KEY F Major METER 3/4 FORM Intro -> Refrain -> Verse -> Refrain -> Verse -> Bridge -> Refrain ->Verse' -> Outro (w/complete ending)
GENERAL POINTS OF INTEREST
- In this one of his relatively scattered turns at bat George gives us an offbeat mixture of styles typical of the times: a three-way cross between jazz waltz, folk song, and late 60s psychadelia. Roughly in order of appearance you find a ternary meter, a couple of 9th chords, an essentially acoustic backing track, form dominated by rote pairs of refrains and verses, a sitar, and a non-sequitar outro.
- The song completes the third side of the White Album with a whimpering gesture not much different from what "Julia" does for side two. From a surface glance, you might call this one George's own take on "I'm So Tired;" low, low, low-key soliloquy of lugubrious longing, (watch it, Alan, you're overdoing it) produced in such a way that you worry that the protagonist won't have the energy needed to perform satisfactorily.
- A game of approach/avoidance is neatly played out in the harmony, with every section starting off away from the home key and several of them ending similarly away from it. It's as if the protagonist is dealing with a hot potato of an emotion that he cannot acknowledge except obliquely, and that he feels nervously in need of retreat the minute he finds himself confronting it head on.
- Feelings of discouraged low energy are conveyed by the several phrases that extend a lingering measure or more longer than they strictly need to.
- The tune covers a relatively broad range in spite of the fact that much of the local motion of it is simply step-wise. The breadth is accomplished primarily by virtue of placing the individual sections of the tune in different segments of the overall range.
- The song is clearly in F Major throughout, but your sense of home key is subtly challenged by the extent to which so many of the sections avoid starting or ending on the I chord.
- The verse features a jazz-like stream of triads. A larger than average number of 9th chords appear over the course of the track.
- The mix of styles is not limited to the arrangement, though it is especially apparent in this area: simple strummed chords on acoustic guitar, organ part mastered with an almost comically extreme amount of flutter, the lead guitar riffs provided by sitar that I dare say it intended to serve as a trippy guitar rather than anything explicity "Indian," and the exploitation at the end of a reportedly accidental sound effect caused by the resonant rattling of a wine bottle.
- The vocal track sounds like George double or triple tracked, singing in some place with himself in two or three part harmony.
- The dynamic range goes to one extreme or the other, with the drums and piano providing the reinforcement needed for the louder parts. Keep an eye on the phrase endings of refrain and verse sections, as well as the entirety of the bridge. The only place on the track where percussion is used to quiet effect is the soft brush work of the second refrain/verse pair.
- The otherwise minimalistic sounding six measure intro manages to expose the sotto-voce atmosphere, the approach/avoidance strategy with the chord progressions, and the signature sitar riff with admirable efficiency:
|g |Bb (?) |g |F |C |- | F: ii I V
- The refrain is as aphoristic as the intro, with a single four measure phrase followed by the sitar riff:
|Bb |a |g C |F | F: IV ii V I |Bb |F | IV I
- A V chord is clearly implied by the bassline on the last beat of measure 3; the D in the tune at that instance makes the C chord into a V9.
- In spite of the V chord, the overall harmonic impression created by the chord stream in the first phrase is the emotional free fall often associated with total loss of hope.
- The G natural in the bassline on the downbeat of measure 5 somehow does not completely prevent your hearing the chord as rooted on Bb.
- The verse is an unusual 13 measures long in an AA' pattern (6 + 7) whose phrases are both unusually stretched out and unequal in length:
|C |- |g |- |F |C | V ii I V |g |- |F |C |- |- |- | ii I V
- The second phrase starts rhetorically in the same "logical" place as the 3rd measure of the first phrase, allowing the C Major chord at the end of the first phrase to pivot as though it were also the first measure of the second phrase.
- The bridge provides a unique point of climax for the song in terms of momentarily sweeping aside all torpor and giving the song some shape and a sense of direction.
- The bridge is 15 measures long with an AA' couplet (6 + 9) whose phrases, just like in those of the refrain, are stretched out and avoid rote symmetry:
|Bb |F |C |g |- |- | IV I V ii |Bb |F |C |g |- |C |- |- |- | IV I V ii V
- The harmony nicely underscores the rhetorical parallelism between the phrases. The ii chord at the end of the first phrase begs for resolution to V (all the more so because it is sustained for an "extra" 3rd measure), but you're forced to go back and repeat yourself from the start of the phrase in order to achieve your reward. Learn a lesson about climax-building from the fact that the ii chord is sustained for only *two* measures on the repeat!
- Again, the tune creates 9th chords on some of the C and g chords in this section.
- The outro builds off the final verse section, abbreviating the second phrase, repeating that shortened phrase two more times (the old three-stikes-you're-out routine), followed by one last repeat which lands with enigmatic finality on the V chord.
- Taking it from the start of the final verse, it parses this way:
|C |- |g |- |F |C | V ii I V --------------- 3X -------------- |g |- |F |C | ii I V |rattling ... |g |- |F |C |- |- |... ii I V
- The song ends with an harmonic envelope full of strange effects on top of the V chord; in addition to all the rattling there's off key chanting in falsetto, and at the very end, the acoustic guitar playing wisps of both I and ii chords, and just when you think the track is completely finished, a final whack on the drums.
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS
- Quite independent of its intrinsic musical quality, the song serves for me in its context as a letdown. Am I possibly alone in this feeling?
- By textbook rules, "Long, Long, Long" would seem to be uncannily made to order for its place in the album running order. With the exception of track three's "Mother Nature's Son," this side of the White Album, while not without variety, is still relentlessly some alternating combination of fast, loud, hard, raucous, and/or strange. And even if the need for a change of pace to the softer side had not already been building up, along comes "Helter Skelter," the proverbial hard act to follow if ever there was one, surely insisting on a dramatic response.
- And yet, back in that era in which you actually had to drag yourself off the couch in order to turn the record over for side 4, I'm embarrased to admit that some large percentage of the time, I would just as soon likely skip this track and move straight on to "Revolution 1."
- I suspect one of two factors is operative here. Either, contrary to all conventional wisdom, contrast is in fact NOT AT ALL what is wanted here; rather the opposite, a sustaining of the hard fast piece. Or else, contrast per se may not out of line, but the particular extreme to which this particular song goes may be a miscalculation; in baseball terms, an underswing.
Regards, Alan (firstname.lastname@example.org) --- "... it looks disgusting hanging there all pink and naked." 060798#151 --- Copyright (c) 1998 by Alan W. Pollack All Rights Reserved
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