Piggies

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Cover versions and notes on The Beatles' song "Piggies".

Provenance
Written By: 
George Harrison
Year: 
1968
Primary Recording
By: 
The Beatles
Lead Vocal: 
George Harrison
Cover Versions
Amazon MP3: 
Image of Piggies (Live) (2004 Digital Remaster)
Manufacturer: Parlophone
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Image of Piggies
Manufacturer: Danny Colfax Mallon
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Image of Piggies
Manufacturer: Consolidated Artists Productions
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Image of Piggies
Manufacturer: JEMP Records
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Image of Piggies
Manufacturer: LIGHTYEAR
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Alan W. Pollack's "Notes On"

Notes on "Piggies" (P)


KEY     A Major

METER   4/4

FORM    Intro -> Verse -> Intro -> Verse ->
                Intro' -> Bridge -> Verse (instrumental) ->
                        Intro -> Verse -> Outro (w/complete ending)

GENERAL POINTS OF INTEREST


Style and Form

- This is quite a surprising blend of pseudo-classical mannerisms in the music with sophomoric cynicism in the lyrics!

- Classical connotations jump at you right off the surface of this song, starting with the harpsichord and cello on the backing track, and the almost painfully galumphing, square backbeat; but it runs deeper than that, as we'll see. Makes one wonder if this is sheer happenstance or else perhaps there is biographic evidence showing this was done aforethought.

- For example, he says, the deployment of a brief instrumental intro before EVERY verse is a technique you'll find occasionally in so-called 19th century art songs; e.g. page through any book of Schubert lieder and you'll undoubtedly run into some examples. Please label this "classical exhibit #2. Its usage here makes for a bulky form which, in turn, makes the song feel "longer" than it actually is; only 2:04, including the trailing pig snorts!


Melody and Harmony

- Classical exhibit #3: the heavy use of melodic chord outlines (arpeggio fragments) in both the opening hook as well as the tune which follows.

- The harmony, throughout, is rooted strongly to the home key in spite of a couple attempts to steal away from it.


Arrangement

- The backing track features a nouvelle cuisine melange of harpsichord, acoustic guitar, electric bass, bowed cellos, and tambourine. The carefully coreogrpahed comings and goings of these several elements repays careful study.

- The lead vocal is treated to several special effects common to the period in which it was recorded. The operatic male chorus appearing in the final verse is classical exhibit #4.

SECTION-BY-SECTION WALKTHROUGH


Intro

- The intro is four measures long and neatly defines the home key and exposes the tune's hook twice over:

        |A              |E              |A              |E              |
A:       I               V               I               V

Verse

- The verse is 12 measures long with three equal phrases that form a pattern of AA'B, though you might say that even the 'B' phrase is derived from the second half of A':

        |A              |E              |A              |E              |
         I               V               I               V


        |A              |E              |f#             |B              |
         I               V               ii              V-of-V

        |f#             |B              |E              |-              |
         ii              V-of-V          V

- The harmony of this section is not your typical 12-bar blues form. The continued harping on just the I and V chords, starting in the intro and continuing through the first half of this section, makes the appearance of new chords in the second phrase quite welcome.

- The repeat of chord progression of f#->B creates a rhetorical effect from the way it appears each time at the opposite end of a phrase.

- The harmonic rhythm slows up in the final two measures, filled out as they are by a popular cliche in which the two inner voices rise in parallel 10ths; don't give all four "chords" individual Roman numerals -- the two measures are no more than a "prolongation" of the V chord.


Intro

- The intro repeat leading into the bridge features a surprise twist on the original intro that is a textbook-like illustration of (ahem) the "malleability of motivic material." Call it classical exhibit #5.

        |A              |E              |A              |C#             |
         I               V               I               V-of-vi

Bridge

- That melodic twist at the end of the previous section would seem to hint at a potential modulation, but by the end of the first four measures of this bridge, you find that you're still quite within the bounds of the home key you started out in:

        |b              |C#             |D              |A              |
         ii              V-of-vi         IV              I

        |E              |-              |-              |-              |
         V

        |b              |C#             |D              |E              |
         ii              V-of-vi         IV              V

        |-              |-              |

- The bridge is an unusual 14 measures long, built out of two unequal phrases (8 + 6).

- Look fast or you'll miss the short-lived bluesy touch provided by the G natural at the end of that nice bassline riff in measure 8.


Outro

- The remainder of the song further sustains the classical tone.

- Exhibit #6: the style of figuration used in the instrumental verse; harpsichord right hand parts in which the melody played by the last 3 fingers alternates with a repeated note played by the thumb, and cello parts dominated by scales.

- Exhibit #7: the retreat to the parallel minor key for the outro; an especially popular gambit in theme and variation pieces.

- ... followed by, in a disorienting context switch ("one more time"), exhibit #8: a progression of two broadly executed chords that is ambiguous with respect to key. Ask yourself, does the song end with I -> V of the original A Major home key, or are we to grock it as a Plagal, IV -> I ending in the key of E?

SOME FINAL THOUGHTS

- Fastidious arrangement and pork chop/bacon wording changes aside, this particular song seems to change little between Esher demo and the studio take, at least compared to the kind of revisions we've seen made by John and Paul in their respective songs.

- I wonder if this reflects some nervous reluctance on George's part to share anything less than finished with his songwriting mates, feeling vulnerable in front of them even within the confines of an otherwise relaxed retreat. Honestly, I myself don't have sufficient command of the biographic material to draw a definitive conclusion in this area, but I do find the evidence thought provoking.

Regards,

Alan (awp@world.std.com)

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"Get him out of here.  He's knocking the programme's image!" 010198#140
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                Copyright (c) 1998 by Alan W. Pollack
                          All Rights Reserved
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