All My Loving
Composer(s) : Lennon and McCartney
Chords/Tabs: All My Loving
Notes on "All My Loving" (AML)
Many people, Lewisohn among them, have described "All My Loving" (AML) as
Paul's "best, most complex piece of songwriting yet" as of the time of its
official recording in July '63. In spite of all praise however, the
song seems to have forever been eclipsed in popularity by the other really
big hits of the first American wave of Beatlemania, such as
"She Loves You"
and "I Want To
Hold Your Hand"
; not even AML's appearance as lead-off
number on the first Sullivan show could prevent it from happening.
Perhaps this loss of status is attributable to AML's relative lack of
or startling originality when compared to those other songs. Perhaps it's
only the matter of never having been issued as a single.
Either way, it's a shame to have happened, because there's quite a lot
admired in the song. A close look at its compositional details reveals it
to be very much a typical song of the second album, "With The Beatles" (WTB).
Especially as concerns form and harmonic vocabulary, AML represents a
advance in sophistication and technique over the first couple of singles and
the original cuts on the "Please Please Me" album.
The form is relatively compact, and the number of verse repetitions plus
the complete ending make it seem deceptively familiar:
Verse -> Verse -> Refrain -> Bridge -> Verse -> Refrain -> Outro
In actuality, the appearance a refrain section here is quite noteworthy,
especially in conjunction with the short bridge section for solo guitar.
Also special is the way in which the song opens in the midst of the action
without an intro, or even a downbeat from which the singer can grab his
opening cue note; somewhere on the studio tape I'll bet someone plays
the note 'A' for Paul just before they start. Clearly, the Boys
liked this trick sufficiently to reuse it from time to time; just browsing
among the two dozen-odd songs we've looked at in this series, there's
"She Loves You", "It Won't Be
Long", "Any Time At All", "No
Reply", and "You're Going To Lose That Girl".
In AML (as in "No Reply"), the abruptness
of the effect is enhanced by the first chord not being the tonic (i.e. I)
chord of the home key.
Hooks, Bridges, and Refrains
At risk of oversimplification, I'll postulate the following correlation
between the location of the hook in any given pop/rock song and the
of whether a "bridge" versus a "refrain" section to be found within it:
- If the hook is found in the verse section (typically in the first
or last phrase of the verse), then the middle section of the song
is a "bridge", by which I mean to describe a section whose primary
purpose is to provide contrast or respite from the music of the verse
section, typically implemented in part by harmonic movement away from
or back towards the home key.
- Otherwise, the hook will be found in a "refrain" section, and
even though such refrains are typically to be found in the same
formal location as the bridges referred to above, they differ in
feel from bridges in that they are much the focal point of the
song, the fulfillment of the verses, rather than a momentary
interlude away from them. As such, refrains tend to showcase
a catchy tune and are built from harmony which helps establish
a sense of key.
Without exception, the entire first crop of L&M originals up through the
"Please Please Me" album fits into the #1 "bridge" category; in general,
I believe a statistical study of the Beatles' output would reveal a long
term trend in this direction. But what's most curious to note for the
of our current study is the sudden burst of interest in the #2 refrain style
as evidenced from the songs of mid-late '63; in addition to our AML, you also
have "She Loves You", "It Won't Be
Long", "Little Child", and "I
Wanna Be Your Man".
(Parenthetically, it's amusing to note how the songs of Dylan, given his
folk roots, manifest the reverse trend. It has been pointed out that he
had never written a song with a true bridge section until his "Blonde On
Blonde" album, in songs like "I Want You" and "Just Like A Woman.")
But you'll remind me, won't you, that our current song doesn't quite fit
into either of my categories because it has *both* the refrain and bridge.
Indeed, I could (and probably should) have proposed the above categorization
scheme in the context of analyzing a more strictly category #2 type song,
such as almost any one of the others listed at the end of the previous
For the momentary sake of a placing AML in one of two pigeonholes, let
me suggest that in spirit, it belongs in the #2 category, and I'll accept
the burden of explaining below the motivation for its hybrid inclusion of
the bridge section.
Harmony and Rhythm
Though AML has virtually none of that Beatles-trademark sort of syncopation
or uneven phrase lengths, it does still convey an infectuously unperturbed
and self-confident vitality through the incessant fast motor triplets in the
rhythm guitar part, as well as through its rapid harmonic rhythm.
In contrast with the earlier songs we've studied thus far, this one
utilizes an unusually large number of different chords; we have the
appearance of five out of the possible total seven chords diatonically
available in the home key, plus a couple of other more adventurous ones as
well. The two unusual chords are D Major (the flat VII) and an exotic
augmented chord that is used in the bridge to smoothly mediate between
c# minor and E Major.
Beyond the large harmonic vocabulary per se, the rate at which the chords
change borders on the hyperactive. There is a different chord in virtually
every measure of the piece, and in no case is any chord sustained for
more than two measures in a row; contrast this back with what we saw
last time in ISHST.
The verse is sixteen measures long and is divided into two musically
parallel eight-measure phrases, the former of which is left harmonically open
with its ending on the V chord, while the latter one is closed with its
ending on the tonic:
|f# |B |E |c# |A |f# |D |B ||
E: ii V I vi IV ii flat VII V
|f# |B |E |c# |A |B |E |- ||
ii V I vi IV V I
There are a number of noteworthy details in both the music and the
arrangement. Musically, we have the following:
- Each of the couplets boasts a lovely melodic arch in which the peak
is asymmetrically placed (measures 3 and 11), making for an early climax
and a liesurely winding down.
- The general pause in measure 16 is the only place in the song where
total silence reigns for at least a single heartbeat. It provides both some
welcome respite from the otherwise non-stop motion of the song, as well
as a tactical resetting of the stage the start of the next verse.
- In place of what you might expect as the more traditional harmonic
circle of fifths, the first phrase presents a chain of downward *third*-wise
chord changes running from measures 3 - 8.
- The D Major chord in measure 7 demonstrates an unusual application
of the so-called "flat VII" chord. Typically, we've seen such chords behave
either as pseudo dominants (as in the I-VII-I progression at the beginning of
"We Can Work It Out", or as a sort of "IV-of-IV",
as seen in the second-half jam section of "Hey Jude.")
Here in AML, this flat VII behaves like a
connecting chord between the ii and V chords, the motivation for which
appears to the ear as a result of the arpeggio outline of the root movement
in the bass and the upward chromatic movement of an inner line from c#->d->d#
over the course of measures 6 - 8. Though this use of the flat VII is
definitely less widely found than the other two I listed, it is far from
unprecedented, especially in the songs of the Beatles; you'd almost never
make the free association without a hint because the two contexts are so
different, but (now, dig this) the same flat VII gambit used here in AML
appears all over again as one of the signature devices of no less familiar
a song than "Help!"
In terms of the arrangement:
- Though its not a particularly fussy vocal arrangement, they did take the
trouble to double track Paul in the first two verses while saving a vocal
duet in parallel thirds (for Paul, singing with himself again) in the final
verse. As a further variation, we're given the nice contrast of Paul
appearing *single* tracked in the refrain with George and John sustaining
a backing harmony behind him on the phoneme "oooh".
- The bassline suggests a pereptual motion of its own, albeit a much slower
one than found in the triplets of the guitar parts. You can't always make
out the specific notes in the bass, but the use of a downward walking scale
covering the nine notes all the way from F# down to low E more than an octave
below is quite stunning, and to our delight, it recurs every verse, in
measures 1 -3 and 9 - 11.
This section is eight measures long and built out of two parallel
iterations of the following 4-measure phrase:
|c# |C augmented |E |- ||
vi ?? root ?? I
Note how the melodic material of this section is craftily taken in bits
and pieces from that of the verse.
The most novel detail of the song is to be found in that augmented chord of
the second measure. In the context of a song whose mood and vocabulary
are otherwise so impeturbable, this slightly dissonant chord of obscure
harmonic origin provides an effective, yet endlessly subtle touch of
anxiety that belies the hero's apparent self assuredness.
In "theoretical" terms, such an augmented chord is said to not have a root
at all, but is rather the incidental byproduct of melodic motion by
an inner voice of the harmonic texture; in this case, from C# -> C natural
-> B; what my jazz-trained friend calls a "line cliche." The fact that it
is sustained for a full measure, essentially just as long as any other chord
in the song, is what particularly draws your attention to it.
Not all augmented chords are necessarily as rootless as this one. For
contrast, see the one at the end of the bridge of "From
Me To You", which is arguably an inflection of the V chord; a G#5.
In spite of my proposed rules above regarding the paradigmatic tendency
refrain sections to clearly establish the home key, this one does it in only
elliptical terms by relying on the weak vi-I progression; i.e., "weak" in
comparison to the more traditional textbook cadences of V-I or IV-I perhaps,
but a strong favorite of the Boys starting with "Misery"
and going through "From Me To You", not to mention
(again) "It Won't Be Long", "All
I've Got To Do", and "Not A Second Time." I
told you AML is rather archtypically
second-album in style, didn't I ?
In contrast to both verse and refrain sections, this little bridge is
ironically the most diatonically stable and harmonically slow moving
spot in the entire song, though it's worth noting that it *too* begins with
a chord that is *not* I!
|A |- |E |- ||f# |B |E |- ||
IV I ii V I
Although there are no new chords used in this section, the specific choice
of chord progression is new material strictly speaking. What Tony Barrow
described as George's "intriguing" solo is in a style that is clearly not
improvised. The latter is no slam on George, but rather a designation of
the content of his solo as a "permanently composed" part of the arrangement.
In other words, you expect to hear it the same way every time, and would
likely be thrown or otherwise disappointed a tad to listen to some alternate
version where it's different; and I dare you to find such a one, too!
Alright now, so why did they need a bridge as well as a refrain here ?
Just to sharpen the question, consider that if it was to showcase the
guitar solo, they just as easily could have done that, as is so common
in other songs, by placing the solo over a musical repeat of either the
refrain or the verse; so why the need for original material ?
My own pet theory is that there is something about the specific content
of the refrain and its relationship to the verse section that creates
a small compositional problem which this bridge comes along to fix. I
can imagine it having been composed very late in the game only after
they had been playing the song without it for a while, feeling inarticulately
uncomfortable about something just not being right. I also base this theory
on an intuitive feeling that it's hard to imagine the song with only the
bridge and *no* refrain. Play this option through your head and
see what I mean -- without the refrain, there's an insufficient
presence of hook in the song, and though the bridge by itself provides
some contrast to the verses, it's too short as is, and if you double
its length, then I think its contrast with the verse is no longer sufficient.
But now run the opposite experiment -- play the song out as is but
omit the bridge. My reaction is that the refrain does not sufficiently
fulfill the functional requirements of true refrain-hood as outlined
in my earlier proposal; while it certainly throws a big hook at us,
it does not provide a strong sense of harmonic confirmation, nor does
it provide much contrast of melody or texture, or harmonic pace from
that of the verses.
The bridge for all its modest proportions provides everything that the
refrain is lacking. The harmony neatly converges on the home key with
simple chord choices, the vocal part is given a rest, and perhaps most
subtle-yet-critical, the slowing of the harmonic rhythm, however slightly,
provides some well needed breathing space.
I think the final point helps explain why new material is needed
here; i.e., the guitar solo section would not be as effective if it
had been placed over a repetition of either the refrain or verse because
both those other sections are harmonically more active.
This coda is actually an extension of the second refrain and it squeezes
a standard triple repeat of the final phrase of the lyrics into its
eight measures which are built from a repeat of the following 4-measure
|c# |- |E |- ||
Note the use again of the vi-I progression, and how, in the interest of
what I often describe as an avoidance of foolish, rote consistency, the
augmented gambit between vi and I is *not* used. Also note how the single
use of vocal falsetto is saved here for the very end, as a small treat.
Though I've kept saying throughout this article that AML is very much
a typical song of the "With The Beatles" album in general, you probably
noticed by now that "It Won't Be Long"
keeps showing up
again and again. In fact, AML and IWBL share an uncanny number of features
- the home key of E Major (granted, there are many others from this period)
- lyrics that deal with the theme of "absence and return"
- a vocal opening "in medias res"
- prominent use of the vi->I progression
- an augmented chord that is motivated by chromatic linear motion
- the use of a refrain *and* a bridge
- even a little solo for bass or low strings of the lead guitar
In an earlier pair of "Notes" on "She Said She
Said" and "Good Day Sunshine"
I noted a similar laundry list of uncanny parallels between those two songs,
suggesting perhaps that the friendly competition between John and Paul may
have manifested itself at times in their electing to write separate songs
starting from a set of common, abstract constraints. Okay, so maybe it
wasn't literally a contest, but I imagine them often trading ideas and
comparing notes to the extent that this sort of compositional
cross-pollenation would have been inevitable. Did you ever share private
idiosyncratic phrases with a friend to the extreme where eventually, neither
of you could remember which one of you coined the phrase in the first place ?
But moving beyond speculation, may I suggest in the case of IWBL and AML,
that it is specifically when the common denominators between two songs are
so numerous that, ironically, the temperamental *differences* between them
(and perhaps their individual composers) become most apparent. Take for
example here, the way the lyrics of these two songs deal with the theme
of lovers separated yet anticipating the immediate future:
- In IWBL, John speaks of a painful separation he has endured when *she*
left him, and he now in the present looks forward to a joyful reunion
with her, while filled with what sounds like repentence for having caused
her to leave in the first place.
- In contrast, AML is written entirely in the present and future tense;
if you can pardon my blasphemy, you might say it's a love that has no
past. Here, it is *he* who will be doing the leaving and we have no reason
to suspect there is anything more than a personal responsibility to be
somewhere else which motivates the separation; no hurt, no blame. He
earnestly promises to be faithful and muses aloud about having to adjust
his lovelife to the realm of fantasy for the duration, but beyond this,
any hint of what he's really feeling inside is left to the imagination
and the musical subtext, tinged as it is with that small hint of anxiety.
It's difficult to navigate such a contrast without taking sides or
to be making a judgment. IMHO, both songs are musically, artistically
valid. Maintaining a personal preference for one over the other doesn't
necessarily mean the other isn't worthwhile or that it isn't an appropriate
favorite choice for someone else. The very least you can say is that both
artists, over the long run, as long as they were being sincere and doing
their best work, were amazingly consistent and true to their respective
visions. In fact, if you want to find a real soulmate for AML, perhaps
look to "Things We Said Today."
Alan (firstname.lastname@example.org *OR* uunet!huxley!awp)
A Personal Postscript
I really do try to not overly waste bandwidth on dragging everything down
to me own level ("it's immature, son"), but it's not without some pride that
I present this 'Note' as a sort of Second Anniversary Edition of the series.
I posted my first r.m.b. 'Note' here precisely two years ago today, only
after much equivocating and even then, with great trepedation; only my
email correspondents know just how much. It's those same people too
who know the depth of the impact on my life in general that doing this
series has had. But I'll spare you the maudlin-yet-exciting autobiographical
details and all that other David Copperfield sort of crap :-).
For now, I hope for the strength and insight (not to mention the 'net'
needed to continue the series indefinitely. And I also want to thank
both the inner circle of r.m.b. regulars, some of whom have become my
electronically serious, permanent friends over time, as well as all the
other folks who have from time to time dropped me just a line or two of kind
words about the series. At this point, I wouldn't be doing all this without
the help of you all, so Thanks!
"When was the last time you gave a girl a pink-edged daisy ? When did you
last embarass a sheila wid your cool appraising stare ?" 053191#27
Copyright (c) 1991 by Alan W. Pollack
All Rights Reserved
This article may be reproduced, retransmitted, redistributed and
otherwise propagated at will, provided that this notice remains
intact and in place.
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(c) 2023 Serge Girard