |C             |D             |E-flat   G      |C             |
   C:  I              V-of-V         flat-III V       I

   [Figure 13.4]
  But it's measures 5 through 8 in which the harmonic stops are pulled way out. The "architectural" function of this phrase is simple enough: to modulate back to A. However, the gambit employed to do this is a truly extraordinary choice for the genre. These four measures are built on a cycle of minor thirds in which both the bassline and the upper melody outline a sequence of diminished seventh chords. This device is something that you'll find all over the place in a piece like "Rhapsody in Blue", though Gershwin himself could be said to be ripping it off from the likes of a composer such as Liszt. I believe its use here is unique in the work of the Beatles; what prompted Macca to think of it is beyond me. (That's not to imply a value judgment one way or the other about the level to which this gambit "fits" our context; its usage is unusual, regardless.)
  Next note Diminished seventh chords have several interesting properties, discussion of which is way outside the scope of these articles. For now, the most salient thing to note is how they symmetrically divide an octave on the one hand, yet do this by hitting notes which are not part of the scale of the octave being subdivided. This creates two perceptible harmonic effects:
  • a clangorous series of chromatic cross relations, and
  • a temporary, free-fall sense of not quite being in any specific key.
  Check it out! (In the following schematic: b = flat):
                 C#             E             G            Bb-B-B#-- C#
              Bb-            C#-            E-           G-
  Upper     G-            Bb-            C#-           E-
  voice: |E-           |G-           |Bb-          |C#-             |
Bassline:|C-           |Eb-          |Gb-          |A-              |
                 A              C             Eb           Gb-G-G#-- A

   [Figure 13.5]
  Next note At any rate, the above passage leads right into a short verse of seven and a half measures which subdivides into one phrase of six measures (the first four of which are a direct transposition of the introduction), followed by a fragmentary repeat which breaks down after only one and a half measures, and leads directly into the next section:
      |A               |B               |
   A:  I                V-of-V

      |C        E      |A               |
       flat-III V       I

      |d               |-               |

      |A               |B**     ||C
       I                V-of-V    flat-III

   [Figure 13.6]
  [** = half measure]
  A few comments:
  • Note how the sustaining of the minor iv chord in measures 5 and 6 suddenly puts the breaks on just when momentum is gathering; the "two-and-three" syncopation also makes a dramatic re-appearance in these two measures.
  • To be more accurate, from the point of view of the lyrics, this phrase actually continues into the first two measures of the next section creating a nice formalistic elision.
  Next note The final subsection (call it ZB) is musically built out of the following two-measure phrase, repeated "N" times into the fade-out:
      Chords:  |C           G           |A                       |
    Bassline:   C           B            A
           A:   flat-III    flat-VII     I

   [Figure 13.7]
  Again, comments:
  • The first several repeats of this phrase accompany the final lyrics of the verse started in the previous section. The remainder of the repeats first accompany the enigmatic "One two three four five six seven" chorus, and finally fade-out with the implication of a jam session that might go on forever; if you've heard the early-mix outtake of this you'd know what I mean about forever :-)
  • The by-now-familiar syncopated rhythm shows up in both measures of this phrase, though in yet another classic illustration of "avoidance of foolish consistency", the harmonic rhythm underscores the syncopation only in the first measure.
  • And then, we have "down with the lights, up with the crickets, and bring on the Sun King."

Putting It All Together

  Next note In the context of a genre in which you expect to see some patterned alternation of verses and breaks, the form of this song is a seeming jumble, a medley at best:
            X                    Y                       Z
  |-------------------| |------------------| |---------------------|
   X-intro  X1   X2      YA1 YA2 / YB1 -- 5   ZA-intro ZA1 / ZB1 -- 'n'

   [Figure 13.8]
  But let's face it, we're dealing with more than a mishmash. The form may not be "standard" but there are at least two unifying elements at work (in addition to the recurrent syncopation discussed earlier):
  1. The harmonic plan for the three sections is a straightforward arch:
      X                Y                Z
   a minor          C Major          A Major

   [Figure 13.9]
  In fact, in this light, the chord progression of section ZB appears to be a summing up of the harmonic plan in a nutshell!!
  2. The song presents its own alternative notion of repetition in place of a more standard form. Even though none of the sections of this song make a "return" performance once the music has moved on to another section, there are several sections which consist of a short phrase repeated immediately several times. It's unusual but I believe it works.
  Next note Perhaps one can argue that this lack of an internal "reprise" within this song itself is what makes the reprise of section X inside of "Carry That Weight" so satisfying.
  Alan (110889#13.0)
  See also: The "Abbey Road" Medley
Copyright © 1989 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.