Notes on "I Wanna Be Your Man" (IWBYM)
KEY E Major
FORM Verse -> Refrain -> Verse -> Refrain -> Break -> Verse ->
Refrain -> Outro (fadeout)
GENERAL POINTS OF INTEREST
Style and Form
- This song is ravingly bluesy in a stylized but facile, simplistic way,
representing a certain kind of triumph of style per se over content. If
you're charitably disposed, you'll say that the heavy attention paid to
external mannerism and evocation of mood more than adequately compensates
for the otherwise minimalistic amount and quality of material used
throughout. In any event, the song would seem to demonstrate just how it
is that a pop song *can*, under some circumstances, be be written on the
fly in what I'd wager must have been less than a single afternoon.
- In context of the other contemporaneous L&M originals of the period, this
one is formalistically notable for its bridge-like refrain, and the
improvisatory instrumental break.
- Very few chords are used at all, with the verse section being a jam session
on virtually just one chord. A few additional chords appear in the refrain
though they are all garden variety in nature.
- Ringo, of course, gets to sing the lead vocal and he's accompanied by John
and Paul in the refrain. The rest of the texture is quite fluffed up,
perhaps even overdone a bit, with double tracking, overdubbed Hammond
organ, and a lot of screaming.
- We have the case here where non-official versions of the song, perserved
as they are in unreleased recordings of BBC radio broadcasts and live
concerts, present a revised arrangement which omits the organ but is
in all other respects more effective. I'll single out such specific
improvements as we come to them in our walkthrough below.
- You can hardly call it an intro by itself, but the hot little guitar lick
that precedes the opening downbeat helps immediately set the wild and crazy
mood of what is to come. Several live versions include four full measures
of introductory vamping on E before Ringo's vocal entry.
- The overall section is seventeen measures long and divides up into two
eight-measure couplets, plus one additional measure to give a little
breathing space for the long pickup into the refrain. This last measure
is not strictly "required" in the scheme of things, and its presence does
indeed create a slightly awkward metrical asymmetry. My guess is that
they decided to include it as the lesser of two evils because if you try
this section out without that seventeenth measure, the title phrase which
commences the refrain gets garbled in a scramble to squeeze it into measure
- Only the I chord (E) is used in this section, though there is a brief hint
of the V chord (B) in the second half of measures 8 and 15; this chord change
is much more clearly articulated in the live versions.
- The bluesy melody with its emphasis on f# and the flat-seventh (d) lends
some indirect harmonic embellishment of that lone E chord.
- This refrain is eight measures long and built out of four little 2-measure
phrases each of which declaims the title phrase of the lyrics:
riff: f#-f-e|d# e-d#-d|c# f#-f-e|d#
|F# |B |E |C# |f# |B |E |- |
E: V-of-V V I V-of-ii ii V I
[** that f# minor chord just *might* be F# Major but I find
the recording too muddy to tell for sure.]
- The shift in this section to a distinctly non-bluesy style with those
cornball chromatic-scale guitar riffs is the primary source of formal
- On a more subtle level, the introduction in this section of a number
of different chords with a concommitant amount of harmonic rhythm also
contrasts with the monotony of the verses. Though this refrain doesn't
actually stray at all from the home key, the large number of intensely
functional chord changes (with root movements lying along the circle of
fifths) make it sound as though it's very much on the harmonic prowl.
- The break is twelve bars long and like the verse, it jams on just a single
chord. The heavy blues style returns with what seems like a high water
mark amount of shouts and grunting.
- The guitar solo here consists of sound-bite-like short 'licks'. There is
very little of the sort of melodic continuity or dramatic sense of direction
seen in the solos of either "I Saw Her Standing There" or even "Little Child".
- The live versions turn this section very clearly into a 12-bar blues frame
and feature more overall shape to the guitar solo.
- The outro brings a return of the texture heard in the Break, only this time
there is an adaptation of the vocal parts of the refrain superimposed over
the backing track.
- A small flash of the IV chord (A) during the fadeout hints at the *real*
blues jam session that might have gone on in the studio after the faders
had been lowered all the way; see the unreleased Take 7 of
"She's A Woman" for an example of what I'm thinking of.
- The live versions of our song in fact replicate the 12-bar blues form seen
in the Break and thus take the song to an alternate complete ending.
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS
- Tony Barrow, whose liner notes on the first couple albums are surprisingly
accurate most of the time in spite of their unabashed PR-perspective, gets
caught in, not one, but *two* lies regarding this song: #1 -- saying the
song was written "specially" for Ringo rather than the Rolling Stones, and
#2 -- that it is John on the Hammond organ, not (as Lewisohn reports)
- There are a number of well known Dylan-Beatles connections out there, but
one of the more obscure and unusual examples must be Zimmy's unreleased
track from a late '65 session done with the proto-Band; a song entitled
"I Wanna Be Your Lover", in the refrain of which he humorously sends up
our own "I Wanna Be Your Man". The existence of such a parody forces me
to acknowledge, almost against my will as it were, that our song *must*
have had, in spite of whatever its limitations, a sufficient presence as
a ready-made pop-culture icon in order to draw such distinguished imitation,
even if only in jest. But I guess that's what I meant to begin with, with
my own wisecrack about the triumph of style per se over content.
Alan (email@example.com *OR* uunet!huxley!awp)
"I don't wanna be her's, ... I wanna be your's!" 112491#40
Copyright (c) 1991 by Alan W. Pollack
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