Notes on "Every Little Thing" (ELT)

Notes on "Every Little Thing" (ELT)

KEY A Major


FORM Intro -> Verse -> Verse -> Refrain -> Verse -> Verse -> Refrain -> Verse (guitar solo) -> Refrain -> Outro (fadeout)


Style and Form

- The form of this one is a tad subtle; being neither a one- or two-bridge pop model, nor a folk-like strict alternation of verses and refrains. Instead, we have some kind of hybrid in which the refrain sections (three, count 'em, three) are alternated with double verses; yeah, I know, the single-versed guitar section breaks up what would have otherwise been a foolishly consistent pattern.

- In contrast to the last several songs we've looked at, this one is in a relatively germane and generic early Beatles pop/rock style, right down to the usage of funky vocal counterpoint in the refrain.

- Nevertheless, a sufficient number of novel details betray the extent to which the group had compositionally progressed beyond the likes of "She Loves You" and "I Want To Hold Your Hand": in addition to the unusual form we have modally inflected harmony, and a carefully layered instrumental backing with its piano-reinforced bassline and punctuating touches of timpani.

Melody and Harmony

- The harmonic budget is frugal to an extreme that's rather typical of John. Aside from I, IV, V and iv, the only chord choice here that is even slightly exotic is the heavy play given to flat-VII.

- The melodic use of the inflected flat-seventh (G natural) in conjunction with the naturally ocurring Major third (C#) makes the basic tune more Mixolydian-modal than bluesy. If anything, the refrain, with its avoidance of a melodic 7th degree of any kind, sounds even a bit pentatonic.

- Through our studies of the Beatles output we've become used to seeing fairly regularized harmonic rhythms. In this song though, we find an unusual and sophisticated example of an irregular harmonic rhythm used to underscore syncopation in the tune. We'll have more to say on this as we encounter specific examples in our walkthrough.


- John has a double-tracked solo for the verses but is joined by Paul in the refrains for a stretch of their trademark open-fifth vocal harmony, the likes of which didn't show up much on A Hard Day's Night, but which re-appears again on the Beatles For Sale album, not only in this song, but also on "Eight Days A Week" and "I Don't Want To Spoil The Party", as well.

- The instrumental texture is unusual. There's a lot of noisily strummed acoustic guitar in the middle range (compare with "I'm A Loser"), and a heavy bassline that is fortified (at least in part) by doubling in the low octaves of the piano and some punctuation by timpani drums, of all things. Beyond the solo section, there is very little role here for the lead guitar other than some almost subliminal punctuating (there's that word again) chords during the refrain. And overall, the arrangement makes a paradoxical impression of weightiness that is simultaneously balanced out by transparency.

- Ringo's brief stint on the timpani is somewhat history making, not merely because it is a relatively early example of the group's incorporating an exotic instrument in one of their songs per se, but also because the instrument in question is being played by a member of the group.



- Once you're used to the song, you come to recognize this two-measure intro as the opening of the verse section as played by solo guitar. Even then, the fact that this intro begins on what is actually the second beat of the measure without any provision having been made to give you a clue where the first beat of it was, tends to throw you off your sense of meter until the first verse actually begins; the latter remains true, I'll bet, no matter how many times you've heard the song!


- The verse is six measures in length and is built out of three short phrases of two measures each. Rhetorically, the first two phrases are roughly parallel to each other, with the third phrase providing, a sense of resolution to the opening couplet stemming from the way in which it rounds out the melodic arch of the section. I'd dare say that this kind of construction is as characteristic of John's style as the slow melodic triplet to be found in measure 5:

bassline:               |               |               |    D       C# |
rhythm: |               |1   2   3  4   |               |1   2   3   4  |
chords: |A              |D   E          |A              |G   D          |
A:       I               IV  V           I               flat-VII IV

bassline:       |B      A       |G#     A       |
                |b              |E      A       |
                 vi              V      I

- Another source of contrast between the first pair of phrases versus the final one is the way in which the first two phrases share the syncopated harmonic rhythm in common, while the final phrase provides an harmonic scenario which, though straight out of the textbooks for Harmony 101, is nevertheless seen in a song-by-song examination of their output, to be extremely rare in the music of the early Beatles.

- What this "scenario" consists of is a slow but prominent melodic "turn" (that's actually a technical term in this context) around the note A. In measure 5, the A in the bassline functions merely as a passing note between the B and G# on either side of it while the b minor chord above is sustained, and in measure 6 we find the E major chord placed in the 6/3 (or "first") inversion because of the incidental melodic motion of the bassline.

- The guitar solo section carefully follows the shape of this verse section with the first half being a close paraphrase of the main tune, and the latter half being an improvised extension of the single slow triplet that had appeared in the vocal verses. Note, by the way, that although the sung melody of the verse clearly places an A on the downbeat of measure 2 of this section moving to B on the second beat, in all sections where the lead guitar solos (as in the intro, solo section, and outro), it places B on the downbeat creating a characteristic added-sixth sound above the D chord below.


- The refrain is eight measures long, being built as a repeat of the same four-measure phrase:

         ----------------------------- 2X ------------------------------
melody: |   E F#  A  F# |E    DD        |     D D   D   |D E     D E    |
        |A              |G              |-              |A              |
         I               flat-VII                        I

- Counterbalancing melodic appoggiaturas are used here. In measure 2, the E on the downbeat is dissonant against the G chord below (yet another added-sixth sonority!) but it quickly resolves downward to the consonant D. Conversely, the D on the downbeat of measure 4 is dissonant against the A chord but it resolves, this time upward, to the consonant E.

- Though a slower and more subtle effect than what we saw in the verse, the sustaining of the G chord through measures 2 and 3 in this refrain provides another example in the same song of syncopated harmonic rhythm.

- We have a fairly traditional kind of textural contrast provided here by the drums, which after a relatively low-key presence in the verses, signal the outburst of sizzling cymbals in the refrain by a neat little fanfare-fill at the beginning of the section. Don't forget, either, about those chord-chopping lead guitar accents; attention paid to such small d-e-t-a-i-l-s is one of the things by which These Boys were distinguished.


- The outro recapitulates the same idea heard earlier in the intro (i.e. the first two measures of the verse played by the lead guitar), but this time it is answered by the singers who set the title phrase of the lyrics to a "new" melodic phrase that is sung in parallel thirds. This antiphonal pattern is repeated into the fadeout.

- The vocal parts turn the E Major chord in this outro into a tangy E9. And there's also a vestigial ocurrence here of the word "yeah" in the form of an expostulation.


- The words to this song are lovely in one sense but honestly a bit pedestrian at the same time. Still two details in the first pair of verses catch my ear.

- The first one is the opening couplet, "When I'm walking beside her, people tell me I'm lucky", which resonates with earlier examples of John's preoccupation with factoring in the opinions of un-named others when it comes to his taking the measure of his sense of self-satisfaction or self-worth when it comes to affairs of the heart.

- By the same token, the second verse with its reference to "the first time I was lonely without her" provides IMHO a superb example of John's uncanny ability to embed a surprise twist, or place a surprisingly deeper poetic spin than you'd expect onto an otherwise commonplace string of words. In this specific example, he could have just as easily expressed the same idea in the positive sense of his remembering the first time he was thrilled to be with her. But as it stands, he manages to score an ultimately positive point via an apparently negative, or reverse inference, and this not only the more clever and elliptical, but also the more sublime; to an extreme that I'm afraid my own flumbling words could never adequately describe.

Alan ( OR uunet!huxley!awp)

"You'll have to love her." 070892#61

Copyright (c) 1992 by Alan W. Pollack
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