Notes on "I Me Mine" (IMM)
KEY A minor
METER 3/4 and 4/4
FORM Intro -> Verse -> Refrain ->
Verse -> Refrain -> Verse (w/complete ending)
GENERAL POINTS OF INTEREST
Style and Form
- "I Me Mine" (IMM) is an interesting folk/blues stylistic hybrid with
more than just a touch of the hard rocking waltz beat.
- The latter somehow appears to have tickled the fanciful ire of George's
mate John. There's both the indelible video image of John and Yoko
ridiculingly waltzing to the song just for yuks in the _LIB_ film, and
a bootlegged outtake (Yellow Dog's "acoustic ATMP" CD, track 9) on which
John not only sings along in a mock schmaltzy operatic voice, but in
reaction to the ternary beat tells George, "Run along, son. We're a
rock and roll band," and by way of example, recites a four square
"boom-pah boom-pah" rhythm. This itself is ironic when you consider
John's own penchant for the 3/4 meter, as well as his conspicuous
absence from the eventual recording of the official version of IMM
in early January 1970.
- The form alternates Verse and Refrain sections with no outro, ending
off just where you'd expect the usual transition to the next Refrain.
In consideration of the recording history and the available outtakes,
you get the impression George never had, or took, the time to truly
finish the piece; that they might not have taken it as far as they
wound up doing if not for a sense of obligation to include it on the
album because parts of it would appear in the film; shades of ATU.
- The early outtakes of the song, all from the 1/8/69 sessions, demonstrate
an uncertainty about how to segue into and out of the Refrain, with
a variety of experiments using a Flamenco-like beat for the transition
that was clearly (thankfully?) lost on the way to the session for the
official version a few days shy of a complete year later.
Melody and Harmony
- The foreground of the tune is heavy on repetition and sequencing
of downward phrases in 3 easy steps. The high-level melodic shape
(from the Schenkerian perspective) seems to merely alternate between
E and and F (i.e. melodic steps 5 and 6 respectively) which only goes
to add to the unfinished sense of the venture.
- The verse harmony exploits the modal ambiguities of the alternative
melodic/natural/harmonic minor scales, featuring both a Major IV in
a minor key, as well as the progression from flat-VII to V with its
much Beatles-favored cross relation. The Refrain uses the old blues
trio of i, iv, V.
- Both Verse and Refrain sections harmonically open out from i, giving
the song the open-ended feeling of a rhetorical question. The latter
again, underscores an uneasy feeling of incompleteness that is hardly
mitigated by Spector's artificial lengthening of the track. Though,
the more I sleep on it, it appears likely that this "effect" was fully
intentional on George's part in the first place.
- In a world in which V is the most common of the "open" harmonic
targets and "IV" the distant but clear second, the decision to
steer the Verse toward the goal of VI7 is about as unusual as
the Refrain's ending on V is familiar and predictable.
- The Beatles own arrangement of the song includes some characteristic
layering touches. For example, the Intro features organ and lead guitar,
with drums and acoustic guitar first entering for the Verse, and a piano
part held back until the Refrain.
- Spector's orchestral overdub is completely unecessary but is also
sufficiently straightforward that you can easily mix it out with your
mind if you don't want to "listen" to it.
- The intro turns out to be identical to the start of the verse, though
it is foreshortened to 6 measures by being elided with the first Verse:
|a |- |D |- |G |E7 a |- |
a: i IV flat-VII V i
- The Verse is an unusually long 32 measures, divided up into even
phrases that form an AA'BA'' pattern:
------------------------------- 2X ------------------------------
|a |- |D |- |G |E7 |a |- |
a: i IV flat-VII V i
|d |- |- |- |E9 |- |- |- |
|a | | | |F7 |- |- |- |
bassline:A |G# |G nat. |F# |F nat. .....
- Paul's bassline makes a not so nasty habit (call it a 'leitmotif')
of taking jumps of a 3rd. On chords lasting two or more measures,
he moves from root to middle note of the chord, placing the latter
appearance of the chord in "first" (a.k.a. 6/3) inversion. Easily
heard examples of this include the second measure of the intro, and
measure 3 of the four-measure stay on d minor. The move from G to E
toward the end of the first phrase extends the same gesture bassline
motif, though in this case, both chords are presented in root position.
- The other notable bassline contribution here is the fully exposed chromatic
descent over the first 4 measures of the final phrase. The Beatles over
the long run seemed to prefer the hiding such chromatic runs in an inner
voice (e.g. "You Won't See Me")
or over a pedal point (e.g. "Dear Prudence".)
- Dissonance appears in the form of the melodically emphatic F natural
pitted against the E Major V chord, and the free dissonance of the
equally emphasized E in the tune over the F chord.
- The Twickenham outtakes of the song indicate that George was originally
toying with playing the E9 chord through all 8 measures of the 3rd
phrase. That's too much of a good thing, and his revision which places
d minor in the first half of that phrase for the official version is
a good example of the musical equivalent of copy editing prose.
- The refrain surely would be (wants to be?) a classic 12-bar blues
frame but for the transition that "prematurely" leads it back to
the next Verse after 10 measures:
|a |- |- |- |
|d |- |a |- |
|E |- |
- The change of metrical gears coming into and going out of the Refrain
is done with casually impressive arithemtic precision. It is by no means
approximate, capricious, or arbitrary.
- The metric modulation from 3/4 to 4/4 is accomplished by treating
a half measure of the 3/4 tempo (i.e. a syncopated beat and a half)
as equivalent to a quarter note in the new meter. The modulation
back the other way is done by scanning a half measure of the 4/4
tempo as slow (quarter note) triplets and allowing each of those
triplet beats to equal a quarter note in the 3/4 meter.
- Wanna see the arithmetic?
- Verse 3/4 tempo is 1 measure per second; 60 measures to the minute;
a heart pounding 180 beats per minute.
- Divide those measures into syncopated halves (dotted quarter notes
equal to 3 eighths each) insteads of three beats, and you have 120 of
those dotted quarters per minute. Now, let this be the value of
the new 4/4 quarter notes. Thus, the Refrain procedes in a nice
and genuine march tempo.
- When ready to switch back consider the 4/4 measure divided into two
halves of two beats each. Those weigh in a 60 per minute.
- And what do you know! 60 per minute is equal to the value of
the original 3/4 tempo measures. Slick as hell if you ask me.
- In any event, a subtle reminder of the Verse's ternary feel is
suggested even in the 4/4 of the Refrain section by the filling of
its quarter note beats with rapid triplets.
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS
- Is it possible that no amount of musical pleasantry and production
values can make up for the extent to which this song is perilously
over the top in the Department of Preachiness?
- Throughout the ages a genuinely self-effacing "love of reproof" has
been defined as one of the key prerequisites for making an advance in
the realm of the spirit. Yet it seems almost comical to contemplate
just how far out of fashion such an notion would have seemed
during the "do your own thing, man" period into which this song along
with really the entire output of the Beatles was first launched.
- John at least had the clever instinct to couch his
"Nowhere Man" in
terms of describing an individual in 3rd person, and for good measure,
to make explicit at the end that he, in no way, considered himself above
reproach for the same foibles to which he himself was calling attention.
- But here, in IMM, I fear that George unwittingly traps himself in the
pit of self righteousness, not only by his indiscriminite inclusion of
"everyone" as his target, but by the the essential scenario of the song
in which an individual zealously condemns the entire community
for being self-centered.
- Robert Crumb deftly demonstrates this trap in a short strip on the
inside back cover of "Zap Comix No.1" dated '67. The text of his
8 panels speaks for itself, I dare say, even without Crumb's
characteristic graphic accompaniment:
- (Title) "Let's Be honest" featuring Shuman the Human.
- "Hey, listen everybody! I have just thought of something brilliant!"
- "Let's all stop playing ego games right now!"
- "Okay? No more games when I say "go" .. "GO!"
- (Group silence)
- (Silence continues)
- "Wow! Now wasn't that a great idea?"
"All mine!" "They can't buy you happiness, my son." 071899#170
Copyright (c) 1999 by Alan W. Pollack
All Rights Reserved
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