Notes on "Golden Slumbers" (GS)
KEY a minor -> C Major
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
"... Your Money".
Whereas the preceding "... Bathroom Window"
some critically needed symmetry with
"... Your Money" in terms of sheer
weight of expository expression, the GS/CTW
pair of tracks provide balance
"... 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
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.
- 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.
- 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 |- |
- 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".
- 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 |- |- |- |
|G7 |- |- |- |
|C |e |a |d9 |- |
I iii vi ii
|G7 |- |C |- |
- 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*
- 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
- 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 |- |
|C |E |a |d9 |- |
I V-of-vi vi ii
|G7 |- |C |- |
- 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
- 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.
"Boys, you don't know what this means to me." 010900#189
Copyright (c) 2000 by Alan W. Pollack
All Rights Reserved
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