For No One
Composer(s) : Lennon and McCartney
Year : 1966
Chords/Tabs: For No One
Notes on "For No One" (FNO)
KEY B Major
FORM Verse -> Verse -> Bridge ->
Verse -> Verse (instrumental solo) -> Bridge ->
Verse -> Verse -> Bridge (w/complete ending)
GENERAL POINTS OF INTEREST
Style and Form
- As an example of Paul's interest in borrowing elements of the early
19th century 'Art Song,' I place this one on the Spectrum of Style
somewhere in between
"Eleanor Rigby" and
"Michelle." Its self-
conscious application of Classical techniques is almost but not
quite as extreme as the former, while the romantic feelings conjured
by its lyrics are at least as earnest yet infinitely more grown up
than the latter.
- The form is completely cyclic in the style of a multi-versed
art or folk song. The sequence of double verse and bridge is
thrice repeated without intro, outro, or any other intervening
Melody and Harmony
- The tune features a larger than average quotient of jumps and triadic
outlines compared to either scalewise movement or repeated notes.
- The bridges feature a textbookishly Classical pivot modulation to
the key of ii (c# minor). By contrast, the verses rely on the definitely
non classical flat-VII chord, instead of V, to establish the home key.
Ironically, the errant V chord makes its only appearances in the song
as part of the pivot home at bridge's end.
- The first phrase of the verse here makes use of a slowly walking
bass played out against static harmony that is interesting in
comparison to the same stretch in
"Here, There, and Everywhere."
The deep-structure chord progression in both songs is from I to
IV, though the walking bass in each case moves in the opposite
- The home key is the unusual choice of B Major; the only other Beatles
song I can think of in this key, off the top of my head, is
"One After 909."
A Riddle About the Recording
- A couple of Lewisohn's comments about this song in _Recording Sessions_
cannot be neatly reconciled without a little creative hypothesizing.
(A caveat: what follows here may not be news to you; I'm guilty of
not having checked everybody else's study of this song to see if
this has been noted yet by anyone else. However, if it hasn't, then
consider this a real scoop :-))
- The comments:
- Lewisohn says Paul's lead vocal was recorded with the tape
running slow in order to sound higher (and thinner) on playback.
- Alan Civil, the French horn player on the recording, says
that the tape he was asked to dub his part onto was "in
the cracks" between B-flat and B Major.
- Mr. Civil also describes his horn solo as a "middle range"
- Why they are difficult to reconcile:
- The finished song is mastered in, as close as I can tell,
a true B Major; it's not in the cracks.
- The French horn solo is way the hell up in (and even a bit
beyond) the conventional range of what a French horn can play,
especially with the medium-loud volume and easy nuance heard
in this performance.
- The creative hypothesis:
- The song was performed in B-Major.
- The artificially slow taping for Macca's vocal is what
was "in the cracks."
- It was onto the *latter* that Civil's horn solo was recorded.
- Furthermore, the horn solo was not merely speed-corrected
back up to B-Major, but actually *doubled* in speed on playback
in order to sound a full octave higher. If I am correct about
this, you might say that this horn solo is the brassy analog
to what Mr. Martin did with his piano solo on "In My Life."
- The instrumentation features two different sounding piano parts,
a strong, prominent bassline, restrained percussion, an ultra-sincere-
sounding single track lead vocal, and of course, that solo for French
- The arrangement is layered in typical Beatles fashon:
- The first two verses have only what sounds like an out-of-tune
"tack" piano (and turns out to be a clavichord, specially rented
for the ocassion) in chopping, even quarter notes, with some
kind of percussion that sounds like distorted, post-processed
- For the first bridge add tambourine and a heavy bassline
that sounds at least an octave or two below the rest of the
texture, and change the piano to a more normal sounding
instrument playing a Schubertian accompaniment figure of
rocking eighth notes.
- The heavy bass and the tambourine stick around for the rest
of the song, but the piano part follows the pattern established
- The horn part first appears in the second half of the second
verse pair, nicely "inlaid" within the arrangement by virtue
of its starting those two beats before the beginning of its
verse, and extending a few beats into the bridge which follows
it. For both purposes of unification and avoidance of foolish
consistency, the horn part is repeated for *part* of one of
the final verses, and again for just the last couple notes
of the final bridge.
- Although the verse is a standard 8 measures long, its two 4-measure
phrases are rhetorically subdivided into unequal segments by the
rhythmic flow and phrasing of the tune.
- The harmonic motion of the phrase moves from I to IV and back to I
by way of the modally-flavored flat-VII chord; compare and contrast
"Help!" The B Major chord is not exactly sustained through
the first four measures, but I think it would over-dignify what happens
in there by designating a different Roman numeral for each measure. IMHO,
the ear follows the large-scale motion from I to IV, and accepts the
intervening measures as connective tissue that is harmonically
chords:|B |- |- | |E |A |B |- |
inner voice: |G# |G-nat |F# | |
bass: |B |A# |G# |F# |E |A |B | |
B: I IV flat-VII I
- The section nicely climaxes at the start of measure 5, with a D#
in the tune creating a tangy Major 7th chord. The further move
to flat-VII with the chromatic descent buried within the texture
helps unwind the tension, and adds a slight nostalgic touch.
- The Baroque syncopations and triadic outlines of the horn part
nicely sympathize with the tune.
- The bridge is ten measures long and is built out of an 'AA' couplet
of four-measure phrases plus a two-measure bridge which sets up the
return of the next verse:
|c# |G# |c# |- |- |G# |c# |- |
c# i V i V i
|c# |F# |
B: ii V6 ->5
- Some folks will describe the harmony of m.10 as a I6/4 chord moving
to V. I prefer analyzing it as entirely the V chord, with the first
half of the measure being a double appoggiatura that resolves in
the second half. If you're unacustomed to think about music this
way this all sounds, no doubt, like a matter of hair-splitting
semantics. The difference though hinges on whether or not you hear
*root* motion between the two chords, and believe it or not, you'll
find various harmony textbooks rather split and vehement in the way
they hold on this point.
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS
- Savor these lyrics, for in them we get an unacustomedly undefended
glimpse though the aperture of Paul's soulful heart, as though it had
been dialted against his will by hypnosis or drug. Incidentally,
these lyrics also sport clever uses of changing perspective (e.g.
alternation of verses which speak of him, her, or both him & her) and
varied reprise (e.g. the different reference to "need" in the last
line of each verse except one, and the manner in which the final verse
leads off with the same opening line as the first.) -- but this, alone,
would not make them as special as they are.
- And yet, if you think these final lyrics are intense, you've got to take
a look at an earlier draft of them, as they are presented to us scrawled
*literally* on the back of a metal clapsed manila envelope (see _Things
We Said Today_, which further credits the John Cage 'Notations'
collection.) While the final lyrics are to be preferred on poetic
terms for their theme of bittersweet resignation, the earlier
draft shows a person nowhere yet near on the mend from heartbreak.
- Paul's original title for the song was "WHY DID IT DIE?" The first
two verses match the final song exactly but from that point on, you
cannot miss the rather Woody Allen-esque manner in which the hero beats
his head in denial against the brick wall of truth:
Why did it die ? -----------------
You'd like to know.
Cry and blame her.
You're too late
As you're deciding why the wrong one wins, the end begins
And you will lose her.
Why did it die ? -----------------
I'd like to know.
Try to save it.
You want her
You need (love) her
So make her see that you believe it may work and some day
You need each other.
- Working out this kind of thing in public surely was never Macca's
preference, no less strong suit. Yet, we see here how much the poor
fellow must have hurt for Ms. Jane Asher. My own rhetorical final
question is what, why, and wherefore, in the final lyrics, are these
tears that *she* cries for 'no one'? Wishful thinking, or mature,
"You won't forget her." 020595#99
Copyright (c) 1995 by Alan W. Pollack
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