Get Back is a songwriting master class in building something interesting out of a few very simple elements. But that doesn't mean it doesn't have any weak points. Get Back suffers mildly from the same lyrical mix of deliberate vagueness and slap-it-together-itis that ruins She Came In Through The Bathroom Window. It's not hall of shame material, it's fun, in a meaningless way (I don't subscribe to the 'it's about Linda's ex-husband' conspiracy theories), but
- Why couldn't JoJo's loner lifestyle continue? What happened?
- Why was California a bad idea?
- Why does Loretta suffer such extreme gender confusion?
- Why don't the other girls like her/him?
- Did Jo Jo and Loretta meet? What happened next?
It's quite possible the answer to all these questions is “who cares!” but that's not the response any of us should be looking to get from our lyrics. The fact that Paul gets away (quite spectacularly) with such shoddiness shouldn't encourage us to emulate him here.
That said there's bags of 'ticket to write' ideas that are worth emulating
- Ticket 3 – Make everything a hook, like Lennon's chorus guitar riff, a rare example of a good Lennon lead, that almost makes up for his abysmal slide on For You Blue.
- Ticket 4 – Build the intro from another section of the song which in Get Back is a minimalist take on the chorus.
- Ticket 5 – Contrast between the melodies. Here the verse is busy and starting on the 1st beat and the chorus is sparse and starts on the '4'.
- Ticket 7 – Avoid using the I, IV and V chord early on. McCartney doesn't just avoid overusing them, he never uses the V (E major) at all. This is a result of writing in the mixolydian mode for sure, but the 'replacement' major chord (G) barely gets a look in too. All of which keep the song fresh.
- Ticket 9 – Reuse melody fragments. The F# G of “Get back” may be a measly two notes but they appear on the same beat over the same chord in “Loretta MarTIN THOUGHT” part of the verse.
- Ticket 13 - Make the vocals stay on non-chord tone like the ever present b7 (G).
- Ticket 18 – Finish on a single ringing chord.
- Ticket 22 - Use the bluesy b3 in the vocal line you once belo - o – ng (C – B – A).
- Ticket 23 – Use fewer words (like a seven word chorus).
- Ticket 24 – Use parallel lyrical (thought he was a loner/thought she was a woman).
- Ticket 25 – Transplant stock musical progressions into other genres – like the A5 A6 blues shuffle in a non 12 bar non blues. (David Bowie's Suffragette City is another good one).
- Ticket 27 – Have your musical high point (F# and G) match your key lyrics (Get Back)
- Ticket 50 – Keep things unsettled by staying off the root note in your melody.
Tune in next time. Please, don't let me down...