Cry Baby Cry
Composer(s) : Lennon and McCartney
Chords/Tabs: Cry Baby Cry
Notes on "Cry Baby Cry" (CBC)
KEY G Major/e minor
------- 4x -----
FORM Refrain -> Verse -> Refrain -> Refrain -> Outro w/complete ending
GENERAL POINTS OF INTEREST
Style and Form
- In a world where the archetypal lyrics for a lullaby are "hush little
baby, don't you cry," John's title phrase here combined with "she's old
enough to know better" conjures up some kind of perverse Anti Lullaby.
- The fancifully surreal nursery rhyme verses are striking themselves,
with their alternating King/Queens and Duchess/Duke. When the pattern
is broken in the final verse you wonder if he's avoiding foolish
consistency, or like Paul in
"What You're Doing," he just ran out
of options. But in any event, it's the unexplained and ambiguous,
just-this-side-of-nasty needling of the refrain that fascinates you
in spite of yourself. Is John singing the song about about "mother"
in 3rd person, or is he singing in the first person, in which case
the offending line should be taken as self-mocking?
- We have a standard folksong form with an introductory refrain. The
procedings are enlivened by the the prevalent number of elisions between
sections. Imagine how flat and four-square it would sound without them.
Melody and Harmony
- The tune is primarily pentatonic (G,A,B,D,E) with a touch of the
blue 3rd in the little instrumental interlude that punctuates the
- The song maintains a vascillating ambiguity as regards home key
between G Major and its relative minor key of e. On the one hand,
it's an effect very similar to what we saw in the previous
Truffle," but if you compare them side by side you'll be astonished
just how differently two individuals can solve the same puzzle at
the detailed level.
- John's simple acoustic strumming is at the heart of the backing
track, though drums, bass, piano, organ, accordian (?) and lead
guitar all get in the act before its over.
- Generally speaking, the texture is thickened and the mood intensified
during the first half of the song and backs off slightly during the
second half. Trace it on your own; you're old enough to do so :-)
- The arrangement contains two examples of word painting of an obvious
sort you don't often find in the Beatles: the piano playing Queen and
the politely tittering Duchess.
- The refrain is eight measures long with two loosely parallel phrases
of equal length:
|G |a |F |G |
G: I ii flat-VII I I
|e |A |F |G |
vi V-of-V flat-VII I
- The home key is established by the modal flat-VII cadence; there's not
V chord to be found in the entire song.
- Not only does flat-VII create an implied cross relation with the F# of
the key signature, but the use of an A Major chord in the second phrase
creates an explicit cross relation (C#/C natural) with the flat-VII that
- The introductory refrain ends on an e minor chord, and elides with
the start of the first verse.
- The verse is 12 measures long and consists of the same 6 measure
phrase repeated twice:
--------------------- 2X -----------------------
chords |e |- |- |- |Cb7 |G |
bassline |E |Eb |D |Db |C |G |
vi IV I
- It might be more accurate to call it a 4 measure phrase followed each
time by a dramatic two measure flourish in the accompaniment. The latter
effect exudes Anti Lullaby values that are at least as strong the ones
to be found in the lyrics of the refrain.
- Yet another cross relation is created by the blue Bb of the C7 chord
with the B natural of the G chord that follows.
- In every case, the 12th measure of the verse elides with the first
measure of the following refrain.
- The chromatically descending bassline in the first four measures of
this section is a worthy object lesson where Roman numerals for the
resulting chords are NOT appropriate. Yes, we have (in sequence):
e minor, Eb augmented, G major in 6/4 position, and a half-diminished
7th chord on D flat but the four chords make no harmonically significant
"progression." If the e minor chord moved to C Major in the course of
a single measure where the desceending bassline unfolded more quickly,
you'd never dream of talking chord changes here. What makes it a
special suspenseful effect in this case is the time scale; the extent
to which each chord is prolonged for a complete measure.
- The outro contains a classic three-times-you're-out repeat of the
- The elision technique is further exploited by having the end of the
first two repeats overlap with the first measure of the second and
- Enigmatically, of course, the song ends on an e minor chord, instead
of G Major which has otherwise dominated the song. It sounds to my ears,
too, like John leaves the tune hanging with an unsual 4th ('A') suspended
over the final chord.
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS
- As usual, there's what to learn from a check of the outtake and
demo versions in spite of the similarity of both of them to the
- The outtake on A3 handles the introductory refrain differently, with
a couple measures of guitar vamping, and John singing only 50% of the
lyrics rather than the 75% you're used to. The musical text is otherwise
identical, and the arrangement is slightly plainer in a way that makes
you appreciate all the more so the value added by the small details.
- The demo omits the intro and starts right off with the first verse;
an uncanny parallel with the home demos and earliest studio take of
"Strawberry Fields Forever."
For the outro, John attempts to shift to
a 3/4 waltz beat for the last couple refrains. It's an effect realized
with only partial success in this performance but intruiging nevertheless
in terms of intimations about what might have been.
"Sometimes I think he enjoys seeing me suffer." 072098#154
Copyright (c) 1998 by Alan W. Pollack
All Rights Reserved
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