Notes on "I Want To Tell You" (IWTTY)
KEY A Major
FORM Intro -> Verse -> Verse -> Bridge ->
Verse -> Bridge -> Verse -> Outro (fadeout)
GENERAL POINTS OF INTEREST
Style and Form
- This is very much a typical Hari-song; replete with a hard and high
anxiety in the lyrics that is further manifested in the musical fabric
by dissonance, both harmonic and rhythmic. We're talking about
*serious* illness of ease.
- Harmonically, we have that persistent, somewhat mechanical (not to
say *irritating* :-))harping on the E minor 9th chord in the piano, and
rhythmically, there's those slow triplets, especially in the opening
bassline ostinato, which create lots of challenging friction against the
4/4 backbeat. The lyrics, I hope, speak for themselves.
- There's also a touch of the exotic, saved for the very end, where
it is sung out by, what sounds to my ears like, Paulie, of all people!
Melody and Harmony
- The verse tune opens with a jumpy pentatonic pair of phrases, though
the remainder of it, as well as the bridge tune, is balanced out by
completely step-wise motion.
- The home key of the song is A Major throughout, established by
a frugal budget of chords. However, the guitar ostinato that
pervades the song contains, embedded within it, what I always
refer to as the
"Hey Jude" progression (I-flat VII-IV-I), and
this adds a modal flavor to the procedings.
- The other unusual harmonic feature is the off-center prominence
given to chords that have the note 'B' on the bottom.
- The opening guitar riff is one of those all-time great ostinato
patterns that sets the tone of the whole song right from the start.
In contrast to the outstretched melodic arch of the
figure, this one is much more of a "sawtooth" pattern, in the style
Note, here, the hard and reiterated floor on 'A,'
the repeated downward arpeggios in slow triplets, and the *hard*
syncopation which places the origin of the pattern just before the
- The rest of the ensemble tends to play in a contrastingly groovy
beat in which beats 2 and 4 are syncopatedly emphasized, and rapid
triplets fill the spaces between phrases. The most interesting
moments in the song are where this more swinging beat is superimposed,
rather uneasily, over the agitated slow triplets of the ostinato.
- We have a double-tracked lead vocal backed for bold-italic emphasis
on the even-numbered phrases of the verse; shades of the syncopated
beat on 2 and 4!
- And of course, they were seemingly *never* too busy to add those
fussy little touches for the percussion section; check out the
rattlesnake marracas at the end of each verse, the patterning
of the tambourine swats in the bridge, and the hand claps saved
for the final verse.
- The last time I can recall a fade-in opening in a Beatles song
before this one goes all the way back to
"Eight Days A Week",
though you could argue that the mock disorganized opening of
is a "logical" fade-in of sorts.
- You become conscious of the music in the midst of the ostinato figure
played out on only low strings of the lead guitar. The intro continues
with three complete iterations of the ostinato, with other instruments
making a staggered entrance: piano and drums come in on the second
repeat, followed by the marracas and bass guitar.
- In spite of the steady 4/4 backbeat of this verse, your ears do not
easily grok it for a couple of reasons; in particular, the unusual
eleven-measure length, and the manner in which the four vocal
phrases, unequal in length, are rhetorically declaimed to neither
start or end neccessarily at measure boundaries.
|A |- |- |- B |- |
A: I V-of-V
|E |- |- |- |A |- |
- And, as if that weren't enough, we also have the change of chord in the
middle of measure 4; a move that is IMHO *very* sophisticated.
- The sneak reprise of the ostinato to fill the space between verses
is a classic unifying gesture.
- The bridge is eight measures long, and though it's much closer to
four-square than the verse, (and well needed contrast to it by this point
of the song) here too, we have three short phrases rhetorically suspended
over the measure lines.
top |B |C# B |B A |BA AG# |AG#F# |B A G# |B A A |- |
middle2 |F# |F nat. |E |F# |- |F nat. |E |- |
middle1 |D nat. |- |C# |D# |D nat. |- |C# D |C# |
chords |b min. |b dim. |A |B Maj. |b min. |b dim. |A |- |
9 -> 8 9 -> 8 9->8
3-> 4 -> 3
- Harmonically, this bridge is a bit of a fakeout, seeming at first to
hint of a possible excursion away from the home key, but in the end,
all we get is a rather restless-yet-indecisive kind of chromatic leaning
away from the A Major chord and back to it; a feeling quite resonant
with the affect of the lyrics. It's not really appropriate to give
a whole lot of different roman numerals to all those different chords
with B in the bassline; trust me, you will find a study of the creepy
motion of the inner voices, as I've outlined them above, well worth
the effort. The non-obvious call I'd make here is to name the diminished
chord in mm. 2 and 6 a vii-dimininshed (a surrogate for V), with the root
on G#, in spite of the B on the bottom.
- Note too, the way the 9->8 motif of the piano part from the verse is
echoed, in part, by the number of 9->8 appoggiaturas in the vocal part
of this bridge. You might also say that the 3->4->3 figure at the end
of the section is resonant with something implied in the opening ostinato.
- And if you feel the momentum beginning to sag toward the end of this
section, dig how that sudden burst of rapid triplets at the very end
of the bridge helps to re-jump-start your momentum for the verse that
- The outro is a cross between a varied reprise of the into, and a
one-two-thre-GO! style of fadeout ending.
- When the final verse ends, we are treated to three iterations of the
ostinato figure, alternating this time with a repeat of the closing
tag line by the full vocal forces. The last repeat features Paul bursting
out into a surprisingly free Indian-flavored melissma reminsicent, say,
of the sitar solo in
"Love You To". This might seem out of place, or
at least gratuitous, if it were not for George's having used as a motif
throughout the song, that also very Indian-like slow melodic slide toward
the end of the title phrase (on the words, "tell you.")
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS
- In spite of his well known covers of Beatles songs, it's not often
that I am struck by any similarities between Jimi Hendrix' work and
that of Our Boys. In this case, though, I find myself unavoidably
free-associating from "I Want to Tell You" to Jimi's own "Manic
Depression." Yes, I do.
- "I feel hung up and I don't know why" pushes the same buttons in me,
for whatever elusive reasons, as "I know what I want but I just don't
know (how to go about getting it.") Of course, Jimi's song is a *lot*
more hyper and "out" there, compared to George's. But is it, though?
"I'll make you, maybe, next time around." 032795#101
Copyright (c) 1995 by Alan W. Pollack
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