Monday, 12 October 2015

A Letter From Matt

Dear Reader,

There are some exciting days ahead here at Beatles Songwriting Academy. As well as working on some new Tickets To Write posts I'm putting the finishing touches to the first BSA Podcast!

The first episode will feature behind the scenes bonus stuff on some of the White Album tracks I've been writing about, highlight one of George Martin's best arrangements, answer some BSA readers questions and discover one place where Lennon and McCartney plagiarised themselves!

I'm planning to make the podcast a regular feature and, like the rest of the site, it will be free - but it will only be available to readers who sign up to my mailing list.


Well I've had mixed results sharing audio and video posts online. Though educational examples 'should' be protected under fair use Apple's lawyers obviously didn't get that memo. Secondly, I'm always looking for ways to connect with my readers and a good old fashioned mailing list is still one of the best. I will not spam you, you'll get one email a month tops, Beatles songwriting related, and fingers crossed most of 'em will have a link to an exclusive podcast attached.

So are you on board?

Sign up here.

And why not say 'hi' in the comments if you have a minute? Tell me how long you've been reading Beatles Songwriting Academy and what your favourite Beatles album is.

All the best


(PS I've been here since 2009 and it's still Revolver)

Friday, 9 October 2015

Friday, 2 October 2015

Hey Jude Bonus Post (What Does The Vox Say?)

Here's the internet's best guess at the Hey Jude fade out lyrics. You're welcome.

Ju-Judy Judy Judy Judy Judy

Ow hoo, na na na 

JUDE Jude JUDE Jude Joooo... 

Na na na na na, yeah yeah yeah 

Yeah you know you can make it, yeah
Jude, you not gotta break it 

Don't make it bad Jude 

Take a sad song and make it better 

Oh Jude, Jude
Hey Jude

Ooo, Juuuude 


Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey-ee-yay-yay-yay 

Hey, hey, hey 

Now Jude Jude Jude Jude Jude Jude
Yeah yeah yeah yeah 

Woh yeah yeah 

Ah nanananananana cause I wanna 

Nanananana ... nanalala ow ow ow 

Oh God 

The pain won't come back Jude 

Yeah, eh hehe heh 

Make it Jude 

Mymymymy my my mahhhh 


A-well a naaaa-nanan (fade)

More useful posts on the Hey Jude lyrics here and here.


Tuesday, 29 September 2015

10:49 Hey Jude (pt.3) Rhyme Scheme Slight Return - Nicholas Tozier Guest Post

There are many excellent websites and books around but I'm fortunate to have a few real live people I can call on for advice when I hit a bump in the road as well. I'm honoured to have Nicholas Tozier from Song Written as a blogging buddy and one of my 'Beatles Brain Trust'. He's made stellar contributions to BSA in the past (here and here) and his reply to my questions about Hey Jude's rhyme scheme was so interesting I got his permission to post it here.

Hey Matt

I’d never looked at Hey Jude on the page, but you’re right; looking down the line ends is less than half the story with this rhyme scheme. There are lots of surprises in this one.

I think the simplest way to explain it is:

End-rhyme is the default in most lyrics, but verse one of Hey Jude uses chain rhyme and internal rhyme – meaning the rhymes resolve and turn around more quickly. It’s analogous to when a melody touches on the tonic for a sense of resolution, then immediately moves off the tonic.

What’s actually happening is a little more nuanced than that, but that’s most of the story.

I don’t think a linear list of rhymes does justice to this verse.

Hey Jude, don't make it bad
Take a sad song and make it better
Remember, to let her under your skin
Then you'll begin to make it better

Let’s reduce it to a wireframe of syllables (x), with rhyme and refrain positions labeled:

x x x x x A
x x A x x x x BR
x B x x B x x x x C
x x x x C x x BR

Whatever’s going on here, we sure can’t call it end rhyme. The rhymes tend to open at the end of one line, then resolve at the beginning of the next line. Lines one, two, and the beginning of three are straight-up chain rhyme.

Then, in the middle of line three Paul adds a plot twist with another internal “B” rhyme, surprising our ears. This sets the new rhyme-point as the middle of the line. “C” sets up as expected at the end of line three, and then “C” resolves toward the middle of the verse’s last line, like line three did.

Still, I think the best way to get a feel for the truth of Verse One’s sonic mysteries is just staring at the diagram.

Thanks again for sharing this. I had a blast trying to deconstruct it.


P.S. Kinda intriguing that the refrain “make it better” has a different melody each time, so we actually don’t hear it as an obvious refrain so much. Its repetition is downplayed by the melody. That might be significant to the verse’s overall lyrical feel, because the refrain is the only end rhyme, and since the melody changes, the end of the quatrain sounds less resolved, more unsettled, building our anticipation for the next section.

Song Written is one of the best songwriting sites out there. Check it out.

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Monday, 21 September 2015

10:48 Hey Jude (pt.2) Lyrics - How Do You Solve A Problem Like McCartney?

I'll be honest folks. When I started work on Hey Jude I was tempted to induct it into the Lyrical Hall Of Shame. The combination of dummy lyrics that never got replaced, words chosen for the way they sound, and 'it-means-whatever-you-want-it-to-mean-man' attitude adds up to a lame lyric riding the coattails of a world class melody. And that's before you realise that half the song consists of the word 'nah' sung 209 times.

But digging deeper I've realised the lyrics display such structural genius that I'm more than willing to give Paul a pass on this one. But let's look at the negatives first.

Star Wars For Dummies

As was often the case, McCartney had the music locked by the time the recording started but the lyrics were still in flux (like Rocky Racoon and I Will). If you listen to the Anthology 3 rehearsal Paul doesn't have them all (or he doesn't know them). He indulged in a Yodaism in the phrase “for well you know that it's a fool” and the song contains placeholders lines, as Paul admitted

I remember I played it to John and Yoko, and I was saying, 'These words ['The movement you need is on your shoulder,'] won't be on the finished version'... and John was saying, 'It's great!' I'm saying, 'It's crazy, it doesn't make any sense at all.' He's saying, 'Sure it does, it's great.'" *

Creepy Words Of Wisdom

Secondly, the song had an odd genesis, which goes some way to explaining the bizarre interpretations that have followed.
It was optimistic, a hopeful message for Julian: 'Come on, man, your parents got divorced. I know you're not happy, but you'll be OK.' I eventually changed 'Jools' to 'Jude'**

Changing Jools to Jude cos it 'sings' better is all well and good. But this is a song written to comfort a 5 year old boy about his parents divorce, yet it seems to consist of philosophical advice on getting a girlfriend - a flower-powered take on the 'love life advice' sub-genre that dates back to She Loves You.

There were clearly other biographical currents bubbling up into the song. Paul was in the no(wo)mansland between Jane Asher and Linda Eastman. John heard it as an endorsement for his relationship with Yoko, a thumbs up from Macca's subconscious. Both Beatles were caught between their commitment to making art with multiple (even unintended) meanings and their contempt for the public reading their own meanings into Beatles lyrics. John in particular felt embarrassed at doing exactly what he condemned in others

He said it was written about Julian … But I always heard it as a song to me. Now I'm sounding like one of those fans reading things into it... Think about it: Yoko had just come into the picture. He is saying. 'Hey, Jude'-- 'Hey, John.' Subconsciously, he was saying, 'Go ahead, leave me.' On a conscious level, he didn't want me to go ahead. The angel in him was saying, 'Bless you.' The devil in him didn't like it at all, because he didn't want to lose his partner***

The debate over open interpretation was thrown into sharp focus once Charles Manson got his hands on a copy of the White Album, read murderous things into the lyrics of Helter Skelter and Piggies, and put his crazy interpretations into action.

Advice on preschool love and loss? The Pre-Ballad Of John And Yoko? Or a Dear Jane letter, containing a deep and meaningless line about a parrot?**** No wonder Manson et al had a field day.

Lennon for what it's worth never changed his assessment, calling Hey Jude

“[Paul's] best song" and “a damn good set of lyrics” *****

So what do I know? Let's look at the good stuff.

A fine line between stupid and clever

For starters verse 4 is a mutated hybrid of verse 1 and 2. This makes it feel familiar but not totally predictable. As usual the song is full of parallel words and phrases (Ticket 24)

make it bad/better/you were made

let her into your heart/under your skin

let it out/in

don't make it bad/be afraid/let me down

remember to/the minute you let her into your heart

plays it cool/a little colder

carry the world upon your shoulders/movement you need is on your shoulder

Also McCartney manages to 'break' the rhyme scheme in the second bridge without making it feel wrong or awkward.

In the first bridge the rhyme scheme is

AAB - CCB (pain/refrain/shoulders – fool/cool/colder)

but the second bridge is

AAB – CCD (in/begin/perform with – you/do/shoulder).

Feels really jarring when you focus solely on the last words doesn't it? (Another case for not keeping a meaningless dummy lyric) but in the song it sounds fine. (Be honest. Have you ever noticed it before?). McCartney's masterstroke is that he breaks the rhyme using a word that rhymes with the first bridge, so it feels right even though it's totally 'wrong'.

We've encountered this technique before in The Long And Winding Road (and Ringo break a rhyme for a different reason in Octopus's Garden) so it's high time it got it's own ticket. Welcome Ticket 73? (I'm working on it!)

But the crowning achievement is the way Paul uses internal rhymes to create a kind of odd-meter, seven line stanza that transforms the verse from this

Hey Jude, don't make it bad
Take a sad song and make it better
Remember, to let her under your skin
Then you'll begin to make it better

into this

A7 - Hey Jude, don't make it bad
A3 - Take a sad

B6 - song and make it better
B6 - Remember to let her

C4 - into your heart
C4 - Then you can start

B5 - to make it better

More amazingly he maintains this punishing rhyme scheme perfectly through the three remaining verses

Hey Jude, don't be afraid
You were made
to go out and get her
The minute you let her
under your skin
Then you begin
to make it better

Hey Jude, don't let me down
You have found
her, now go and get her
Remember to let her
into your heart
Then you can start
to make it better

And there's a few other internal rhymes scattered around. The first verse contains a bonus rhyme

Hey Jude, don't make
it bad, Take
a sad song...

Beautiful. And we're not done yet. There's a few more things to say about lyrics...


* Paul 1974  Beatles Songwriting And Recording Database
** Paul Anthology (p.297)
*** John in David Sheff: All We Are Saying
**** Paul called the line “a stupid expression; it sounds like a parrot" Anthology (p.297)
***** John 1972 interview and All We Are Saying Beatles Songwriting And Recording Database 


Monday, 14 September 2015

10:47 Hey Jude (pt.1) – Mistakes And Myths In A Song Of Two Halves

Hey Jude was written by McCartney on the way to visit Lennon's newly-estranged family. He crooned his way though rehearsals at Abbey Road (as heard on Anthology 3) but recorded at Trident Studios in Soho, lured no doubt by the relative ease of doing orchestral overdubs on 8 track tape.

The recording itself was a comedy of errors - some cool, some not.

Ringo walked out to go to the toilet … but … I still thought he was in his drum booth. I started what was the actual take … and while I was doing it I suddenly felt Ringo tiptoeing past my back rather quickly, trying to get to his drums. And just as he got to his drums, 'boom boom boom', his timing was absolutely impeccable. So I think when those things happen, you have a little laugh and a light bulb goes off in your head and you think ... “this has got to be the take, what just happened was so magic!”

Paul McCartney in Many Years From Now (p.466)

At some point during the tracking someone shouted an expletive which remained undetected (or at least 'uncorrected') in the finished mix [at 2:58]. The usual suspects are

Paul McCartney hitting a wrong chord on the piano track and shouting “Wrong chord! F***in hell!”

John Lennon hitting a wrong chord on the acoustic guitar track and shouting “Wrong chord! F***in hell!”

John Lennon recording backing vocals finding the volume levels in his headphones way too loud shouting “Oh! F***in hell!”

According to John (via Geoff Emerick/John Smith) it was Paul* (in which case it was allowed to stand with their full knowledge like many other Beatles 'mistakes'). Personally I'd accuse Lennon in the studio with the guitar, though I can't hear anyone play a wrong chord and the mystery voice seems to have a yorkshire rather than scouse accent.

Problems with the equipment at Trident meant that once the tapes got back to Abbey Road for mixing they had to be heavily re-EQ'd by Geoff Emerick (the cymbals still sound particularly horrible at 0:52).

There's an urban myth that Paul used the same piano as Freddie Mercury used on Bohemian Rhapsody – he didn't**. And Walter Everett*** say the bass guitar was muted in the coda to make room for the 'bottom heavy orchestra', but Paul's bass track is clearly audible until 6:54, where it stops for 6 seconds and then comes back in.

Let's talk about that coda.

The song is a standard AABA structure (Ticket 26) with a huge C section on the end that doubles the running time. While it may sound like a remnant glued on from another song it was always part of Hey Jude and shares a number of musical elements with the A and B sections.

Imagine the song without the coda (and the 'better, better...' link). Perhaps the final verse winds down with Paul delivering the final line solo. What's left is a sweet little ballad. A great example, but one of many piano ballads by Paul McCartney, one of many gifted piano balladeers. But with the C section the song is lifted into a different league. The coda is literally a 'release', a huge, joyful, inarticulate yet cathartic, 'musical group hug'.

Repeated chord cycles of any length are rare throughout the entire Beatles catalogue****. and very long ones even rarer***** (as are fade outs) yet this slow moving four bar melody cycles round NINETEEN TIMES(!) which does become tiresome when the only real variations are George Martin's uncharacteristically bland orchestration and Paul's impression of Little Richard with Tourette's.

So why is it so long?

McCartney says they were having so much fun jamming they decided to keep going******. Others think that Paul had a point to prove, wanting to outdo other artists. Richard Harris had recently scored a hit with MacArthur Park which ran for 7:21. Composer Jimmy Webb (who visited Abbey Road around this time) said George Martin once told me the Beatles let Hey Jude run to over seven minutes because of MacArthur Park”. Webb's story is believable (the band were in the process of recording a really long album) but, if length was Paul's goal he would never have settled for Hey Jude falling 14 seconds short of the record. Whatever the motive was for the coda's length it probably wasn't an artistic consideration. How long it should be is up for grabs but the coda is 'too' long.

In future posts we'll look at one way to write meandering McCartney melodies and why the lyrics look terrible but are actually brilliant.


*Here There And Everywhere p. 262-3
**Queen did use this studio (and piano) but not for Bohemian Rhapsody. See the long thread here if you have time to kill
***The Beatles As Musicians Vol 2
**** See The Band Who Kept Expanding
***** I Want You (She's So Heavy) is a similar length and similarly structured
******But I can't for the life of me find the source. I am a bad researcher. BAD RESEARCHER!


Monday, 24 August 2015

10:46 Mother Nature's Son (pt 2) Droning On


Musically the thing that stands out about this track is how flowing the melody and chords are. We have an 8 bar verse* with almost no repetition in it.

D         G/D     | G/D      D
Bm      Bm/A  | Bm/G# E9
A D/A A   D/A | A D/A  A D/A
D         Dm7    | G/D      D

The melody likewise changes every two bars and yet feels all of a piece and meanders pleasantly without losing it's way. The prime reason for this cohesion is simply McCartney's innate gift for melody. But he does tie it together with a few tricks

the I – IV cycle crops up in the frequent D - G/D movement (bars 1, 2 and 8 and crops up again in the bridge section) and reappears (transposed) in the A - D/A in bars 6 -7.


Secondly, drones play a major part. Each two bar chord sequence is centered around a different note: D in bars 1-2 and 7-8 and A in bars 5-6. Bars 3 - 4 flip the concept upside down. The root (lowest) note moves but the chord above (Bm) remains static. But what about the final E9?

E9 is spelled E G# B D F#. Take a look at the top 3 notes. B D F# = Bm.

In the bridge the chords move freely with little repetition but again the entire progression is over a D drone.


Speaking of the bridge let's look at the structure.

Essentially we have an old school AABA structure (Ticket 26). Literally it's an aAABABA with the intro (a) constructed from a fragment of the verse (bars 3-4) and some noodling around the root chord. This is a primitive version of Ticket 4 (create a new section from material elsewhere in the song) something the Beatles do far more elegantly on tracks like She Loves You and Help. Arguably McCartney also does it here in the B section, as the song's bridge chord sequence appears to grow organically from the sequence he uses in bars 7-8 of the verse.

There's a strong contrast between the A and B sections (verse and bridge) – Ticket 5

A                                B
lower vocal range       higher vocal range
singing words             scat singing
3 drones                      one drone
no brass                      brass

More Chords

The melody is constructed almost entirely from notes in the underlying chords, but it doesn't get boring because the chords move so much (check out the chord per syllable movement on
“all day long I'm sit...” - Ticket 36) and because there are so many 'out of key' chords (Ticket 28) like the minor 4 (Ticket 8) at 1:28, and the D7 that closes the song (Ticket 18).

The chord progression at the end of the B section (1:21) - D Dmaj7 D7 G/D Gm/D D - contains a descending chromatic counter melody – D C# C B Bb A (Ticket 17), a device which crops up in songs like Something.

Another interesting chord movement is the the way the E9 leads us in the A - D/A section of the verse (0:30). The E leading to the A makes it sound like a key change, a movement know as the V of V (5 of 5)** which is a standard shift you hear in hymns like Thine Be the Glory Risen Conquering Son *** (leading into the “Angels in bright raiment line”)

Next we take a break from The White Album to take in a single – Hey Jude.

*The first and last verses are 10 bars extended by repeating the last two bars.

**The V chord in the Key of D is A major. And the V chord in the key of A is E major. Therefore in the key of D you could describe E major as the fifth chord of the fifth chord or V of V.

***The tune written by Handel comes from the aria See, The Conqu'ring Hero in the Judas Maccabaeus oratorio.