Notes on "You Never Give me Your Money" (YNGMYM)
"You Never Give Me Your Money" is a lot of song for the money. There is a
a large amount of musical material per "square unit" here, and furthermore,
it's formally organized in a way that defies easy analysis, being akin to
a medley within a medley.
No high-flown aesthetic ruminations this time! Let's just jump in. The
song is built in three different sections which are compatible, but virtually
unrelated to each other. We'll examine each section in turn and come back
later to consider how a feeling of unity is brought to bear on such diversity.
Section X - "You never give me your money ..."
This section is built out of three repetitions of the same eight measure
phrase; first an unusually long instrumental introduction, followed by
two verses of song.
The harmony of this eight measure phrase is a full, albeit diatonic, circle
|a |d |G |C ||F |b dim. E |a |- |
a: I iv VII III VI ii V I
Several comments on this:
- This progression creates an ambivalent impression of being at once
both placid and forward moving. The placidity comes from the slow and
(except for measure 6) even harmonic rhythm. The movement derives from the
the "transitive verb"-like quality of chord progressions which move in fifths.
The dynamic quality is heightened on the one hand by the appearance of every
chord in root position, but softened at the same time by the fact that the
chords all appear "au naturel." In other words, the effect could be either
further softened by use of some chords in inversions, or further heightened
by turning some of the chords into "V-of" chords with a couple of sharps
- Although I've notated the chords as simple triads, this phrase contains a
liberal measure of functional dissonance which also helps push it forward;
many of the chords contain 7ths or other appoggiaturas on the down beats.
- Rhythmically, this phrase makes early use of the syncopated accent on
the eighth note that falls between the second and third beat of the measure.
This is a sufficiently garden-variety device for music of this period and
genre, but it's worth singling out here because, as will see, its
recurrent appearance in several otherwise unrelated sections of this song
becomes a subtle source of alliterative unity. In phrase X, this
syncopation appears in the melody in measures 2 and 8, and it also
shows up in the harmonic rhythm in measure 6.
- The 24 measures of section X ends with a simple pivot modulation to the
key of C, leading directly into section Y.
Section Y - "Out of college money spent ..."
This new section is cleanly set-off from the preceding by a new texture
as well as a change of key. The tempo is the same as before, but the
quickening of the harmonic rhythm to two chords per measure, plus the
boogie woogie background beat make it all seem faster. Also note how
this section also has the distinction of itself dividing into two contrasting
The first subsection (call it 'YA' - "Out of college money spent ...") is
built out of two repeats of this four bar phrase:
|C E |a C7 |F G |C |- |
C: I V-of-vi vi V-of-IV IV V I
- There's no full circle of fifths this time, but it's still heavy
on the verb-like root progressions of a fifth. If anything, the
harmony is harder driving in this phrase because of the frequent use
of secondary dominants.
The second subsection (call it 'YB' - "But oh that magic feeling ...")
brings a return of the "twixt 2 & 3" syncopation and a harmonic switch
from C Major to C Mixolydian. The section is built out of an unusual five
repeats of a three measure phrase, the harmony of which is none other than
our old friend, the "Hey Jude progression":
|B-flat |F |C |
C: flat VII IV I
- The sudden return to a harmonic rhythm of one chord change per
measure creates a strong initial sensation of putting on the brakes.
However this feeling is modified to one of gradually rising expectations
by the prime number of repeats of a phrase whose length is also
- As an aside, I actually hear an alliterative connection between this
phrase and the the reappearance of the same chord progression in, of all
places, "Polythene Pam". Total coincidence??
- At any rate, this segues right into section Z.
Section Z - "One sweet dream ..."
Like section X, this section begins with an extended instrumental introduction
which is partially built out of the material that will appear in the upcoming
verse. Like section Y, this section also subdivides into two contrasting
The first subsection (call it 'ZA') contains an eight measure introduction
followed by an unusual seven and a half measure verse.
The introduction is one of the most interesting phrases in the entire song.
The first four measures are in a chromatically inflected C major; the use of
the D Major and E-flat chords being slightly unusual:
|C |D |E-flat G |
C: I V-of-V flat- V
But it's measures four through eight in which the harmonic stops are pulled
way out. The "architectural" function of this phrase is simple enough: to
modulate back to A. However, the gambit employed to do this is a truly
extraordinary choice for the genre. These four measures are built
on a cycle of minor thirds in which both the bass line and the upper melody
outline a sequence of diminshed seventh chords. This device is something
that you'll find all over the place in a piece like "Raphsody in Blue",
though Gershwin himself could be said to be ripping it off from the likes
of a composer such as Liszt. I believe its use here is unique in the
work of The Beatles; what prompted Macca to think of it is beyond me.
(That's not to imply a value judgment one way or the other about the level
to which this gambit "fits" our context; its usage is unusual, regardless.)
Diminished seventh chords have several interesting properties, discussion
of which is way outside the scope of these articles. For now, the most
salient thing to note is how they symmetrically divide an octave on the
one hand, yet do this by hitting notes which are not part of the scale of
the octave being subdivided. This creates two perceptable harmonic effects:
- a clangorous series of chromatic cross relations, and
- a temporary, free-fall sense of not quite being in any specific key.
Check it out! (In the following schematic, 'b' = flat):
C# E G Bb-B-B#-- C#
Bb- C#- E- G-
G- Bb- C#- E-
Upper voice: |E- |G- |Bb- |C#- |
| | | | |
Bass line |C- |Eb- |Gb- |A- |
A C Eb Gb-G-G#-- A
At any rate, the the above passage leads right into a short verse of
seven and a half measures which subdivides into one phrase of
six measures, (the first four of which are a direct transposition of the
introduction), followed by a fragmentary repeat which breaks down after
only one and a half measures, and leads directly into the next section:
|A |B |C E |A |d |- |A |B** ||C
** = half measure
A: I V-of-V flat- V I iv I V-of- flat-
III V III
A few comments:
- Note how the sustaining of the minor iv chord in measures 5 and 6 suddenly
puts the breaks on just when momentum is gathering; the 2&3 syncopation also
makes a dramatic re-appearance in these two measures.
- To be more accurate, from the point of view of the lyrics, this phrase
actually continues into the first two measures of the next section creating
a nice formalistic elision.
The final subsection (call it 'ZB') is musically built out of the following
two-measure phrase, repeated 'n' times into the fade out:
|C G |A |
Bass line: C B A
A: flat-III flat-VII I
- The first several repeats of this phrase accompany the final lyrics of the
verse started in the previous section. The remainder of the repeats first
accompany the enigmatic "One two three four five six seven" chorus, and
finally fade out with the implication of a jam session that might go on
forever; if you've heard the early-mix outtake of this you'd know what
I mean about forever :-).
- The by-now-familiar syncopated rhythm shows up in both measures of this
phrase, though in yet another classic illustration of "avoidance of foolish
consistency", the harmonic rhythm underscores the syncopation only in the
- And then, we have "down with the lights, up with the crickets, and bring
on the Sun King."
Putting It All Together
In the context of a genre in which you expect to see some patterned
alternation of verses and breaks, the form of this song is a seeming
jumble, a medley at best:
X Y Z
|-------------------| |--------------------| |-----------------------|
X-intro X1 X2 YA1 YA2 / YB1 -- 5 ZA-intro ZA1 / ZB1 -- 'n'
But let's face it, we're dealing with more than a mish-mosh. The form
may not be "standard" but there are at least two unifying elements at work
(in addition to the recurrent syncopation discussed earlier):
1 - The harmonic plan for the three sections is a straightforward arch:
X Y Z
a minor C Major A Major
In fact, in this light, the chord progression of section ZB appears to be
a summing up of the harmonic plan in a nutshell!!
2 - The song presents its own alternative notion of repetition in place
of a more standard form. Even though none of the sections of this song
make a "return" performance once the music has moved on to another
section, there are several sections which consist of a short phrase
repeated immediately several times. It's unusual but I believe it works.
Perhaps one can argue that this lack of an internal "reprise" within
this song itself is what makes the reprise of section 'X' inside of
"Carry That Weight" so satsifying.
"They tried to fob you off on this musical charlatan,
but *I* gave him the test." 110889#13
Copyright (c) 1989 by Alan W. Pollack
All Rights Reserved
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