Notes on "Wait" (W)
KEY f# minor
----- 2X ----
FORM Verse/Refrain -> Bridge -> Verse/Refrain -> Bridge ->
Verse/Refrain -> Verse (w/complete ending)
GENERAL POINTS OF INTEREST
Style and Form
- There's a higher than average level of formalistic interest in
this song: it opens right in the midst of the action with an
off-the-beat vocal pickup; there's no intro, not even an instrumental
downbeat to give the singer his cue. For that matter, there's no formal
outro here either; the song kind of just rhetorically grinds to a halt.
- Furthermore, the main expository component of this song is curiously
half-verse/half-refrain in style. It's almost tempting to parse
the section as two discrete sections in their own right but that
would lead to a rather over-busy reading of the form which I don't
believe is supported by your experience of listening to it.
- What's particularly fascinating is that not only have we seen both
of the above formal features in other earlier songs of the Beatles,
but in a couple of cases we've seen *both* features within the
same song; to wit -- "I Want To Hold Your Hand",
"It Won't Be Long" and
"You're Going To Lose That Girl."
And if the strong John Connection doesn't yet strike you, consider the
following punch list of songs which
feature the verse/refrain concept, albeit without a midst-of-action
opening -- "Please Please Me",
"From Me To You", and "Ticket To Ride".
Granted, you can likely find me similar examples which are *not*
all exclusively by John; Paul's "All My Loving" comes immediately
to mind, for example. Nevertheless I believe the correlation
I've cited bears some weight.
- The music itself is highly syncopated to the max, the effect of which
is emphasized by the non-four-square phrasing of the verse section and
the almost constantly offbeat harmonic rhythm.
- At the other extreme, the particular choice of form lays out the lyrics
in an almost slavishly symmetrical mosaic pattern of of ABCACBA.
Melody and Harmony
- The tune, in all sections of this song, is peppered through with
fanfare-like triadic outlines and other long jumps.
- The harmonic gameplan features the same kind of minor/relative Major key
alternation that we saw, most recently, in "Girl".
Although the lyrics of this song superficially make for an almost mirror
image of the story told in "It Won't Be Long" the rapid
key vacillations of "Wait", taken in combination with a chance comment
("if your heart breaks ... turn me away") hint here of a last-minute twinge
of self-protective anxiety that is totally absent from the earlier song.
- Although there is something somehow 'unfinished' about the strangely
thin instrumental texture of this song, they appear to have still
sweated the patterned deployment of percussion sounds with their
usual fastidiousness. Look, for example, at the first three phrases
of the verse: phrase #1 features a syncopated tambourine, phrase #2
adds a pair of maracas in even 8th notes, and phrase #3 (introduced
by a nice drum roll) finally brings in the full drum kit and the
tambourine switching now to even 8th notes in sympathy, as it were,
with the maracas.
- John performs the lead verse vocal single tracked, though Paul harmonizes
with him in not-quite parallel thirds for most of the section except for
the pickups to the first couple phrases. Paul then gets to do the bridge
in double-tracked solo.
- This compound section is an unusual fourteen measures long and
breaks up into a six-measure 'Verse' (parsed 3+3) and an eight measure
'Refrain' (parsed 4+4):
pulse |1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & |1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & |1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & |
composite rhythm|> > > > > |> > > > > |> > > > > |
--------------------- 2X -------------------------
tambourine | > > > | > > > | > > > |
inner-voice |E D# |D-nat.C# | |
chords |f#7 B6/4 |b6/4 f# |C# f# |
f#: |i V I
----- 3X ------
|A D |A C# |f# |
f#:III V i
A: I IV I
- The schematic diagram of the chords and phrasing that I usually provide
is embellished, above, to call your attention to two details of the
- The opening phrase features a typically JL-like descending line cliche
which in theoretical terms argues against putting 'roman numerals' on
the 2nd and 3rd chords. To the extent that the note f# is a sustained
pedal tone throughout the entire progression of the first four chords,
one tends to hear the harmonic action of this phrase as a stretched out
move from i to V.
- The same phrase also features a composite rhythm that is syncopated in
a cutsey yet seductive, belly-dancer sort of way; yet another JL
trademark of sorts, to the extent that the one used here is so reminiscent
of a similar touch in the likes of "All I've Got To Do"
and "Ticket to Ride".
- The verse is firmly within the key of f# minor. The refrain starts off
with an equally firm, even abrupt, modulation to the relative Major key of
A before neatly pivoting back to the home key of f#.
- The bridge is formally simpler than the verse/refrain section, and is
built out of two rather parallel phrases that differ from each other
in terms of instrumentation (note the increased prominence of the guitar
strumming in the second phrase) and the chord choice of the last measure:
|b |E |A |f# |
A: ii V I vi
|b |E |A |C#4 ->3 |
ii V I
f# III V
- The harmonic strategy of this bridge, starting with an ambiguous
sense of home key and converging back to f# by way of a climax
on its V chord, stands in contrast to the more expository verse
- And speaking of tonal ambiguity, do you hear the opening of the section
as a modulation to the key of A (in which case the b minor chord sounds
like ii and the f# minor chord sounds like vi) ? **OR**, do you hear
the entire section as being in the key of f# (in which case the E Major
chord sounds like the V of III) ? The question itself is actually more
interesting than either answer to it.
- The song closes up with a final repeat of the verse which, in its
last phrase, suddenly downshifts into dramatic, emphatic slow
- At the last moment all the percussion instruments used earlier are
brought out (along with the jewelry), as it were, for a bow and a
rattle, with the absolutely last word going to an arpeggio in the
tone pedal guitar; this one, in the downward direction for a change.
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS
- "Wait" has the dubious distinction of having been the song that was
left over from the Help! album, later to be dredged up in a panic
to fill out Rubber Soul when the looming pre-Xmas deadline threatened
to catch the Beatles with a shortfall of new material.
- But do you really think it sticks out in context as something picked
up off the cutting room floor ? Or do we eventually fall victim to
the so-called common or collective wisdom about such things ?
- While this song is far from being in the top tier of _Rubber Soul_,
I dare say that it's an exaggeration to say that it sounds grossly
out of place there, either. And if you accept this observation for what
it's worth, then it's only a small increment of will before you start
to question the notion, become so deeply rooted over the years,
that _Help!_ and _Rubber Soul_ exist somehow on opposite sides of
some great musical divide. It's really closer to something like
distinct yet neighboring distinct upon a continuum.
"It's been a long time." 101893#87
Copyright (c) 1993 by Alan W. Pollack
All Rights Reserved
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