I Saw Her Standing There
Composer(s) : Lennon-McCartney
Year : 1962
Chords/Tabs: I Saw Her Standing There
Notes on "I Saw Her Standing There" (ISHST)
Key: E Major
Form: Intro | Verse | Verse | Bridge |
| Verse | Verse (solo) | Bridge |
| Verse | Outro (with complete ending)
CD: "Please Please Me", Track 1 (Parlophone CDP7 46435-2)
Recorded: 11th February 1963, Abbey Road 2
UK-release: 22nd March 1963 (LP "Please Please Me")
US-release: 22nd July 1963 (LP "Introducing The Beatles")
General Points of Interest
In contrast with the post-skiffle beat of songs like
"Love Me Do" and
"Misery" or even
"From Me To You" and
"Thank You Girl", ISHST is one of
the Boys' first hard, fast rockers; it was probably the most blazingly
original song they had yet written at the time of its recording, and
appropriately and auspiciously, they chose to crown it with the lead-off
spot on their first album.
More importantly for our purposes here, the words, music, and arrangement of
this song are replete with the touches and techniques that in retrospect
define the early "sound" of the group, making it a prime choice for our
The lyrics of the first three verses and bridge section contain a deceptively
simple boy-meets-girl narrative to which the pulsating music lends a definitely
hot connotation, in spite of the lack of any explicit passion in the words.
There are many other songs in the world which describe this discovering
of one's special love across a crowded room or at a dance, but ISHST is a
very far cry indeed from the likes of Rodgers & Hammerstein's "Some Enchanted
Evening" or Bernstein's "Maria"; as absurd as this association of titles
sounds at first, you cannot deny the uncanny parallels among their
We also have early examples here of a type of wordplay that would be
looked back upon as a Beatles trademark; i.e., the successive use of "How",
"She", and "I" at the beinning of the third line of each verse, and the
alternation between "when" and "since" at the beginning of the final
line of each verse. This device was sufficiently clever to trip up the
composers themselves, primarily John. Not only are several of the outtakes
riddled by word collisions, but a couple of such mishaps actually managed to
creep into the official version; listen to "when/since" at the end of
the third verse, or John's hesitation with "since" in the last verse.
Harmony and Form
The song is, and always has been played in the key of E Major; Paul
still did it this way on his '89 tour. It must have been a particularly
playable key for them in terms of vocal range and chord choices, because
they used it so frequently in their early string of original compositions.
A non-exhaustive list of examples includes
"Please Please Me",
"Do You Want To Know A Secret",
"There's A Place",
"It Won't Be Long", and
"All My Loving." Talk about being "tuned to a natural E!"
Though not strictly a blues song, there is nonetheless, a strong bluesy
flavor here created by the almost exclusive reliance on the I-IV-V chords,
the slow harmonic rhythm with its infrequent chord changes, and the many
blue notes in the vocal line which pit melodic notes from the minor mode
against the Major chords in the accompaniment; i.e., the tune has a relatively
large number of G and D naturals in it for a song in the key of four sharps.
Only one truly unusual chord is used in the song, C Major, and it appears
with strategic effectiveness right at the climax of each verse where the
voices go into their falsetto "wooh".
The form is quite fully cranked out with two bridges, a guitar solo,
intro, and full outro, thus making the it run a comparitively long
2:52 as a result:
Intro -> Verse -> Verse -> Bridge -> Verse -> Verse (solo) ->
Bridge -> Verse -> Outro (w/complete ending)
The song evokes such a pleasurably exuberant mood that I don't believe
anyone these days ever finds it to drag or to be too long in its
full form; if anything, the outstretched symmetry is one of its best
features. Interestingly though, if you bother to study the long line of
live versions of the song performed for broadcast or in concert, you'll
discover that at some point, they felt compelled to shorten it up by dropping
the second bridge.
Throughout, there's a delightful tension embedded in the song from the
way that the slowness of the chord changes contrasts with the hard driving
activity of the rhythm track and the frequent long jumps in the voice parts.
There are several more specific trademark sources of excitement in the
arrangement to which the entire group contributes:
- Paul's boogie-woogie bassline outlines the chords in a perpetual motion of
- Ringo's elaboratly syncopated drum fills typically appear in the space
between phrases or sections.
- The backing work on rhythm and lead guitars works in fine synergy with
the bass and drum parts. George's little obligatto riffs which fill the
space between phrases sound a little more tentative than necessary, but
you'd miss them if they weren't there. When you work your way through
the many later concert and broadcast versions of this song, you find that
over time, George *does* in fact come out of his shell a bit, and plays
these fills with greater confidence and elaboration.
- The appearance of a full-length improvisatory guitar solo is notable to
the extent that instrumental solos of any kind are relatively uncommon on
the early singles and albums; the few that do appear tend more toward light-
handed embellishment of the main tune (viz.
"Love Me Do" or
"From Me To You"). Granted, there are those who
will argue that George's performance
here sounds a tad too stiff and pre-arranged to have been made up in
real time, but the point is, it's *intended* to sound as though improvised.
- The tight vocal harmonies of Paul and John, which we will look at below
in detail, feature a type of counterpoint which is conspicuously unlike
the simpler parallel thirds or sixths of acts like the Everly Brothers.
Even the falsetto used here seems so bracingly different from what was
to be heard from other contemporaneous groups who made a habit of it,
such as The Beach Boys or The Four Seasons. If you can sightread John's
parts from my notation below, I recommend you try singing them along with
the record for a good time.
- The handclaps and the screaming used for background punctuation are
unessential yet nevertheless characteristic.
As always, however, it is only in a thorough walkthrough of the entire song
that all the details can be fully appreciated.
The intro is a simple four measures of vamping on the tonic chord of E,
but the count-in, the eighth note pickup in the bass, and the generally
rhythmic texture of the accompaniment all help to set, from the very outset,
the energetic tone of what is to follow.
Verses - "She was just seventeen.../She looked at me.../We danced all night..."
The verse is in a standard structure of sixteen measures with four phrases
of equal length:
|E |- |A |E ||- |- |B |- ||
E: I IV I V
|E |- |A |C ||E |B |E |- ||
I ** IV flat VI I V I
[** bass players will want to note that Paul often but not always
makes sure that E chord in measure 10 is supported by G# in the
bass which allows the bassline to melodically move stepwise to
the A of the following measure.]
As often happens, the harmony plays an important role in the articulation
of the dramatic shape of such a verse: the first phrase expositorily
establishes the key, the second phrase reinforces this sense of key
with its open ending on V, the third builds towards a climax
with its ending on the C chord, and the fourth phrase finally resolves
all accumlated tension with its straightforward re-establishment of the
That C Major chord is actually not native to E Major, and in analytical
terms is said to have been "borrowed" from the parallel key of e minor.
When it moves either from or to the E chord, two of its three voices move
in chromatic half-steps (C to B and G to G#) creating a momentary spike of
intensity. This is a delightfully ambiguous touch because it leaves it up
to us listeners to decide whether the protagonist's tension is one of
approach/avoidance or more simply the joy of confident anticipation.
The vocal parts also help to bring the dramatic structure of the music
into relief. Paul sings the first eight measures solo and is joined by
John for the remainder of the verse in a bit of two part harmony that
is most unusual and tangy. In the counterpoint transcribed below, note
the number of open fourths and fifths, some of which follow in parallel
(measure 11), and the large number of G naturals in either voice which
make for "class 1" cross-relations with the G sharps in the E major
Paul |B C# D# |E F# G | F# E | E E| E D |B G | E
John |G# G# A |B B C#| B A | C C C| B G** |F# G | E
How could I dance with an-oth-er, whoo, when I saw her stand-ing there
[** After many listenings, I'm still not 100% certain whether
John intends to be singing G or G# in measure 13; it sounds
different from one repetition of the phrase to the next.
Sometimes, I even suspect he's intentionally shooting for
the blue note that lies in between the two, but other times,
I worry he was just waffling a bit.]
Paul's octave jump upward in measure 12 is an extraordinary effect, and
note how it's motivation is anticipated by the earlier leap downard of
almost the same magnitude at the beginning of the second phrase (measure 5,
on the words "the way she looked").
The song contains five iterations of this verse section and other than
the words, there is very little variation among them. The most significant
difference is in the guitar solo section where interestingly, the chord
progression is altered in two places; i.e., measure 3 sustains
the E chord instead of moving to A, and in measure 12, the A chord from
the previous measure is sustained instead of moving to the unusual C chord.
I don't think this is random at all; if you try to imagine the solo played
over the chord progression from the other verses, you'll find that the
two places which were changed here sound somehow stilted or over-emphasized
without the underscoring rhythmic emphasis of the words and vocal parts.
A smaller variation worth noting is the way that at the end of the two
verses which each precede a bridge section, the bassline in the final
measure contains downward scale which nicely leads us straight into the
Bridges - "Well my heart went boom..."
In spite of their drama, the verse sections have an harmonic shape which
is closed overall and bound to the home key. The manner in which this bridge
section seems to be centered around the IV chord provides both a refreshing
change of outlook as well as a platform from which to set up the return to
the home key when the next verse comes around.
As with two of its close cousins, "Love Me Do"
and "Please Please Me",
we have another bridge here with phrases of unequal length here. The section
is ten measures long, and my ears scan it into three phrases; i.e.,
two + two + six:
heart went boom As I
|A |- ||
crossed that room And I
|A |- ||
held her hand in mine -- -- -- -- --
|A |- |B |- |A |- ||
IV V IV
The totally static harmony of the first six measures, and the triple
repetition of the same melodic phrase builds a suspenseful sense of
expectation which is fulfilled by the elongated continuation of the
You're so used to hearing it as written that it's hard to imagine it being
any other way, but if you can snap out of that mind-set for just a moment,
you'll notice that it would have been more obvious (read: less original and
effective) to restrain the bridge to the more standard length of
eight measures and simply end on the V chord. What we have instead,
creates an almost paradoxical effect -- the decision to resolve the V
chord deceptively to IV for two full measures on the way to its "real"
destination of I is a delaying tactic which, on the one hand, reduces
some of the tension built up to that point of the bridge. However,
four other factors create an even stronger cross-current of *increasing*
tension at the same time -- the lengthening of the phrase by two measures,
the jump to the falsetto high notes with its concommitant crescendo,
the gutsy support work from the rhythm section, and Paul's dramatic,
syncopated lead-in to the following verse with "Well, we ..."
The key contribution of the vocal parts to the strong impact of this
bridge is not to be underestimated. In contrast with the verse,
we have John and Paul singing together throughout this bridge, with John
employing a favorite device of theirs; sustaining during measures 1 - 6,
the single note of 'A' against Paul singing the actual melody part above
him. However, the real master stroke of this section is in the
use of falsetto within the final four measures. The following is what
the composite vocal parts of measure 5 - 10 look like:
m.5 B -------------- C#------------
E|G F# |E E |F#-------|---------|E--------|---- A G| E
A|A A |A A |B | | | |
She held her hand in mine ---------------------------- Well we danced
If you listen very carefully though, you'll discover that the top line
is not sung by one person alone, but is the byproduct of John's jumping
over Paul by an octave in measure 7. The following blow-by-blow
narrative of is perhaps less clear than it would appear to you if
I had music paper on which to transcribe it, but this is the best I
can do with words alone: Paul actually sustains the F# at the beginning
of measure 7 all the way through measure 8, and then moves down to E natural
for measures 9 and the beginning of 10, before picking up the melody again
for the beginning of the following verse. John, who has been singing just
A natural beneath him the whole time moves up in parallel fifths with Paul
to B at the beginning of measure 7 and in the second beat of the measure jumps
a dizzying octave to the high B, and it is he who sustains that impossible
high note all the way through to the C# in measure 9. The ultimate
clue for this is that on some of the outtakes, the high C# is sustained
long enough that it overlaps with Paul's starting the next verse. Check
Stepping back from the details, it's worth noting how, on a structural
level, the use here of both falsetto and an octave jump add unity to the
overall composition by their subconscious association with the earlier
appearances of both techniques.
Outro - "...since I saw her standing there."
The triple repetition of the final phrase of the last verse is relatively
conventional for the genre we're dealing with. The first two repetitions
are identical both melodically and harmonically, and are built on a simple
I-V-I chord progression.
The final repetition, while melodically the same as the previous two,
provides a small harmonic modification; i.e., a IV chord gets interpolated
between the V and the final I chord. This is the same trick we saw at the
end of the bridge, and its reappearance here helps put the brakes on for the
conclusion of the piece, as well as providing yet another subtle touch of
For you harmony freaks who like to keep track of every little Beatles
trademark, we also have a classically free-dissonant chord at the very
end; E Major with at least F# and possible C# as well tacked on for
What's it all about ?
I've made a habit in these Notes of spending a moment or two at the
end in consideration of what hidden meanings might be embedded in the
lyrics. But I'll tell you, if you need me to sort *this* one out for you,
then you're really in trouble :-).
For a rare change, we have no romantic or emotional complications; no angst,
no pangs, not even the slightest amount of self doubt; this time, (to
paraphrase Richard Price's "The Wanderers") it's more like some "hip ditty
bop noise" reminding us in perpetuity of the "nowness and coolness" of being
seventeen and falling in, what you think is, true love, most likely for
the first time.
Granted, there is more often than not, an eventually bitter side to this
experience, but I believe that the song isn't so much whitewashing over
this truth, as much as emphasizing that the sweeter part of it is worth
taking with you for the rest of your life.
Surely, you *do* know what I mean ?
051091 26.0 Original release
012001 26.1 Adapt to series template. HB JMP.
012801 26.2 Correct the flat-VI reference to minor iv6/3.
Alan (firstname.lastname@example.org *OR* uunet!huxley!awp)
"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 ?" 051091#26
Copyright (c) 1991 by Alan W. Pollack
All Rights Reserved
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