Notes on "Her Majesty" (HM)
KEY D Major
FORM Intro -> Verse (abrupt ending)
GENERAL POINTS OF INTEREST
Style and Form
- Just when you think the last recorded Beatles album is over, just as you're letting out a deep sigh in reaction to "The End", you're startled by one crashing D Major chord that's followed by this irreverent little fragment of a ditty. Its ending is as abrupt as its start is sudden. Before you've quite had a chance to react to it, it's already altogether come and gone.
- By this point, the Beatles had pulled this kind of stunt just enough times for you to recognize it with an indulgent smile, but not too many times that you'd be annoyed that it's getting old. In contrast to "The End", HM it provides sufficient comic relief to those for whom the previous track is too sombre or stuffy, without ruining or even diluting that same track's lush sentiment for those who like it just the way it is.
- Lewisohn's characterization of Paul arriving early at the studio on July 2, 1969 to quickly get this song down on tape before the others arrived implies that the song was hot off the composer's pen that very morning. However, an outtake of HM from the 1/24/69 Get Back sessions at Apple shows the song was already quite worked out well in advance. This outtake runs for over 2 minutes and consists essentially of five repeats of the single verse we find on _Abbey Road_; there is no alternate bridge section, nor even extra lyrics for a second verse, aside from some scat singing in places. What sounds like George and Ringo attempt half-heartedly to vamp along, but even at this early date, Paul clearly performs here what we are familiar with as the finished guitar part.
- In terms of style, HM sounds like a strange cross between "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" and the "Goodbye" song Paul wrote for Mary Hopkin.
Melody and Harmony
- The tune covers the range of about an octave, which is unusually large considering its pattering, non arch-like character.
- The chord set is dominated by the standard I, ii, IV, V, but is also spiced up by a couple secondary dominants and a diminished 7th chord.
- It doesn't get any simpler than this on a Beatles recording: just acoustic guitar and single track lead vocal. No hand claps, no foot taps, not even a ticking metronome.
- Thud; this is what otherwise would have been the final chord of "Mean Mr. Mustard", It's in D Major but sounds ever so slightly out of tune with respect to what follows.
- The verse is an unusual eighteen measure long, featuring a 16 measure four-square quatrain, followed by a 2-measure petit reprise of the last phrase. The quatrain itself parses out into an AA'BA'' pattern:
bassline D C# |B A |E
|D |- |E9 A |D |
D: I V-of-V V I
|D |- |E9 |A |
I V-of-V V
|b |- |D7 |G |
vi V-of-IV IV
|E# |D B |e A13 |D B |
#ii4/2 dim. I V-of-ii ii V I V-of-ii
|e A13 |D cut off after 2nd beat
ii V I
- The first two measures of the first two phrases provide a good example of what I've labelled elsewhere as an "harmonic envelope." The D chord is really sustained over both measures with a walking bassline moving beneath it. You do (should) not need to parse every half measure as a different "chord."
- The first phrase has a closed harmonic shape; the second phrase is open to V. The third phrase opens on vi and closes on IV; a fine example of harmonic "misadventure" even in a tiny song like this. And the final phrase is convergent on the home key.
- The harmonic rhythm is kept flexible throughout. No rigid pattern is followed but the pace at which the chords change is noticeably picked up for the final phrase.
- The prominence of F# in the tune makes a couple of the E chords into E9's and A chords into A13's.
- The diminished chord that starts the fourth phrase is the very same one we saw last time in TE. The fact that it shares the note D with the I chord that follows it might lead you to think it's rooted on D, but the chromatic voice leading forces you to root it on E#:
B -> A
G# -> A
E# -> F#
D -> D
- The master recording ends with an A natural on the second beat of the final measure. What should be the last 2 beats of that measure filled with a D Major chord are clearly missing. This is an effective demonstration of how well conditioned we all are to wanting the V chord implied by the final A natural to resolve to I, and how equally disappointed we feel when it doesn't happen.
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS
- This pass of our studying the songs of the Beatles is concluded.
- The next order of business is to upgrade the "original 28" notes to the template and level of detail adopted for the remainder of the series. There's also a long list of corrections and additions I need to make to many of the other notes; the one on "Drive My Car", in particular, begs for me to recant.
|| We shall return to you, songs of the Beatles, ||
|| and you shall return to us. ||
"Say, he's reading the 'Queen.' That's an 'in' joke, you
--- 36 years ago
Copyright (c) 2000 by Alan W. Pollack
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