Notes On "Eight Days a Week" (EDAW)

Copyright 1989 Alan W. Pollack
All Rights Reserved

The harmony of "Eight Days A Week" is built out of a wonderfully teasing exploitation of the special effect called a "false (or "cross") relation". This harmonic idiom is used quite a bit throughout the Beatles' output and I think that EDAW is an object lesson worth exploring.

("Hey, I thought he'd talk about those infamous parallel fifths, but this false relations stuff sounds *really* kinky!")

False Relations, Defined

A false relation is nothing more than a chromatic contradiction between two notes in a single chord or in different parts of adjacent chords. Within the confines of academic tonal theory this is considered a "syntax error" but it has been used throughout the ages by composers for expressive effect; a sort of a musical poetic license.

As my one sentence definition above implies, false relations come in two flavors; both are well loved by the Beatles and I'll cite examples of each though only the second flavor is of concern in EDAW:

1. contradiction between two notes in one chord -- the manifestation of this seen most frequently is the simultaneous use of the major and minor 3rd in a chord; this is one of the factors which makes the blues sound, well, bluesy. A Beatle example off the top of the head is "Night Before"; the accompaniment is clearly in D major (which uses F#) while the melody repeatedly incorporates the F-natural of the minor mode.

2. contradiction between adjacent chords -- this is the more subtle of the two flavors because the ear picks it up only by following the succession of two chords over time, whereas the flavor #1 above involves an outright, instantaneous clash. As we'll see, the pervasive application of this effect provides a unifying influence on EDAW.

False Relations Located in EDAW

False relations appear in both the verse and refrain of EDAW. The song is in D-major and the false relation in each case involves G-natural and G#; note that The G-natural has a melodic tendency to fall to F# and the G# has the tendency toward A-natural.

- the verse -- each phrase of the verse has its own false relation. Here's phrase 1 ("Love you every day, girl ..."):

	D-Maj		->E-Maj		->G-Maj		->D-Maj
			(uses G#)	(uses G-natural)

	I		V of V		  IV		I

The effect is particularly subtle because the G# in second chord appears in a middle voice while the G-natural in the following chord is in the outer voices.

In phrase 2 ("Hold me...") the false relation does not happen between immediately adjacent chords but the alternating appearance of G#/G-natural is definitely heard:

	B-min		->E-min		->B-min		->E-Major
			(uses G-natural)		(uses G-major)

	VI		II6		VI		V of V

I would argue that the false relation is accentuated in the above phrase by the fact that the E-minor chord appears in its first inversion with the G-natural in the bass line!

- the refrain -- ("Eight Days A Week ...") - the progression is as follows with the false relation hopefully clearly spelled out:

	A-Maj		->B-min		->E-Maj		->G-Maj		->A7
					(G#)		(G-natural)

	V		VI		V of V		IV		V

Other Harmonic Teases

EDAW makes very spare use of the dominant chord ("V"), and even when it does appear it doesn't always behave as we might expect. A couple of details (referring the chord progressions outlined above):

- the V chord's first appearance is delayed all the way until the refrain; it doesn't make any appearance in the verse which is a particular tease in that the E-Major chord ("V of V") would seem to prompt for it.

- the first appearance of the V chord at the beginning of the refrain resolves "deceptively" to the VI chord instead of the tonic (I). The V of V in the second part of the refrain finally moves to the V itself but *by way* of the false-relation-inducing IV chord.

- the return of the verse following the refrain, then, is the only place in the song that we have a garden variety V-I cadence. In other words, the verses by themselves rely on the IV-I (so-called Plagal cadence) to establish the key.

- Anybody out there notice that the unique triplet-rhythm phrase which is used both in the (fade-in!!) intro and coda happens to use the same chord progression as the beginning of the verse but over a D pedal tone ? (It's kind of like a Bach Prelude.)

... and one last thing

Lest any of you think I'm some dessicated pedant who derives no joy from the music let me share with you: I was in 11th grade when this song first came out. I was a regular Schroder-from-the-Peanuts-cartoon who was into classical music and eschewed virtually all popular music. To make a long story short, I can still remember (and experience) the hair on the back of my neck standing up when I hear(d) those parallel 5ths/4ths in the break. So there :-).

BTW, I assume a certain basic knowledge of musical notation and theory in these articles. Please don't hesitate to send e-mail if you have any questions or suggestions on how to make them more intelligible.

Alan (

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

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