Mother Nature's Son

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Cover versions and notes on The Beatles' song, "Mother Nature's Son".

Provenance
Written By: 
Lennon/McCartney
Year: 
1968
Primary Recording
By: 
The Beatles
Lead Vocal: 
Paul McCartney
Cover Versions
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Image of Mother Nature's Son (Live)
Manufacturer: RCA Records Label
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Image of Mother Nature's Son (Album Version)
Manufacturer: Sony Wonder
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Image of Mother Nature's Son
Manufacturer: GRP Records
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Image of Mother Nature's Son
Manufacturer: JEMP Records
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Image of Mother Nature's Son
Manufacturer: Mona Lisa Sound, Inc.
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Videos
Alan W. Pollack's "Notes On"

Notes on "Mother Nature's Son" (MNS)

KEY	D Major
METER	4/4
FORM	Intro -> Verse -> (spacer) -> Verse -> Bridge ->
                Verse -> Bridge -> Verse -> Outro (w/complete ending)

GENERAL POINTS OF INTEREST


Style and Form

- This is another one of those hymn-like folksongs, cast by Paul in a decidedly pop music formal scheme. It's a close relative of "Blackbird"; lyrically, perhaps the bit less profound but more elaborately produced of the two songs.

- The form of the official recording is the small two-bridge model (i.e. only one verse between the buttons), with one ingenious variation: to separate the unique pair of verses that opens the song, the final phrase of the verse is repeated as a "spacer" in between them. Then, the same gesture is repeated at the very end of the song, this time, in order to provide the outro. Compare this with the Esher demo and A3 studio outtake of the song, both of which contain a more folk-like final repeat of the refrain-like bridge at the end.

 


Melody and Harmony

- Textbook melodic values abound here; e.g. rakish-not-slavish balance between up & down motion; motion via steps & leaps; the range is extended upward for the bridge. I dare say the upward phrase sung at the end of the verse is one beautiful pentatonic lick.

- The harmonic rhythm is unusually slow, relying on pedal points in both verse and bridge sections.

- The key of the song is definitely Major, though the harmonic vocabulary includes the inflections of both the V-of-V chord and some chromatic scalar motion in the so-called inner voices.

 


Arrangement

- The acoustic guitar is a constant factor on the backing track, with a brass choir added in for much of the songs mid-section, plus an unusually small amount of percussion effects.

- Even with such a spare number of disparate resources at play, the layering of the arrangement is subtly choreographed, with a couple of unique touches deftly "planted" in the cinematic sense of the term.

- The schematic trace:

  1. Intro: Guitar only, but notice the couple of drumbeats, which at this point of the track would seem to be random, out of nowhere; an example of "planting."
  2. Verse 1: Still guitar only
  3. Verse 2: Add brass. Note the "bricks laid on the overlap" manner in which the trumpet enters during the spacer that precedes this verse. Reinforce the E Major chord with a rising arpeggio in the bassline, starting here and continuing for the rest of the song. In the second half, add percussive tapping.
  4. Bridge 1: Add what sounds like a bass drum on the downbeats. Try to shift the tapping to just offbeats, but note how the pattern is NOT carefully maintained. The vocal part has no words.
  5. Verse 3: Drop the tapping altogether; though I fear some of it appears out of nowhere in the second half.
  6. Bridge 2: Drums again; this time, they even get to show off a small fill at the very end of the section. The tapping is back.
  7. Verse 4: Drop the brass, but add a second track for acoustic guitar. In sympathy with the bridges, the vocal part here also has no words!
  8. Outro: Brass returns for the curtain call, and the final title line of singing is double tracked.

SECTION-BY-SECTION WALKTHROUGH


Intro

- The intro is in two parts: the opening, played ad-lib, anticipates the what turns out to be the verse's propensity for the V-of-V chord, though this early in the procedings, you're not yet sure just what it means. We then get 8 measures of folksy vamping on the I chord including plenty of oscillation to neighboring tones on both sides; but in terms of harmonic bone structure, it's all a D Major chord.

 


Verse

- The verse is a four-square 16 measures long in an AB + C pattern of 4 + 4 + 8:

inner voice:	|A 	|B	|-	|A	|
inner voice:	|F#	|G	|-	|F#	|
chords: 	|D	|-	|-	|-	|
        D:	 I

               |D	|C#	|B 	|-	|
               |B	|A	|G#	|-	|
               |D	|-	|E	|-	|
                (vi6/4)         V-of-V

               |C#  D  |C#  D	|C#  D	|C#	|
               |E   F#	|E   F#	|E   F#	|E	|
               |A	|-	|-	|-	|
                V  (I6/4)

               |A	|-	|-	|-	|
               |F#	|F-nat.	|G-nat.	|F#	|
               |D	|-	|-	|-	|
                I

- I've notated the two inner voices that account for most of the "harmony;" direct your attention to the brass overdubs to latch onto this. I've pencilled in (in parentheses) the places in which a Roman numeral-obsessed analyst might be tempted to put labels on 6/4 chords, though I emphasize my preference for leaving these alone in this context as the by-products of neighboring tones, not root movement.

- The neighboring motion doubles in speed for the third phrase, creating an illusion of increase in the harmonic rhythm; rather a paradoxical effect, considering the pedal point.

- That chromatic line in the final four measures is quite twisty; I dare you to sing it! It places an enigmatically overcast shadow on the otherwise "pretty sound of music;" a much needed hint of sadness behind the smile.

 


Bridge

- The bridge is an unusual 15 measures long, parsing out as an AAB form of 4 + 4 + 7. You might say that seven-measure phrase is really eight measures long, overlapping with the final measure of the second four-measure phrase; an "elision" effect we've seen many times in Beatles songs.

                ---------------- 2X -------------
                |A	|-	|B	|A	|
                |F#	|-	|G	|F#	|
                |D	|-	|-	|-	|
                 I		 (IV64)  I

                |C#	|C-nat.	|-	|
                |F#	|-	|-	|
                |D	|-	|-	|
                         (V-of-IV)

                |B	|Bb	|A	|-	|
                |G	|-	|F#	|-	|
                |D	|-	|-	|-	|
                 (IV6/4) (iv64)  I

- The descending chromatic line is another bittersweet touch whose deployment enhances the off-center phrasing by lingering aysmmetrically over the C natural for a second measure.

 


Outro

- As mentioned earlier, we finish off with a repeat of the "spacer" phrase.

- The song ends off on a D dominant 7th chord rather than a plain triad, the effect of which is somehow ambiguous and sad; a subtle allusion back to the same chord that was lingered over in the bridge.

SOME FINAL THOUGHTS

- As a foible of human nature we each tend to hold on to multiple self images, some sincere and realistic, some completely fantastic. And then there are some that may appear to originate from the fantasy side of the house, but which are capable of being fully actualized through the ineffible union with a true mate.

- No matter how much Paul might have wished to see himself as a child of nature (yes, I am aware of the allusion to John's original lyric for "Jealous Guy"), I take a leap of faith here to suggest that he needed the participation of his Linda in order to let it be.

Regards,

Alan (awp@world.std.com)

---

"These days such a kind girl seems so hard to find."         050398#147

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