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notes on ...

Notes on "You Never Give Me Your Money"


Notes on ... Series #13.1 (YNGMYM.1)
  by Alan W. Pollack
       Key: a minor / C Major / A Major
     Meter: 4/4
      Form: Part X | Part Y | Part Z (fade-out)
        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")

General Points of Interest


Style and Form

  Next note Taking a cue from the emphasis in my last note (re: "She Said She Said") on the undeniable primacy of classic song forms within the Beatles songbook, let's look this time at "You Never Give Me Your Money" at the other end of the formal spectrum; along with "... Warm Gun", being one of the extremely rare examples in the canon where the Beatles opt for "teleological medley" in place of any more traditional periodic / cyclical form.
  Next note "You Never Give Me Your Money" is built from three different sections that are nominally compatible, but virtually unrelated to each other. As with all but the final section of "... Warm Gun", you find that while each of the sections here suggests the potential for complete development into a song that can stand on its own, each is presented for now in a fragmentary manner where they rely heavily on the immediate repetition of a single idea to establish any sense of formal autonomy.
  Next note On the one hand that makes it easy for the listener to grasp the articulation of the larger form, but it begs the question of how any feeling of unity is brought to bear on such independent diversity. We'll examine each section in turn and come back later to this question.
  Next note Each of the three parts has its own rhyme scheme, though none of them is quite large enough, formally, to get into literal repeats of whole sections of words. By the same token, the latter halves of parts Y and Z both feature immediate, multiple repetition of the same line.
  Next note All three parts lyrically start off after the downbeat, providing a foil for the children's counting rhyme of the song's outro which very much starts right on it.

Melody and Harmony

  Next note The relative autonomy of what we'll respectively call the X, Y, and Z sections of the song is reflected in both the melodic and harmonic raw materials and design.
  Next note Melodically:
  • Part X clearly has an A minor triad for its backbone, underlying what on the surface look like two downward gestures, the second of which is balanced by a final upward jump.
  • The first half of Part Y almost mechanically follows a sequence of "third-down and step-up" units down a full octave. The second half commences with less mechanical, but still more downward, motion that is balanced out at the end by the high placed appoggiatura implied in the choral vocals.
  • Part Z is clearly the jumpiest of the three sections in the melody department.
  Next note Harmonically, each section is distinguished by a different home key (a minor, C Major, and A Major, respectively), plus the following unique characteristics:
  • Part X runs through the diatonic circle of fifths.
  • The first half of Part Y is rich in secondary dominants. The second half iterates on the double plagal cadence.
  • Part Z conspicuously uses a larger amount of chromatic harmony than either X or Y, including a flourishing fanfare of diminished seventh chords, as well as the multiple cross-relation inducing progression of V-of-V to flat-III.


  Next note The arrangement also underscores the XYZ high-level design both in terms of a different ensemble sound for each section, as well as a pronounced tendency to selectively retouch and remix at the detailed level; the latter being a signature of the Beatles work in all of the later albums:
  • Part X opens with solo piano and lead guitar judiciously applied for emphasis; note the unusually sloppy way in which resonance of the guitar is allowed to hang over the continuation of the piano part. The first verse has Paul doing single track lead vocal, adding an overdub at the unison in the same location as the guitar points of emphasis. The second verse adds bass and light drum work with Paul now singing in two- or three-part harmony with himself, and a bit of extra fuzzy reverb applied to the very end of the vocal.
  • The different ensemble for the first half of Part Y, dominated by heavy drumming, boogie woogie tack piano, and Paul's lead vocal single tracked is already evident in the pickup measure to this section. The second half of Part Y features (synthesized?) chimes, lighter drum work, and choral vocals for what sounds like the group of Paul, John, and George.
  • Part Z restores heaviness to all parts including piano, rhythm guitar, bass, piano, drums and a double-tracked lead guitar, and double-tracked lead vocal. The final section provides another opportunity for three-part harmonizing vocals, with Moog-synthesized sounds-of-nature effects that commence in the outro and are allowed to bridge the gap to the following track, "Sun King".

Section-by-Section Walkthrough


Part 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 (it's unusual to give away the entire verse section like this in an instrumental intro), followed by two verses of song.
  Next note The harmony of this eight-measure phrase is a full, albeit diatonic, circle of fifths:
      |a7            |d9   -» 8      |G7             |C4   -» 3     |
   a:  i              iv              VII             III

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

   [Figure 13.1]
  Next note 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 that 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; try out the alternative of using a D-Major chord in measure 2 and a C dominant seventh chord in measure 4.
  Next note This phrase also 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.
  Next note 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 we will see, its recurrent appearance in several otherwise unrelated sections of this song becomes a subtle source of alliterative unity. In part X, this syncopation appears in the melody in measures 2 and 8, and it also shows up in the harmonic rhythm in measure 6.
  Next note The twenty-four measures of section X ends with a simple pivot modulation to the key of C, leading directly into section Y. This is done by moving to a G-Major chord in the final measure of the section.

Part 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 similar to what you have in "Hey Jude".
  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]
  Next note 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 2 & 3" 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 modal double plagal cadence (speaking of "Hey Jude").
      |B-flat        |F             |C             |
   C:  flat-VII       IV             I

   [Figure 13.3]
  Next note 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.

Part Z: One Sweet Dream

  Next note Like section X, this section begins with an extended instrumental introduction that 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 and uncannily foreshadowing the same chords being used again at the end of ""The End":
      |C             |D             |E-flat   G      |
   C:  I              V-of-V         flat-III V

   [Figure 13.4]
  Next note 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 bass line 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 Liszt. I believe its use here is unique in the work of The Beatles; what prompted Macca to think of it is beyond me.
  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.
  Next note Check it out!
                 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]
  Next note 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 2&3 syncopation also makes a dramatic re-appearance in these two measures.
  Next note 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 fourteen times into the fade-out. Macca rules vocally in the first four iterations, with a children's counting rhyme introduced, seemingly non-sequitur like, for the rest of them:
      Chords:  |C           G           |A                       |
    Bassline:   C           B            A
           A:   flat-III    flat-VII     I

   [Figure 13.7]
  Next note The first four repeats of this phrase accompany the final lyrics of the verse started in the previous section. The remaining ten 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 referenced below you'll know what I mean about forever :-).
  Next note 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.
  Next note And then, we have "down with the lights, up with the synthesized crickets, and bring on the 'Sun King'."
  Next note It's worth your tracking down an unedited, early mix of this song missing all of the vocal overdubs (other than Paul's single track lead) and some of the instrumental retouching, as well as documenting what really happened in the studio during and after the fade-out of the official version.
  Next note This uncropped outtake shows the initial four iterations of section ZB followed by an instrumental jam session of twenty(!) iterations of it, further followed by an apparently spontaneous launch into "At the Hop" which goes on for close to another minute stopping eventually with a complete ending.
  Next note Additionally, there is the rough mix of this song from the July 30, 1969 first piecing together of the complete medley. The unofficial releases available of this have terrible sound quality, but it's worth hearing to discover an ending of the song in which the counting rhyme starts off during the last of Macca's first four iterations of ZB, with a fade-out that is complete by the end of the eighth next iteration, and a solitary sustained organ note in place of the sound effects.

Some Final Thoughts

  Next note So how does all of this hang together? Granted, there is the monetary leitmotif running through the lyrics of all three sections, though I've always interpreted the "money" of the X section more metaphorically, as descriptive on a relationship in which neither side is ever genuine when the chips are down.
  Next note On strictly musical grounds, 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
    X-intro -» X1 -» X2 YA1 -» YA2/YB1 to 5

    ZA-intro -» ZA1/ZB1 to 4,5 to 14

   [Figure 13.8]
  Next note But obviously, 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. In fact, in this light, the chord progression of section ZB appears to be a summing up of the harmonic plan in a nutshell:
         X                Y                Z
      a minor          C Major          A Major

   [Figure 13.9]
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 that consist of a short phrase repeated immediately several times. It's unusual but I believe it works.
  Next note On a higher level, I'd 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, along with the more subtle inter-song resonance with "Polythene Pam and "The End".
  Alan (082300#13.1)
  See also: The "Abbey Road" Medley
Revision History
110889 13.0 Original release
082300 13.1 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.