"Thank You Girl" is yet another deceptively simple song of the early period, a "quick one" no less, which reveals a variety of surprising twists applied to the old formulas. Beyond the formal and harmonic sorts of details we usually explore, the arrangement here is also something to be savored; in particular, I trust our peek at the vocal parts will, alone, be worth the price of admission.
This song, by the way, is often mentioned as an object lesson of just how far Captiol was capable of going in the butchery of the Beatles' music. Indeed, if you slap on a vinyl copy of the "Second Album" you'll hear a mix of this song which features kitschy harmonica overdubs, and a sort of heavy reverb which, beyond mere "air", makes the whole production sound like a Phil Spector wall of sound. In contrast, the so-called official version on Parlophone sounds more like chamber music and is to be strongly recommended to those not familiar with it; almost hard to believe it's the same take which underlies the Capitol version.
At first blush, it appears like we're dealing with one of the very standard forms: two verses, a bridge, and a final verse, the whole thing enclosed by both intro and full-ending outro. But note the following intruiging peculiarities:
- The intro is repeated before the final verse.
- The four-bar phrase "And all I've got to etc." is repeated throughout the song as a refrain; it follows the bridge as well as each verse.
- The outro is a neatly crafted extension of material from the intro, and features that three-time repetition of the same phrase which is so much a trademark of the Beatles.
The complete formal outline therefore looks something like this:
Intro - Verse/Refrain - Verse/Refrain - Bridge/Refrain - Intro - Verse/Refrain - Outro
There is a lot of mileage gotten here out of only three chords. The song is in D major, and more than 90% of the music is built on the I-IV-V chords of D, G, and A.
Only two other chords are used, and these make their first and only appearance in the bridge; i.e., the vi and ii chords of b and e.
The intro is only four measures long but is quite rich in detail, and schematically looks like this:
|Harmonica -------- |Voices ------------ |Verse chords: |A |G |A |G |D D: V IV V IV I
First off, there's a slight ambiguity as to what key we're in at the outset. By the time you reach measure 5, the music finally lets you know that "this is 'D.'" but until then, there is the suspenseful possibility that we just might be in the key of A, and that the opening chords are I and flat VII. To put all this another way, this phrase has a "convergent" shape, moving homewards having started in the outfield.
Turning to the arrangement, we find that by the time the verse begins, there have already been three changes of texture in very short order. The first two measures feature harmonica plus heavy tom-tom drumming which stresses every beat in the measure. The next two measures introduce John and Paul's voices in Everly Brothers' style parallel thirds while the drumming shifts over to the lighter snare and cymbals-tapping work which is used throughout most of the rest of the song. Thirdly, the start of the verse provides contrast with the entire intro in that the chords of the verse are presented in an unembellished oom-pah style, whereas the chords in the intro are all embellished by neighboring tones on the offbeats like so:
F#-F- F#-F-| E-E- E-E- E-E- E-E- |D-D- D-D- C# C# |B A A |G
Two other details:
- the successive harmonica and vocals parts in this intro fit together into a single descending scale of E-D-C#-B-A.
- there is a vivid kiss-like sensation embedded in the introductory vocal parts; not how the simple phonemes "oh-mmm-you" are elided to sensual effect; try it yourself and see what it does to your lips.
The verse is eight measures long and built out of a virtual repetition of the following four measure phrase:
|D G |D G |D A |D G | D: I IV I IV I V D IV
Note that in the second phrase, the D chord of the fourth bar is sustained for the entire measure instead of moving to G in the second half of the measure. If you listen carefully, you'll note that this slight detail was enough to trip up the rhythm guitarist on the first verse. Paul plays the notes D and A on beats 1 and 3 respectively while John (?) plays a G chord on the rhythm guitar. This mistake is not repeated in either of the other verses, though why they didn't stop for this in the first instance remains a riddle considering, as we learn from the outtakes readily available to us these days, that they generally did stop for errors of a similar nature.
The overall harmonic shape of the verse is rather closed, almost statically bound to the tonic; in fact, that G chord in the second half of measure four is quite necessary to leave the first phrase just sufficiently open to allow for a repeat of the phrase in measures five through eight.
Compared to the intro, the verse seems a tad faster and more driving; in large measure, this is due to the upshift of the harmonic rhythm here to two chords per measure from the one-per-measure of the intro. At any rate, do let's move on to the vocal parts.
When you look at the vocal arrangements of the early period you find the Boys favoring the device of peppering a song which is sung primarily in unison with either occasional notes here and there which suddenly shift into two part harmony (e.g. "Misery") or even whole phrases of two-part counterpoint. TYG has ample examples of both methods of contrast.
After those vocal parallel thirds of the intro, the first half of the verse is given to us in unison; ever notice how when John and Paul sing together like this, the result is a sort of third voice which sounds like unlike either of them ? Even better though is the quintessentially Beatles-esque harmonization of the second phrase; no, it's definitely not something out of the Everly Brothers! Instead of bonehead parallel thirds what we get here is an almost *seemingly* arbitrary and yet delightfully pungent, dissonant jumble of fourths and fifths mixed among the few, more consonant sixths. But you know, my dear reader, that this strange counterpoint is not at all without motivation -- listen carefully and note how the lower line sung by John is none other than the self-same melody sung by him and Paul in the first phrase; check 'em out:
Paul: |F# D E G |F# D E G |F# D C#B |A John: |A A B D |A A B D |A F# E D |D
This is another short section of only four measures whose harmonic shape is wide open with an emphatic focus on a dominant V chord which goes begging for resolution:
|G |A |G |A | D: IV V IV V
I also tend to subliminally associate this section with the intro; we not only have the slowing of the harmonic rhythm back to one chord per measure, but there is also the oscillation between the IV and V chords (granted they're in reverse order here).
In spite of the slowed harmonic rhythm in this phrase, there is a subtle feeling of propulsion created by the gentle syncopation of those "Thank you"s in the vocal part.
The vocal part is quite "Misery")-like: all in unison except for that open sixth which blossoms forth for an instant on the word "do"; not accidentally at the melodic apogee of the phrase. Interestingly, there is more two part harmony added at the end of all the other repeats of this refrain. Now this added bit of harmony not only has on first hearing, that same twangy and dissonant flavor we discussed above in connection to the verse, but on closer examination, is similarly motivated as above; i.e., the new upper part sung by Paul in all refrains except the first one is pitted against John's singing of the identical part they both sung in unison this first time around:
Paul: |E D D |F# E E | John: |E D D |C# B A |
This is an eight measure section built out of two phrases:
|b |D |A |- ||e |A |D |- | D: vi I V ii V I
Harmonically, we are given some well needed, albeit short-lived relief from our strict diet of only three chords. Melodically, the use of scalar material in the melody provides a unifying association with the refrain.
Although this bridge section makes a half-hearted attempt at harmonic excursion away from the tonic by starting off on the vi chord, the shape of this section overall is unusually closed for a bridge. As a result, the repeat of the open-ended refrain at this juncture works quite well in the way it sets up the rest of the song.
As in the refrain, the vocal parts are primarily in unison except for the brief, punctuated repeat of the phrase "way that you do" in parallel thirds.
The outro consists of three similar phrases, the first of which is six measures long, while the remaining two are four measures each.
The first phrase repeats the music of the intro virtually verbatim and then tacks on two measure which are harmonically identical to the beginning of the verse section, though in place of the voices we now are given fancy flourishes on the drums.
The second phrase repeats what was the last four measures of the previous phrase. The third and final phrase begins as though going for yet another verbatim repeat of what preceded but the last two measures now neatly provide the full ending with the same sort of neighbor tone embellishment of the harmony as seen in the opening measures of the intro.
From the outtakes of this song it not only seems possible that a fade-out ending was originally considered, but that in the several stand-alone takes of the coda, we see the Boys fiddling with the details of the bassline and the voicing of the rhythm guitar chords right down to the wire.
Leaving the technical musical analysis entirely aside at this point, may I suggest that one of the most forward-pointing details in this song is to be found in one conspicuously serious turn of phrase of the lyrics. Ask yourself what it is about this singular girl that has prompted such effusion from our hero; it's not beauty or even technical prowess in the dancing or loving departments -- hint: at some point in the past, she helped him out in a time of need.
Alan (firstname.lastname@example.org *OR* uunet!huxley!awp)
"They tried to fob you off on this musical charlatan, but *I* gave him the test." 042990#16
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