Notes on "I've Just Seen A Face" (IJSAF)
KEY A Major
METER 4/4 (2/2, a.k.a. "cut time", may be more accurate)
FORM Intro -> Verse -> Verse -> Refrain ->
Verse -> Refrain -> Verse (solo) -> Refrain ->
Verse -> Refrain -> Refrain -> Refrain -> Outro
GENERAL POINTS OF INTEREST
Style and Form
- Aside from the delightfully unplugged arrangement, and a greater
than ever amount of attention paid to compositional detail, this song
manifests a button-busting sense of energy that is timeless and most
- The form is reasonably clear in some sense, but it's also unusually
complicated and would appear to have absorbed the influence of several
styles. The two verses in a row near the beginning are pure pop/rock.
The strict alternation of verse/refrain in the second half is rather
folksy. The triple refrain as an outro is reminiscent of the R&B
rave up. And the whole thing is lead off by an extraordinary intro
that is not so easily pigeonholed.
Melody and Harmony
- Only four chords are used but this very limited number of them
are cleverly deployed so as to alternately suggest two different
styles: the pop/rock cliche of I-vi-IV-V in the verses, and the
bluesy V-IV-I in the refrains.
- Melodically we find several trademarks yet again: the noodling around
within a tight pitch range during the verses, with the headroom freed
up somewhat during the refrain. The tune is also shot through with
Paul's much favored appoggiaturas; I'll spot you "face" and "place"
in the opening phrase, but you've got to find the rest of them on
by yourself -- have you no natural resources of yer own ? :-)
- The instrumental texture is most strongly characterized by the folksy
sound of several crisply recorded acoustic guitars. And yet, the use
of (what sound like to me as) jazzy wire brushes in place of the usual
wood sticks for the drum kit, not to mention overdubbed maracas (in the
refrains and guitar solo) create subliminal free associations with other
- Paul is closely *single* tracked for a change on the lead vocal, the
more intimately for us to feel the slight quiver in his voice. During
the refrains, he provides his own contrapuntal backing part in the same
nasally affected C&W voice used to back Ringo in "Act Naturally."
- This fully instrumental introduction is unusually long and musically
involved. On the one hand, it features an oscillating motif in slow
triplets that never shows up again for the remainder of the piece. And
yet, the long scalar bassline whose full octave span stretches out over
the complete length of the intro has embedded within its ending the
ubiquitous "La-da-da da'n'da" hook phrase (i.e. D->C#->B AG#->A).
- The slow triplet pulse creates a deceptive sense of tempo. When the
verse finally kicks in with its four-square beat that is sustained
for the remainder of the song you have a gear-shifting feeling of
acceleration as though the tempo had changed. But this is entirely
an illusion, anticipating what would show up later, even more forecefully,
in "We Can Work It Out". If you count the measures in "two half" time
instead of the twice-as-fast 4/4 you'll more easily grasp the extent
to which the underlying tempo is constant.
- The illusion of acceleration is abbeted by the phrasing. The intro
has an unusual ten-measure length and is built out of three phrases,
the last one of which is foreshortened and thus "hastens" the arrival
of the first verse. In any event, this feeling of speed is one that is
particularly effective in the song's album-opening context of the
'American' _Rubber Soul_ line-up where you feel drawn straight into
the entire LP by it, not just the first song.
- Harmonically, the song opens subtly away from the home key but
quickly converges upon it. Even though the bassline line starts
off, unaccompanied, with the pitch of the home key, the first chord
is f# and until you reach the end of this section the sense of
harmonic grounding is quite suspended; similar to, though not
quite as intense as, the opening of "Help!".
- In order to better elucidate the truly fine detail of this intro,
I've included in the schematic below a precis of both the bassline
and top voice along with the usual harmonic information. In the
latter department note the unusual sonority created in measures
6 and 7 by the "non-harmonic" passing tones, and the handling of
the E chord in measures 9 and 10 with an appoggiatura instead of
the the root note in the bass:
top-most line: |F# |A |C# |F# |
chords: |f# |- |- |- |
bassline: A G# |F# |- |- |- E |
A Major: vi
top-most line: |D |E |F# |- |
chords: |D |- 9/6/4|- 7 |- |
bassline: |D |- |- |- C# |
top-most line: |E |D |C#
chords: |E 6/4 |- susp |A
bassline: |B |A G# |A
- The verse is blues-influenced to the extent that its form is twelve
measures long, consists of three phrases, and its harmonic rhythm is
mostly slow throughout. Note, though, that the chord progression used
is distinctly *pop*:
|A |- |- |- ||f# |- |- |- ||
|D |- |E |A ||
IV V I
- The first two phrases are virtually identically, tune-wise, though
they sound different simply because of the chord change, not to mention
the unfolding lyrics.
- The bassline motif of the intro is continued here albeit abbreviated in
length. In measures 3-5 the tune marches down the scale in parallel
10ths with the bass, but note how the same basic idea idea in measures
7-9 makes for parallel 5ths!
- The refrain is eight measures long and parses into a couplet of two
short phrases that are balanced out by one longer one ('AAB'):
|E |- |D |- |A |D |A |- |
V IV I IV I
- The chord progression and the unique appearance within the song of a
melodic minor 3rd (on the first syllable of the word 'calling') give
this section a slightly more bluesy feel than the rest of what
- The solo is an almost slavish replicate of the tune, but one that is
cleverly transformed in character by the Countrified, rhythmically
flat rendering of it.
- The slight departure from the tune in the final three measures
(the guitar melodically harmonizing a 3rd below where the tune
itself should be) is a most welcome variations, especially as it
is followed by that 'bon mot' flourish one octave up right at the
- The use of a triple repeat to signal the approaching end of a song is
quite a well-worn Beatles trademark. We're used to seeing this trick
used on the scale of a 'petit reprise' of a phrase no longer than
two to four measures in length. The repeat here of an entire eight
bar chorus is rather unprecedented.
- There's an unusual and shameless bit of "stumbling" word painting
in the final repeat where Paul throws in that extra "oh!" and sounds
literally as though falling; but it works quite nicely.
- The last refrain runs out into a little instrumental reprise that
is redolent with associations to what we had heard earlier on in
the song. Primarily, we have a snippet of the last part of the
intro which adds a bookend formal symmetry and allows the song
to be ultimately summarized by its "La-da-da da'n'da" hook phrase.
But even that final strummed guitar chord seems to resonate with
what I had described as the 'bon mot' ending of the solo section.
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS
- By this point they had been freely borrowing and blending various
stylistic elements of pop, rock, folk, blues, and still other styles
for quite a while. Still, this otherwise sweetly simple "folk rock"
song really pushes the envelope in terms of the sheer number of diverse
styles juggled simultaneously as well as the effortlessly seamless
manner in which they are fused.
- In the final result though, if resonance has any thing to do with
why you find this song enduring, I'll bet it's not so much in scholarly
terms of style, but rather in those not so easily verbalized ones of
your own experience. If you are, let's say, of the type who, when
romantically enthused (you should only be so lucky!), tends to start
talking rapidly, getting all inarticulate and muckle mouthed about it
in the bargain, then you're likely to find Paul's patter-song-like
syllabic delivery of the words of this song, up to and including his
momentary retreats into scat phonemes, rather apropos, maybe even
Alan (email@example.com *OR* uunet!huxley!awp)
"I want all the world to see we've met." 010593#73
--- H B s
Copyright (c) 1993 by Alan W. Pollack
All Rights Reserved
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