Alan Aldrigde, The Beatles Illustrated Lyrics John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr en George Harrison Alan Aldrigde, The Beatles Illustrated Lyrics (c) Alan Aldrigde, The Beatles Illustrated Lyrics

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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
     Meter: 4/4
      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 detailed study.


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 respective scenarios.

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 eighth notes.

- 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:

m.1 5 |E |- |A |E ||- |- |B |- || E: I IV I V 9 13 |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 home key.

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 harmony below:

m.9 E 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 next section.

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 |- || IV crossed that room And I |A |- || IV 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 third phrase.

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 it out!

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 unification.

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 spice.

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 ?
Revision History
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 ( *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

       This article may be reproduced, retransmitted, redistributed and
       otherwise propagated at will, provided that this notice remains
       intact and in place.

Ook op Please Please Me:

ChordsNotes On
I Saw Her Standing There I Saw Her Standing There
Misery Misery
Chains Chains
Anna (Go to Him) Anna (Go to Him)
Boys Boys
Ask Me Why Ask Me Why
Please Please Me Please Please Me
Love Me Do Love Me Do
P.S. I Love You P.S. I Love You
Baby It's You Baby It's You
Do You Want to Know a Secret Do You Want to Know a Secret
A Taste of Honey A Taste of Honey
There's a Place There's a Place
Twist and Shout Twist and Shout

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 On Air - Live At The BBC Vol 2:

ChordsNotes On
And Here We Are Again (speech) 
Words of Love Words of Love
How About It, Gorgeus? (speech) 
Do You Want to Know a Secret Do You Want to Know a Secret
Hey, Paul... (speech) 
Anna (Go to Him) Anna (Go to Him)
Hello! (speech) 
Please Please Me Please Please Me
Misery Misery
I'm Talking About You 
A Real Treat (speech) 
Boys Boys
Absolutely Fab (speech) 
Chains Chains
Ask Me Why Ask Me Why
Till There Was You Till There Was You
Lend Me Your Comb 
Lower 5e (speech) 
The Hippy Hippy Shake 
Roll over Beethoven Roll over Beethoven
There's a Place There's a Place
Bumper Bundle (speech) 
P.S. I Love You P.S. I Love You
Please Mr. Postman Please Mr. Postman
Beautiful Dreamer 
Devil in Her Heart Devil in Her Heart
The 49 Weeks (speech) 
Sure To Fall 
Never Mind, Eh? (speech) 
Twist and Shout Twist and Shout
Bye, Bye (speech) 
John - Pop Profile (speech) 
George - Pop Profile (speech) 
I Saw Her Standing There I Saw Her Standing There
Glad All Over 
Lift Lid Again (speech) 
I'll Get You I'll Get You
She Loves You She Loves You
Memphis, Tennessee 
Happy Birthday, Dear Saturday Club 
Now Hush, Hush (speech) 
From Me to You From Me to You
Money (That's What I Want) Money (That's What I Want)
I Want to Hold Your Hand I Want to Hold Your Hand
Brian Bathtubes 
This Boy This Boy
If I Wasn't In America 
I Got A Woman 
Long Tall Sally Long Tall Sally
If I Fell If I Fell
A Hard Job Writing Them (speech) 
And I Love Her And I Love Her
Oh, Can't We? Yes We Can (speech) 
You Can't Do That You Can't Do That
Honey Don't Honey Don't
I'll Follow the Sun I'll Follow the Sun
Green With Black Shutters (speech) 
Kansas City-Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey! [Medley] Kansas City-Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey! [Medley]
That's What We're Here For (speech) 
I Feel Fine (Studio Outtake)
Paul - Pop Profile (speech) 
Ringo - Pop Profile (speech) 

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