Notes on "Tomorrow Never Knows" (TNK)

KEY C Mixolydian/Dorian/Major


FORM Intro -> Verse -> Verse -> Verse -> Instrumental -> Verse -> Verse -> Verse -> Verse -> Outro (fadeout)


Style and Form

- TNK is a veritable kitchen-sink mix of just about every trick in the Beatles book to-date, including: an Indian drone, modal tune, bluesy instrumental, tape loops, ADT, vocals played through revolving speakers, distortedly close-up miking of instruments, and a psychadelically mystical "outlook." One of the amazing aspects of this song is the extent to which this collage not merely hangs together, but pulls into such a powerfully focused, unified effect.

- There are some uncanny parallels to be drawn between aspects of this track and gestures or techniques used elsewhere in the avant garde world of so-called "Modern" 20th century music. I bring this up *NOT* to suggest the Beatles were consciously borrowing from, or being influenced by the specific works or composers in question (Heck, I'd be very surprised if they were even *aware* of them, even if Paul did know how to drop the name of Stockhausen in an interview :-)) Rather, any such parallels for me are all the more uncanny and ironic in the *absence* of direct knowledge.

- The Intro here is not so much a fade-in as it is a small variation of the typical staggered/layered intro. Similarly, the ending is not so much fadeout as it is a musical disintegration. You might find it interesting to compare the ending of TNK with almost anything written during the 60's by one contemporary American composer, Elliott Carter, who explicitly cultivated an aesthetic in his endings of a unverse winding down and flying apart; complete with excerpts from classical poetry in his liner notes to support his point of view.

Arrangement, Melody and Harmony





The Second Half



[** the quote is on page 55, but I recommend to anyone interested in the intersection between literature and music criticism read from the beginning of Chapter 8, on page 49.]

Alan (

"I've only one thing to say to you, John Lennon." 052195#103 ---

                Copyright (c) 1995 by Alan W. Pollack
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