I Want to Hold Your Hand
Composer(s) : Lennon and McCartney
Year : 1963
Chords/Tabs: I Want to Hold Your Hand
"I Want To Hold Your Hand" (IWTHYH)
KEY G Major
FORM Intro -> Verse -> Verse -> Bridge -> Verse -> Bridge ->
Verse -> Outro (complete ending)
GENERAL POINTS OF INTEREST
Style and Form
- On the surface IWTHYH is deceptively straightforward and regular in
design. Its high-level form is a standard two-bridge model with only
one verse (and no solo) intervening between the two bridges. Similarly,
its phrase lengths appear for the most part to be symmetrically even, and
its backbeat for long stretches sounds closer to conservative pop than
rebelliously hard rock.
- And yet, by the same token, just about everyone of the Beatles early
trademark tricks of the trade is to be found within it: the abrupt
syncopations, non-intuitive two-part vocal harmony, falsetto screaming,
an ocassionally novel chord progression, even some ellided phrasing.
And of course, don't forget the overdubbed handclaps!
- Perhaps it is just this paradoxical contrast between familiar and more
daring elements that is at the heart of the song's phenomenal success.
- The list of chords used is not particularly unusual in itself, though
the way they leave the V-of-vi chord (B Major) repeatedly unresolved
in the verse sections is rather creative. The subtle leaning toward
the relative minor key is reminiscent to some extent of what we saw
recently in "Not A Second Time"; and as I mentioned there in connection
with "A Day In The Life", the same choice of key here yet again seems
beyond mere coincidence.
- There is also the relatively rare occurence of a full-blown pivot modulation
to the key of IV (C Major) in the bridges.
- John might be said to be the lead vocalist here because it is he who
sings the tune proper while Paul is delegated to singing harmony above
him, but most notably, there is no actual vocal *solo* in the song; i.e.
they sing in duet virtually the whole way through, albeit with frequent
shifting back and forth between singing in unison and that "patented"
vocal counterpoint style of theirs in which they seem to go out of their
way to court open fourths and fifths, instead the more traditional thirds
- In addition to the handclaps already mentioned, Paul plays quite a bit
of double-stops in the bass part, Ringo throws in some of his structurally
signficant drum fills in between the second and third phrase of each
verse, and most subtle of all, George contributes a number of lead
guitar fills which you almost don't notice per se, but have always
been part of your special enjoyment of the recording.
- This is a classic opening right into the midst of the action if ever there
was one. It converges toward the home key, starting on IV and moving
quickly with heavy syncopations into a big buildup on the V chord.
- This intro is four measures long, but it opens with one and a half beats
of music preceding the first downbeat. The syncopations place the accents
on the eighth notes which follow the third and fourth beats of the measure,
which is a bit hard to grasp at first because of the abrupt way in which
the music starts. By measures 3 and 4 though, the rhythmic backing
(especially the lead guitar) helps get you better oriented with the
way in which it clearly beats out four in the bar:
Accents: ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ "Oh yeah, I ..."
Beats 3&4& 1&2&3&4& 1&2&3&4& 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1
CCD|-----CCD|-----CCD|- - - - |- - - - ||G (verse)
G: IV V IV V IV V I
- This large of a climax so early in the evening, so to speak, is unusual and
draws one's immediate and expectant attention.
- If you're a big maven of the film "A Hard Day's Night" then you probably have
noticed long ago that Paul, in a rare moment of exuberant spontaneity, horses
around at the end of their performance of "If I Fell" in the film by playing
the bass riff for parllel fifths from this intro while simultaneouly tripping
the live fantastic for just an instant.
- The all-important verse section here is twelve measures long, but
(surprise!) it's hardly a standard blues frame:
mm. 1-4, 5-8
---------------------------- 2X -----------------------------
|G |D |e |B |
G: I V vi V-of-vi
mm. 9 - 12
|C D |G e |C D |G |
IV V I vi IV V I
- The first two phrases form a couplet in which each contains the same harmony
and even melody; the sole difference being that the first phrase melodically
ends going *down* to f#, but the second goes *up* to that note (an octave
higher than the first time). The third phrase, with its suddenly
double-timed harmonic rhythm, provides the refrain-like title/hook
which balances out and resolves the tension accumulated over the course
of the preceding couplet.
- The overall melodic arch peaks on the downbeat of measure 10, but in some
ways it's an anti-climax, because the more palpable point of no-return
occurs on the syncopated and falsetto-drenched leap to the high f# just
before the downbeat of measure 8. You don't need to be a musicologist
in order to feel such things :-)
- The first two phrases each veer straight toward the key of the relative
minor, e, via a deceptive cadence, finishing off on the V of e. In the
first instance, this V-of-vi is left dangling like a non-sequitor when
the next phrase starts off all over again from I (G) as though nothing
had happened. Furthermore, this juxtaposition of the G and B Major chords
creates a tastily wavering cross-relation between the notes d# and
d natural, somewhat analogous to what we saw regarding the relation
between the chords on I and flat-III in "Hold Me Tight." In the second
instance, the B chord is itself resolved deceptively by the move to
IV (C) at the beginning of the final phrase.
- The chromatic-scale-fill played in parallel fifths on the bass guitar
during the second half of measures 2 and 6 may well be one of the most
easily recognized riffs in all music history. Note, by the way,
how neatly George coordinates his own little twang to coincide with
the end of Paul's riff.
- The rhythmic scanning of the words breaks up the natural phrasing of
the lyrics with frequent pauses, adding a sweet hint of bashful tongue-
tiedness to the affair; e.g. oh yeah, I (pause) tell you something
(pause) I think you'll understand etc.
- The restraint with which the vocal duet, sung primarily in unison, is
allowed to briefly blossom forth into two-part harmony for only a few
measures (mm. 8 - 10) is a good demonstration of how less can be more.
- The bridge has an unusual length of eleven measures. What I think happens
here is that what "should" have been a more standard eight-measure bridge
of two equal phrases is adjoined to a recapitulation of the song's intro in
such a way that the last measure of the 8-measure bridge is ellided with (or
perhaps interrupted by) the first measure of the intro-recap:
|d |G |C |a |
C: ii V I vi
|d |G |C CCD|-----CCD|-----CCD|- - - -|- - - -||G (verse)
C: ii V I
G: IV IV V IV V IV V I
- Harmonically, we have a textbook pivot modulation to the key of C.
Additional textural contrast with the surrounding verses is achieved by
a change in drumming. I also happen to especially like, in the measure
immediately preceding the bridge, the way the guitar plays a couple of
choppy chords on the off-beats in direct antiphony with the bass.
- We have a great example in the voice parts of how The Boys could find an
opportunity in even rather mundane melodic situations to set up one of
their splendid open-fifths. When the music of the intro returns here
and they sing the words "I can't hide" three times in a row, John sings
the notes c-c-D in all three cases, whereas Paul on the top part sings
e-e-F# the first two times, but very naturally precedes up the scale
to sing g-g-A the third time, creating the parallel fifths with John.
- In the avoidance of foolish consistency department they feature in
the second bridge section a duet for two-part harmony the whole way
- As we've seen in other songs, the outro here is developed as an outgrowth
of the final verse. Measure 12 is modified the last time around so that
instead of going home to the I chord (G), it moves quite deceptively to
the V-of-vi (B), which neatly motivates a "petit-reprise" (no joke -- a
legitimate 'technical' term in the parlance of the French Baroque!) of
the IV-V-I title phrase. Note, by the way, the incorporation of the
intro-like lead-guitar riff into that deceptive cadence.
- But wait -- there's still one last bang-up surprise to come: the slow
triplets and the chord progression which interpolates two measures of
*IV* coming in between the V and its ultimate resolution to I; talk
about your pent-up but eventually fulfilled gratification!
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS
- This ever-popular number was released as a single in England (B/w "This
Boy") precisely one week after the "With The Beatles" ablum near the end
of November '63. It is undeniably one of the Beatles all-time blockbusters
and in many ways represents the compositional culmination of what might
be called their their Very Early period.
- The next recordings to appear would be the March '64 single of "Can't
Buy Me Love" (B/w "You Can't Do That"), by which time the Beatles would
have their first appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show behind them and
the AHDN film project to look forward to. Their world (and ours, for
that matter) by then would be forever changed, and this fact would appear
quite obviously in the new music they would write from then onward.
Though still relatively 'early' in comparison to "Rubber Soul" or
"Sgt Pepper", the songs on "A Hard Days Night" represent a quantum
leap from the first two albums in both technical command and temperament.
- But getting back to IWTHYH, in context of November '63, it was the best
they could do, a kind of summing up of all they had done to-date. And
almost 30 years later, in spite of all its seemingly puppy-love simplicity,
and for reasons so ineffible that I can't come close to adeqiately
explaining them with in spite of all my analysis, it *does* hold up
remarkably well, like a classic.
Alan (firstname.lastname@example.org *OR* uunet!huxley!awp)
"In deinen Arme bin ich gluecklich und froh." 122491#43
Copyright (c) 1991 by Alan W. Pollack
All Rights Reserved
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