Notes on "Good Night" (GN)
KEY G Major
FORM Intro -> Verse -> Bridge -> Verse -> Bridge ->
Special Bridge (instrumental) ->
Verse -> Bridge -> Outro (w/complete ending)
GENERAL POINTS OF INTEREST
Style and Form
- The style of this song would be pretty Schmaltzy based just on its
chords, tune, and phrasing. The "possibly over lush" arrangement
only goes to push it over the top. You'd think that this kind of
sentimentality would be anathema to the Beatles, especially John.
Then again, I've got a feeling it's intended as a as a campy spoof.
- The form is built out of standard parts with the exception of the
special bridge that appears before the final verse. The appearance
of verse and bridge material in the intro, the doubled up verses,
and the three-time appearance of the Verse/Bridge sequence make the
song feel longer, more complicated formally than it actually is.
Melody and Harmony
- The prevalence of wide leaps in the verse tune belie its backbone
of a simple downward scale fragment from G down to D. The bridge
tune, similarly boils down to just F# -> G.
- The chords are jazzy, many appearing with decorative (as opposed to
"functional") 7ths and 9ths. The chords often proceed in step-wise
- In terms of key, the song stretches out luxuriantly in a warm bath of
pan-diatonic G Major.
- On the backing track George Martin uses a string section that would
be on the small size even for a Mozart period orchestra, plus a sparse
complement of woodwinds and brass; ditto for the small choir. And yet,
the arrangement and recording come out sounding like a "cast of hundreds."
The latter trick, I'm told, is a stock in trade of the film composers
- The score, itself, is replete with little cliches of the Muzak genre:
string tremeloes and rapid upward scales, harp glissandos, chirpy flutes,
and French horn inner voices. The choir alternately doubles and dogs
Ringo's lead vocal, obviating the need for any double tracking.
The stage whispered lines over the outro qualifies as a cliche all
on its own.
- The intro fades in like the rising dawn (only on the Stereo version)
to expose a complete bridge and an half a verse section. See further
in for a diagram of the bridge. The verse fragment looks like this:
|G |b7 |a7 |D |
G: I iii ii V
4 -> 3
- The trembling, sustained high D sure as heck sounds like it were produced
by a Theremin (an antiquated electronic instrument). I have trouble
imagining it as coming from any of the instruments listed in the
bill of materials.
- The verse is 16 measures long in an AB/AB phrase pattern. The
first appearance of the AB section moves the bassline in measure 4
from A to G, thereby implying a change of chord to C in the second
|G |b7 |a7 |C |b |a |C |D |
G: I iii ii IV 6/4 iii ii IV 6/4 V
- Every other time this section reappears, you can clearly hear
the bass line holding on to A through measures 3 & 4:
|G |b7 |a7 |- |b |a |C |D |
I iii ii iii ii IV 6/4 V
- The bassline in measures 5 - 8 of each section runs scalewise downward
all the way from B to D. The latter drives the harmony rather than the
other way around. Note the elegance of this bassline especially
in measure 8, where by running "F# - E D," it starts the V chord off in
the 1st inversion, allowing it afterwards to change to root.
- The bridge is eight measures long in a phrase pattern of AB, and
harmonically consists of an elaborate pedal point:
|F# G |F# G |F# |- |G |- |- |- |
|B |C |B |C |B |C |B |C |
|D |E |D |E |D |E |D |E |
|G |- |- |- |- |- |- |- |
I7 - - - 8 - - -
5 6 5 6 5 6 5 6
3 4 3 4 3 4 3 4
- The special bridge section makes a fake pass modulation to the
key of C Major. The rest of the song is so complacently in the
home key of G that by this point of the proceedings, a diversion like
this provides some needed relief and helps better motivate the final
pair of Verse and Bridge.
|G |A |- |d |G |C |D |C D |
G: I I IV V IV V
C: V V-of-ii ii V I
- Classical composers often use this kind of trick in the recap section
of a sonata movement, where by formal convention, sequences of themes
that were heard earlier in different keys during the exposition are now
presented in the same key. By some or no coincidence, the orchestration
of this bridge includes rather classical sounding scale work in the strings.
- The outro contains a double repeat of the same half-verse used in
the second part of the intro. The first iteration is for the usual
full scoring, and the second one is played one octave up by sparer
- I believe the final chord has a Major 7th, 9th, and added sixth.
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS
- In order to fully appreciate the uncanny aptness of ending the
White Album with "Good Night" you need to first back up and consider
why the penultimate album slot is such a logical place for
- Where else could you put R9? Too early in the running order would
make the rest of the album seem a bit anti-climactic at best. At
worst, you could lose your audience well before you've trotted out
your rest of your best stuff. Putting it at the very end lends it
too much emphasis. Maybe put it on the end of one of the other sides,
but maybe no one will be sufficiently motivated to turn the record over.
Next to last fells just right.
- Now then, what kind of act, indeed, could possibly follow R9? You
clearly need a sharp contrast, but exactly what kind? Virtually
any other song from the album would sound a combination of anticlimactic,
stylistically repetitive, underwhelming, or too wierd.
- "Good Night" has the simultaneous virtues of providing musically
arch-conservative ballast, a change of style as refreshingly surprising
as anything else on the album, and a clever, self-referential way
of telling you the music's over; turn out the lights.
"What's all this about a musical arranger?" 092798#156
Copyright (c) 1998 by Alan W. Pollack
All Rights Reserved
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