Notes on "Any Time At All" (ATAL)

It'll be awhile before we get through the entire repertoire, but I am beginning to suspect that by the time we get that far, we'll not have found too many songs altogether that play it strictly by the old formulas. All of my life, I've been searchin' for a nice little song to use as an object example of the so-called formula, but thus far, every one I've chosen reveals its own variations, once we look at it carefully enough.

"Any Time at All" is no exception; once you get past the surface glitz, and the simpler pleasures, you find a wealth of more adventurous options to be explored.

The Form

Here's the basic layout:


Though deceptively familiar, it is actually unusual on three counts:

- the use of a recurring refrain, while a common enough device in other pop and folk music, is not often found at all in the early work of the Boys.

- there are only two verses in this song; I assume that this is motivated by the number of repeats of the refrain and the peculiar placement of the bridge so close to the end.

- the bridge itself introduces new, unique material (though the melodic material does link back to the appoggiatura stuff earlier), rather than recycling material from the refrain or the verse as is more common.

But this is just the top view. The details are even more interesting.

Refrain - "Any time at all ..."

The song begins with a startling drum thwack on the *second* beat of the measure, though where this thwack fits into the meter isn't quite clear to the senses until you hear at least the next repeat of this refrain in context.

The refrain is a standard eight measure length and has a closed harmonic shape. While the choice of chords is nothing unusual, take note of the unusually varied harmonic rhythm, the several hard syncopations, and the use of the vi-I progression at the outset; the latter an extreme favorite of Lennon/McArtney.

        |b      |D      |A      |-      |b      |G   A  |D      |-      |
D:       vi      I       V               vi      IV  V   I

The vocal tune and arrangement which flesh out this progression also have a number of points of interest:

- The tune is quite full of appoggiaturas; such juicy leaning tones may be heard on each occurrence of the word "all" in this refrain, as well as on the word "any" in measure 4, and the occurrence of "call" and "I'll". The use of several bluesy f-naturals in the tune, which make for cross relations with the f-sharps of the underlying chords, only serves to enhance the effectiveness of the appoggiaturas.

- The tune is constructed out of several short interjectory phrases with enough room between each of them for a series of antiphonal, commentary-like figures in the guitar and bass parts. These phrases themselves are noteworthy. The first one is a sort of mirror image of the first phrase of the tune; the second one, while not an exact imitation of the tune, carries on the fixation with leaning tones; the last one, at the very end of the refrain (g-f#-e-d--f#) is not only also leaning-tone oriented, but is also a melodic motif which has the privilege of conspicuously reappearing at the climax of the bridge.

Verse - "If you need somebody to love .../If the sun has faded away ..."

The verse is an unusual fourteen measures long and is built out of two repetitions of the following phrase:

chords:		|D	|f#	|b	|g	|D	|A	|D	|
bassline:	 D	 C#	 B	 Bb	 A	 C#	 D

D:		 I	 iii	 vi	iv	 I	 V	 I

We have here an almost entirely chromatic walking bassline which adds a not unpleasant undertow to the chord progression. Note especially how our example here of "the minor iv chord in a major key" is nicely motivated by the movement of the bass.

When the above phrase is repeated, the first measure of the second iteration is elided to the last measure of the first one. Hmmm, the last time we saw this special effect in these articles was in the verse section of "It Won't Be Long", which now that I think of it *also* has a chromatic walking bassline; no coincidence that the same composer might be involved, eh ?


The bridge is an unusual ten measures long, and though we eventually find some relief at the end of it, there is a high level of harmonic tension which acrues over most of its duration, due to the repeated approach- avoidance maneuvering with the V chord:

|e*	|A	|e*	|A	|G	|A	|G	|A	|D     |-     |

 ii	 V	 ii	 V	 IV	 V	 IV	 V	 I

	[* I'm not certain that I've got this chord properly
	  identified; might be G with the added sixth. The
	  recording is a tad too noisy to pick it up.  What
	  do the chord books say, any takers ? ]

The build toward a climax is ably abetted by the use of those slow triplets in the lead part, so clearly a John Lenon trademark in so many songs. And as mentioned earlier, the familiar little phrase from the accompaniment to the verse, reveals another side to its character, so to speak, in the passionate context in which it now reappears.


I suppose you might say that this is a very typical "John song" of the period. Aside from whatever there is in the phatic subtext of both the words or music that would lead you to make such a statement, there is also the sheer number of compositional devices and tricks used in this song which could rightly be described as some of his songwriting trademarks.

What truly raises the repeated use of such techniques over the course of a career from mere mannerisms to the level of true elements of personal style, is the historical context of continual maturation and evolution in the music of the Beatles. For example, the walking tenor-line in "Dear Prudence" is, technically speaking, the same old trick as it is here, but look at the difference between the two songs! The same goes for the slow triplets in "We Can Work it Out" or "Don't Let Me Down". But let's not get started on this sort of list right here -- now that I think of it, it's the sort of topic that's worthy of an article or more in its own write.

Alan ( *OR* uunet!huxley!awp)

"They tried to fob you off on this musical charlatan,
 but *I* gave him the test."                                    050790#17

                Copyright (c) 1990 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.
Click here to return.

Click here to return to AWP's index.