Golden Slumbers

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Cover versions and notes on The Beatles' song "Golden Slumbers".

Provenance
Written By: 
Lennon/McCartney
Year: 
1969
Primary Recording
By: 
The Beatles
On: 
Abbey Road
Lead Vocal: 
Paul McCartney
Cover Versions
Amazon MP3: 
Image of Golden Slumbers
Manufacturer: Butterfly Beach Records
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Image of Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End
Manufacturer: PMS
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Image of Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End
Manufacturer: RCA Victor
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Image of Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight
Manufacturer: HDS
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Image of Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight (Originally performed by Beatles)[Karaoke]
Manufacturer: ProSound Music, LLC obo BP Inc.
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Image of Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight
Manufacturer: APM Music
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Image of Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight / The End
Manufacturer: Azzurra Music
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Alan W. Pollack's "Notes On"

Notes on "Golden Slumbers" (GS)

KEY     a minor -> C Major

METER   4/4

FORM    Intro -> Verse -> Refrain -> Verse (segue al subito)

GENERAL POINTS OF INTEREST


Style and Form

- "Golden Slumbers" (GS) combined with "Carry That Weight" (CTW) creates a foolish-consistency-avoiding, compatible-if-not-exactly matching bookend for "... Your Money". Whereas the preceding "... Bathroom Window" provided some critically needed symmetry with "... Your Money" in terms of sheer weight of expository expression, the GS/CTW pair of tracks provide balance with "... Your Money" in terms of a similarity of mood and material; not to mention (in CTW) a literal recap of some of the latter.

- GS and CTW are as mutually integrated with each other as are MMM and PP; the two pairs of songs are even linked together by vitually identical drum fills. Both GS and CTW are built out of a relatively conventional A-B-A arch form which gives each track the impression of being more-complete/ less-fragementary than either MMM or PP. But that sense of individual completeness is strongly undermined in the final result by their degree of musical inter-relation.

- The ultra-sincere affect of GS is born of Macca's unique blend of anthem with show tune, similar to what we find in HJ and LIB.


Melody and Harmony

- The completely diatonic tune is replete with wide-ranging arch-like gestures. The leap of a 6th is appears many times over as a motif.

- The almost equally diatonic harmony uses six chords and moves primarily around a short cycle of 5ths.

- In spite of the obvious opening of each verse on what sounds like an A minor 7th chord the fact is that A minor is never established as a tonal center (a.k.a. home key) in its own right. It's more accurate to identify the song as being "in" the key of C, albeit it with a verse that starts away from it but quickly converges.


Arrangement

- The backing track features piano, bass (played by George!), and drums, supplemented by a later overdub of string and brass instruments. A moderate amount of fussiness is applied to the instrumentation:

  • The first verse starts off with piano alone, but bass (sparingly at first) and strings are soon added.
  • Drums and brass enter dramatically at the start of the refrain, but the texture is greatly lightened up toward its final phrase.
  • The second verse is similar to the first one, but this time the drums (in the form of gentle cymbal work) stay in the whole way, and the brass, too, can be heard softly in the background.

- Paul's lead is single tracked with no added backing. His shift into a rather menacing third tone of voice for the refrain would seem be be cast perversely counter to the otherwise gentle lullaby context.

SECTION-BY-SECTION WALKTHROUGH


Intro

- The intro consists of two measures of the piano vamping on the tonally ambiguous A minor 7 chord in a rocking figuration. I'm parsing this with a rapid quarter note beat in order to avoid needing to resort to odd half measures when the phrase lengths become uneven later on:

        |a7             |-              |

C:       vi

- Paul leaves the note, E, out of the chord, giving us just the sound of the open 5th (C - G) alternating with the single note A below it; only further heightening the tonal ambiguity of the moment.

- Exploiting the vi7 chord's superimposition the triads of a Major home key with its relative minor is a special effect we've seen in a number of Beatles songs; start with "... Warm Gun" and work backward from there to "Ask Me Why", "Do You Want to Know a Secret", and of course, "She Loves You".


Verse

- The verse is an unusual 21 measures long, and is built out of four uneven phrases whose lengths are 8 + 4 + 5 + 4. Think of it as a purposeful distortion of what otherwise could have easily been an ordinary 16 measures (4 by 4) design:

        |a7    |-    |-    |-    |d    |-    |-    |-    |
         iv                       ii

        |G7    |-    |-    |-    |
         V

        |C    |e    |a    |d9   |-    |
         I     iii   vi    ii

        |G7    |-    |C    |-    |
         V            I

- The harmonic rhythm is extremely varied; most liesurely in the first two phrases, speeding up radically in the third phrase, and settling for a middle ground in the final phrase.

- The savory dissonance of the d9 chord in the third phrase is deftly set up by the sustaining of the pitch E natural through the entire phrase; where it is a natural member of all the other triads used in the phrase *except* for d.

- It's hard to tell if that E chord in the third phrase is Major or minor. To my ears, it is minor in the first verse, and Major in the other two sections. In any event, the chord appears in root position in both verses, but in the refrain, it appears with a B in the bass as part of the walking bassline introduced at that point.

- Look out for melodic 6ths, most of which are leaps:

    - down: back home...

    - up: (lulla)by-ee

    - up: your eyes, you rise

And one of which is a hidden upward scale; follow the bouncing asterisks below. In other words, I'm saying that you hear the note, B, that starts off the second phrase as connected, in hindsight, to the A that was left hanging in the first phrase:

  O/th/w/a/way to get back homeward, O/th/w/a/way to get back home

  G G  G G G   G  A   C    E   D     B B  B B B   B  C   D    E
               *  *                  *               *   *    *
               1  2                  3               4   5    6

Refrain

- The refrain starts off with what would look like an AA (6 + 6) couplet, but the second line elides with what turns out to be an essential recap of the way in which the verses end. I still call this a "refrain" rather than a bridge because of its inclusion of the title phrase.

- We wind up with yet another unusual section length (19 measures) that breaks up into four uneven lines (6 + 4 + 5 + 4). Just like with the verse, you can easily imagine how this could have been shoe-horned into a more mundane four-square, 16-measure pattern:

        |C      |-      |F7     |-      |C      |-      |
         I               IV              I

        |C      |-      |F7     |-      |
         I               IV

        |C      |E      |a      |d9     |-      |
         I       V-of-vi vi      ii

        |G7    |-    |C    |-    |
         V            I

- In this section the note, E, is sustained the whole way through except for the first two measures of the fourth line, where it steps up to F (to function as the "7" in G7). Train your ear, I encourage you, to zero in on, and isolate such phenomena in your head when you listen to this and other recordings.

SOME FINAL THOUGHTS

- Speaking of ear training, there is a widely available studio outtake of this song featuring the basic backing track and guide vocal that, if you have not yet ever heard it, I caution you to seek out at your own peril.

- The source tape for this delightful rarity sustained some unfortunate damage at the place of the first line of the refrain, inevitably presenting Paul's vocalization of the dramatically declaimed title phrase with a painful, out-of-key, wavering of pitch and tempo.

- Just the like the lost secret for how to get back home described in the lyrics, you'll find that once you've ever heard this outtake, you'll never be able to listen to the title phrase of this track on the official version with the same kind of emotional trust fall you're used to throwing into it. There's enough genuine quiver in even the official recording that you'll find yourself forever bracing against the eventuality of the dreaded awful wobbling of the outtake.

Regards,

Alan (awp@world.std.com)

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"Boys, you don't know what this means to me."                010900#189

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                Copyright (c) 2000 by Alan W. Pollack
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