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Can't Buy Me Love

Composer(s) : Lennon and McCartney
Year : 1964

Chords/Tabs: Can't Buy Me Love

Notes on "Can't Buy Me Love" (CBML)

KEY C Major


FORM Intro -> Verse -> Verse -> Refrain -> Verse -> Verse (guitar solo) -> Refrain -> Verse -> Outro (complete ending)


Style and Form

- We have here a very standard long form with two refrain-like bridges separated by two verse sections, one of which contains a guitar solo. However the combination within the same song of a verse section so traditionally bluesy with a refrain/intro/outro that is equally so *non* bluesy is far from routine and makes this number truly ground-breaking in its own quiet way.

Harmony and Melody

- The verse section uses only the standard three chords of the 12-bar blues form: I, IV and V (C, F, and G Major respectively). Its melody strictly uses flat thirds and sevenths (notes E- and B-flat) and this makes for similarly traditional-blues cross-relations with the E- and B-naturals of the chords below it.

- By contrast, the intro/outro heavily uses the iii and vi chords (e and a minor), and its melody strictly employs the diatonic third of E-natural, both of which connote something other than straight-up blues. Yet, the real kicker comes in the refrain where these two modally different worlds of the verse and intro/outro are starkly contrasted directly with each other in alternation.


- The melodic line plays off a virtually continual stream of syncopation against the steady four-in-the-bar jazz beat of the accompaniment. The sharp angularity of this is somewhat softened by the effect of Paul's solo vocal being double-tracked from end to end.

- George's guitar solo makes an uncanny first impression of genuinely smooth improvisation, but hearing the series of broadcast and live performances of this song will convince you that it was, alas, practised by rote before hand.

- The use of sizzling cymbals everywhere in the song *except* the intro and outro is a typical Beatles example of texture used for purposes of formal articulation.



- We've seen quite a number of early Beatles songs with 'in medias res' of openings (e.g. "All My Loving" and "She Loves You" among others) but this one is one of the most audacious, with the true identity of the home key not becoming clear until close to the end of the intro.

- The section is an unsual six measures long. Under more tritely ordinary circumstances it would actually be a full eight measures (try tacking two measures of C Major onto the end of it before starting the verse -- in fact this is exactly what happens in the outro) but, again in somewhat of a trademark move of theirs, this intro is ellided with (or interrupted by) the beginning of the verse:

Melody:      CEG|G	|E	|G	|E   CEG|G      |E      ||(verse)
Chords: 	|e	|a	|e	|a	|d	|G	||C
     C:		 iii     vi      iii     vi      ii      V        I

- Paradoxically, the primary melodic notes outline the C Major home-key triad almost as slavishly as might a bugle call, while in contrast, all the chords up until the G in measure 6 are all minor. Also note how the melodic "logic" of the triadic outline lets you readily accept those jazzy but otherwise "gratuitously" dissonant 11th and 13th chords on d and G respectively.


- The verse sections are all strict 12-bar blues frames. The one slightly unusual detail is in the re-appearance of the I chord being delayed until the final measure instead of coming back, as is more typical, in m. 11:

	m. 1
	|C	|-	|-	|-	|

	m. 5
	|F	|-	|C	|-	|
	 IV		 I

	m. 9
	|G	|F	|-	|C	|
	 V	 IV		 I

- In addition to the blue-note cross relations (e.g. the melodic E-flat against the E-natural of the C Major chord in m. 1), there are several appoggiaturas which spice up the otherwise simply chords chords. Examples include 'D' on the downbeat of m. 2 and 6, the G on the downbeat of m. 5 and 1.

- The halting of the ensemble for an instant right after the downbeat of m. 10 (as in "I don't care too [Brrr-UMP!] much for money") is crisply executed, and a great example of the sometimes eloquent power of silence; the better to listen to your heart beating :-).


- The refrain is very similar to the intro, but is a more square eight measures long, and parses neatly into four brief 2-measure phrases. The words make a poetic 'ab-ac' pattern that is echoed by the music itself:

Melody:      CEG|G	|E	||E-flat D|C    CGE|
Chords: 	|e	|a	||C       |-
     C:		 iii     vi       I

		|G	|E   	||D   F  |G      ||(next verse)
		|e	|a	||d	 |G	 ||C
		 iii     vi       ii      V        I

- The stark interjection of those bluesy E-flats in measure three amidst the cheerier E-naturals both earlier and later in the section is perhaps the most distinctive detail of the entire song.

Guitar Solo

- This is one of George's great early solos and I'd place it right up there with the one in "Till There Was You" in terms of being understatedly just right for the context. I especially like the momentary lapse into a paraphrase of the tune in measure 9.

- In between the preceding verse and the beginning of this section is inserted an unnecessary additional measure which serves to better highlight the commencement of the solo as well as to throw you off guard just a bit. This is sort of a reverse variation of the ellision gambit.


- As mentioned above, this section is identical to the intro except that it includes the additional two measures of C Major that were lopped off at the beginning by the start of the first verse.


- The appearance of *any* amount of straight-blues in a Beatles original is noteworthy in and of itself. A recurring theme in our studies has been John&Paul's predeliction for bluesy cover material, going back all the way to the Quarrymen era, made ironic by the virtual dearth of such material in their canonical songbook; you'll find that the number of 12 bar Beatles originals can be counted one less than the fingers of two hands.

- In this light the timing of CBML shouldn't seem a total surprise, given both that its B-side, "You Can't Do That", coincidentally happens to also be largely 12-bar in form, and that the next recording released in England would be the "Long Tall Sally" EP, a four-song collection three quarters of which is covers of 12-bar hits made famous by blues-meisters Richard, Williams, and Perkins.

- What's much more significant though about CBML is how, in context of early '64, it points to the future at least as much as IWTHYH sums up the past. CBML contains in its music a fusion of loosely related styles, and in its lyrics, the transmutation from platitude to poetry of a certain commonplace re: love and money; both of which innovations subtly prophecy particularly fertile trends of Beatles experimentalism to come years hence.

- As with many things in life and love, I've often found it rather awesome and uncanny to look back later and discover just how early were sown the seeds of some great harvest.

Alan ( *OR* uunet!huxley!awp)

"Sorry if we hurt your field, Mister" 010592#45
--- H B D

Copyright (c) 1992 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.
It annoyed Paul when critics and fans suggested the song was about a sex worker. "You can put any interpretation you want on anything, but when someone suggests that "Can't Buy Me Love" is about a prostitute, I draw the line," Paul said. While in Paris, the Beatles stayed at the five-star George V hotel and had an upright piano moved into one of their suites so that songwriting could continue. It was here that Paul wrote "Can't Buy Me Love". The song was written under the pressure of the success achieved by "I Want to Hold Your Hand", which had just reached number one in America. When George Martin first heard "Can't Buy Me Love", he felt that the song needed changing. "I thought that we really needed a tag for the song's ending, and a tag for the beginning; a kind of intro," Martin said. "So I took the first two lines of the chorus and changed the ending, and said 'Let's just have these lines, and by altering the second phrase we can get back into the verse pretty quickly.'" And they said: "That's not a bad idea, we'll do it that way". The song's verse is a twelve-bar blues in structure, a formula that the Beatles seldom applied to their own material.

Ook op A Hard Day's Night:

ChordsNotes On
A Hard Day's Night A Hard Day's Night
I Should Have Known Better I Should Have Known Better
If I Fell If I Fell
I'm Happy Just to Dance With You I'm Happy Just to Dance With You
And I Love Her And I Love Her
Tell Me Why Tell Me Why
Can't Buy Me Love Can't Buy Me Love
Any Time at All Any Time at All
I'll Cry Instead I'll Cry Instead
Things We Said Today Things We Said Today
When I Get Home When I Get Home
You Can't Do That You Can't Do That
I'll Be Back I'll Be Back

Ook op 1962-1966:

ChordsNotes On
Love Me Do Love Me Do
Please Please Me Please Please Me
From Me to You From Me to You
She Loves You She Loves You
I Want to Hold Your Hand I Want to Hold Your Hand
All My Loving All My Loving
Can't Buy Me Love Can't Buy Me Love
A Hard Day's Night A Hard Day's Night
And I Love Her And I Love Her
Eight Days a Week Eight Days a Week
I Feel Fine I Feel Fine
Ticket to Ride Ticket to Ride
Yesterday Yesterday
Help! Help!
You've Got to Hide Your Love Away You've Got to Hide Your Love Away
We Can Work It Out We Can Work It Out
Day Tripper Day Tripper
Drive My Car Drive My Car
Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)
Nowhere Man Nowhere Man
Michelle Michelle
In My Life In My Life
Girl Girl
Paperback Writer Paperback Writer
Eleanor Rigby Eleanor Rigby
Yellow Submarine Yellow Submarine

Ook op Live At The BBC:

ChordsNotes On
Beatle Greetings (speech) 
From Us To You 
Riding On A Bus (speech) 
I Got A Woman 
Too Much Monkey Business 
Keep Your Hands Off My Baby 
I'll Be On My Way 
Young Blood 
A Shot Of Rhythm And Blues 
Sure To Fall 
Some Other Guy 
Thank You Girl Thank You Girl
Sha La La La La! (speech) 
Baby It's You Baby It's You
That's All Right (mama) 
Soldier Of Love 
A Little Rhyme (speech) 
I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Cry (over You) 
Crying, Waiting, Hoping 
Dear Wack! (speech) 
You've Really Got a Hold on Me You've Really Got a Hold on Me
To Know Her Is To Love Her 
A Taste of Honey A Taste of Honey
Long Tall Sally Long Tall Sally
I Saw Her Standing There I Saw Her Standing There
The Honeymoon Song 
Johnny B. Goode 
Memphis, Tennessee 
Can't Buy Me Love Can't Buy Me Love
From Fluff To You (speech) 
Till There Was You Till There Was You
Crinsk Dee Night 
A Hard Day's Night A Hard Day's Night
Have A Banana! 
I Wanna Be Your Man I Wanna Be Your Man
Just A Rumour 
Roll over Beethoven Roll over Beethoven
All My Loving All My Loving
Things We Said Today Things We Said Today
She's a Woman She's a Woman
Sweet Little Sixteen 
Lonesome Tears In My Eyes 
Nothin' Shakin' 
The Hippy Hippy Shake 
Glad All Over 
I Just Don't Understand 
So How Come (no One Loves Me) 
I Feel Fine I Feel Fine
I'm a Loser I'm a Loser
Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby
Rock & Roll Music Rock & Roll Music
Ticket to Ride Ticket to Ride
Dizzy Miss Lizzy Dizzy Miss Lizzy
Kansas City-Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey! [Medley] Kansas City-Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey! [Medley]
Set Fire To That Lot! 
Matchbox Matchbox
I Forgot To Remember To Forget 
Love These Goon Shows! 
I Got To Find My Baby 
Ooh! My Soul 
Ooh! My Arms 
Don't Ever Change 
Slow Down Slow Down
Honey Don't Honey Don't
Love Me Do Love Me Do

Ook op 1:

ChordsNotes On
Love Me Do Love Me Do
From Me to You From Me to You
She Loves You She Loves You
I Want to Hold Your Hand I Want to Hold Your Hand
Can't Buy Me Love Can't Buy Me Love
A Hard Day's Night A Hard Day's Night
I Feel Fine I Feel Fine
Eight Days a Week Eight Days a Week
Ticket to Ride Ticket to Ride
Help! Help!
Yesterday Yesterday
Day Tripper Day Tripper
We Can Work It Out We Can Work It Out
Paperback Writer Paperback Writer
Yellow Submarine Yellow Submarine
Eleanor Rigby Eleanor Rigby
Penny Lane Penny Lane
All You Need Is Love All You Need Is Love
Hello Goodbye Hello Goodbye
Lady Madonna Lady Madonna
Hey Jude Hey Jude
Get Back Get Back
The Ballad of John and Yoko The Ballad of John and Yoko
Something Something
Come Together Come Together
Let It Be Let It Be
The Long and Winding Road The Long and Winding Road

(c) 2024 Serge Girard