Hold Me Tight
Composer(s) : Lennon and McCartney
Year : 1963
Chords/Tabs: Hold Me Tight
Notes on "Hold Me Tight" (HMT)
KEY F Major
FORM Intro -> Verse -> Verse -> Bridge -> Verse -> Bridge ->
Verse -> Outro (complete ending)
GENERAL POINTS OF INTEREST
Style and Form
- This one's a good example of the standard two-bridge-but-no-solo formal
model, and it's in the unusual key choice for the Beatles of F Major.
And that's where the easy parts of it end. Granted, it has some mixed
reputation among even the serious fans, and none other than Paul Himself
has been known to vaguely shrug it off as just a "work song." But, no
matter, there is no escaping its technical sophistication. Consider the
following three items for starters, and keep in mind we're not even
getting anywhere near the finer details yet:
- Chromatic "line cliches" are hidden throughout the song within the
inner voices of the chord changes, sewn between the layers of fabric,
as it were, to an extent that the device provides structure and
unification, not just decoration.
- The rhythm track features the similarly widespread use of an ostinato
figure in the bass and guitar parts; i.e., the same arpeggiated riff
transposed and repeated for many of the chord changes.
- In between the end of the second verse and the beginning of the bridge
there is a simultaneously melodic, verbal, and metric elision in which
the measure containing word "you" serves as a pivot.
- I don't know if it's just a side-effect of the growing number of songs
in the Beatles canon we've already covered in this series, or if HMT
*really is* that stylistically resonant, but I am struck by the extent
to which it free-associates with other Lennon/McCartney songs. We observed
widespread use of chromatic line cliches in "You Won't See Me" (Note #9),
phrasing elisions in "It Won't Be Long" and "Any Time At All", and an
ostinato bassline in "Day Tripper" and (eventually will when we get up
to) "Lady Madonna." However, I believe that the most important resonance
for HMT is in its affinity with the emotional push-pull of "Please Please
Me" (PPM). Even though HMT does not contain the same level of expository
high drama as the latter song, it does seem to describe a similar tableau
of hot pursuit at the brink.
- The song is unrelievedly in the key of F Major. Though only seven different
chords are used throughout, three of them (almost half the budget) are
altered, or borrowed ones, not occurring naturally in the home key.
In order of appearance these are V-of-V (G), minor iv (B flat minor), and
flat III (A flat). By now we've become quite used to seeing examples of
the first two of these chords in Beatles songs.
- But the last one, "flat III", is a bit more rare and dramatic in sound.
In theoretical terms, it's actually not quite as remote a neighbor to
the home key as may appear at first glance. The textbooks describe it
as the relative Major to the parallel minor -- imagine the home key
being f minor instead of F Major and you'll see what I mean. In
context of the Beatles, we've seen this one used before in the bridge
section of "You're Going To Lose That Girl" and as part of a little
chord stream in the verse section of PPM. In any event, the special
dramatic flavor of this chord is manifested in the way that, when
juxtaposed with the I chord, we hear an implied melodic wavering
between the Major/minor third degree of the scale; in our song which
is in F Major, we're talking about the notes A flat and A natural.
- The arrangement has an overall thick sound with husky sounding guitars,
lots of cymbal sizzle, and hand claps.
- Paul gets to sing the lead vocal solo, while John and George provide a
backing part that features a tricky passage of syncopated antiphony with
the lead in the third phrase of the verses. The same sloppiness of
execution which brought take 22 of the song to a rapid halt may also
be heard on the finished track for an instant during the third verse.
- The backing vocals sound discordant to the extent that they are placed
very close to each other pitch-wise, and for John especially, are high
up in the voice range. This is actually a widespread trademark device
of the group and perhaps the reason why some react to it *here* with
less than their usual enthusiasm is because the combination of John
with George in this context is just not as euphonious as it is with
- And of course, there is the infamously repeated verbal collision every
time the phrase "it feels so right so/now" appears. Though there are
several other such mistakes littered throughout the official recordings,
I tend to think of this as being not so much an error as what I can only
surmise was an intentional albeit misguided experiment.
- The intro is only two measures long yet it manages to quickly establish
the key, expose the ostinato guitar figure, and introduce what emerges
over the course of the song as one of its hooks, the phrase "it feels so
- The whole thing sounds deceptively similar to the way the end of the
bridge sections lead back around into the verses which follow them. However,
a variation in the rhythmic emphasis of the backing track here makes for
a subtle difference.
- The verse is sixteen measures long and divides up into three phrases.
The first two are a couplet of four measures each, and the last eight
measures combine to make one long phrase which nicely balances out the
|---------------------- 2X ----------------------|
line cliche: A B flat B natural C
chords:|F |B flat |G |C |
F: I IV V-of-V V
line cliche: F E flat D D flat
chords:|F |F7 |B flat |b flat minor|
F: I V-of-IV IV iv
chords:|F |b flat min.|F |C |
F: I IV I V
- This section has a strongly dramatic arch-like feeling to it in the way
it begins to intensify during the third phrase toward a clear climax on the
downbeat of the thirteenth measure (on the phrase "it's *YOU*").
- The setup of the climax is musically abetted by a number of factors. The
first four measures of the long third phrase are rhetorically insistent in
the way they repeat the same two melodic notes several times ("so hold me
tight, tonight ..."). This is further supported by the way in which the
*root* harmonic rhythm suddenly slows from a change every measure to every
other measure and the syncopated antiphony of the backing vocal. The big
moment itself is enhanced by the appearance of the long-awaited melodic
high note on the downbeat of measure 13, and the sudden cessation of the
agitated syncopation of the previous measures.
- Even the sequencing of upward versus downward line cliches plays a
dramatic role. One might say, in the same oversimplified language that
allows us to describe the Major mode as "happy" and the minor as "sad",
that upward line cliches connote such things as eager expectation,
while the downward ones connote grimness or impatience. In that sense,
the use of the upward gesture in the first two phrases, followed by
the downward one at the beginning of the third phrase helps portray
a dramatic development which has quite a bit of real-world experiential
resonance to it. The cheerful coaxing of the first half of this verse
might be said to give way to something a bit more desperate before it's
over. I even hear this tension reinforced by the way the minor iv chord
is inserted so quickly after what would otherwise be a moment of release
following the climax; try that phrase with the more "natural" Major IV
and see how different it feels.
- All the verses other than the first one contain an A flat chord (flat III)
in their last measure; all the smoother to lead toward the bridge and
- Yet another small example of foolish consistency avoided can be found in
the way Paul throws in a little vocal flip and stretches out the scanning
of the words in the first phrase of the third verse.
- This bridge is an unusual seven measures in length and its subphrases
are not easily or neatly to be parsed. There is even some ambiguous
possibility, created by the elision mentioned above, that this section
is to be "heard" as eight measures long if you include the last elided
measure of the verse as part of the bridge.
line cliche: A A flat A B flat - B nat. C
chords:|F |A flat |F |B flat |g minor |G Major |C
F: I flat III I IV ii V-of-V V
- As a variation on the straight up-or-down line cliches of the verse, we
have in this section a more snake-like inner line which lends an air of
suspenseful indecision to the music. The slowing of the root harmonic
rhythm toward the end reinforces that sense of suspense. Note though
how this mood is shaken off by section's ending with another climax,
this time assisted by an *upward* line cliche.
- Other more typical sources of bridge-like contrast here are the change in
texture (drumming without cymbals and slowly-strummed guitar chords on the
downbeats -- see "I Should Have Known Better"), and the backing voices
being given a rest.
- The outro is done as fake pass at a third repetition of the bridge
that literally grinds to a stop, with the ritardando starting a full
three measures before the end. Given the sort of emotional program of
pursuit sketched out earlier, this sort of musical ending doesn't bode
well for the fate of our hero.
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS
- In context of the rest of the Beatles' early output, this is clearly
one of their hotter "touch" songs; more urgent than the sweetly pleading
"I Want To Hold Your Hand" but also less confrontational than PPM.
- Ironically though, HMT also reminds one at the same time of the more
innocent precursor songs of pursuit by other artists. In particular, I
hear echoes in it of Carl Perkins' "Sure To Fall" which includes the line,
"so hold me tight, let tonight be the night, darling, don't ever let me go."
- In the final result, as we saw earlier in the case of "All My Loving"
versus "It Won't Be Long", whatever parallels may be found between HMT
and PPM also serve to underscore some of the primal differences in style
between Paul and John. Just as in AML, the focus for Paul in HMT is
temporally on the present and future of the relationship to the love
object (no past!), and is emotionally self-centered with no allowance
for or representation of *her* feelings and actions. John, in contrast,
always includes both allusions to the past and *her* actions, even
resorting as necessary to some clever measures to work this into the
lyrical narrative no matter how obliquely.
- There's also a much simpler logistical difference between the respective
endings of PPM and HMT. Whereas the former would seem to end with the
gauntlet thrown down and the situation beyond the point of return, the
latter would seem to leave us with the poor hero "on my knees, beggin' if
you please." But, oops, that's a different song altogether, isn't it ?
Alan (email@example.com *OR* uunet!huxley!awp)
"Aye, but don't rush. None of your five bar gate jumps and over sort of
Copyright (c) 1991 by Alan W. Pollack
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