If I Needed Someone
Composer(s) : Harrison
Year : 1965
Chords/Tabs: If I Needed Someone
Notes on "If I Needed Someone" (IINS)
KEY A Major
FORM Intro -> Verse -> Verse -> Bridge ->
Verse -> Verse (instrumental) -> Verse -> Bridge ->
Verse -> Outro (w/complete ending)
GENERAL POINTS OF INTEREST
Style and Form
- "If I Needed Someone" is not anywhere nearly as ambitious or original
as the likes of "Don't Bother Me"
and "Think For Yourself". And yet,
just beneath the surface production values that otherwise allow the
song to fit in so compatibly among the L&M originals which surround
it (the title of a certain ancient Beatleg, _Homogenized Beatles_ comes
to mind), are to be found all the telltale touches which mark the song as
one by George; in particular, the modal harmony, the cramped stepwise
tune, and the wistful appoggiaturas.
- The form adds an unusual twist to the classic two-bridge model, with
three consecutive verses separating the bridges, the middle one of which
is a kind of instrumental break.
Melody and Harmony
- In our previous looks at other Harrisongs I've often noted George's
pronounced taste for wandering chord progressions that are less
goal orientated than the average. The harmony of this one is actually
quite a bit more teliological than usual for George, but we do find
here, in the verse, an early example of "sustained pedal" harmony;
a device which, before much longer, would become George's predominant
style trait as he entered what you might call his unabashedly Indian
- And yet, as obvious it may seem for us to associate this device of
pedal harmony with the static, non-harmonic drone-based basis of
Indian classical music, I also wonder if there is not a heretofore
overlooked and much more direct connection between the device and
the early-to-mid musical style of the Beatles! In particular, I'm
thinking of the number of songs by *John* which conspcuously start
off with at least 4 bars or more of the I chord; off the top of the
head, try "Ticket To Ride" and
"Day Tripper", but above all don't
forget "Tomorrow Never Knows" and
- Overall, I'd describe the home key as flavor of A Major that is
modally inflected by the heavy use in the verses of the flat-VII
chord superimposed over that pedal harmony of the I chord. The
bridge provides a very clear and decided modulation to the unsual
key choice of ii (i.e. b minor).
- The melody of the verse is in straight Mixolydian mode; that's the
scale with the Major 3rd and the flat 7th -- think of it as the
white note scale starting on G. By way of contrast, the bridge
tune is in an equally straightforward minor mode.
- Though somewhat disguised by the three part harmony of the verses, the
melody of this song, throughout, lives within an extremely constricted
range, with mostly stepwise motion, and a great deal of circular repetition;
you may find it interesting to compare with
"You Like Me Too Much."
- Pitchwise, the verse tune is centered around A, and uses only four
more notes -- G, B, C#, and D. The bridge tune rounds this out by
adding F# and and A# (of all things) to the mix. Also, the G#
that you'd normally expect to find in the key of A Major makes its
first appearance in the harmony of the bridge.
- The hypnotically fuzzy solo guitar sound used at the very beginning
of the song rather pervades the entirety of it; sometimes doubling the
main vocal line, and also reiterating the opening hook in between the
- George starts off the first verse with a double tracked vocal solo,
but Paul and John quickly join him on the title/hook-phrase in a bit
of three-part block-move triadic harmony uncannily reminsicent of
"Think For Yourself", right down to the subtle detail of your being
able to hear John somehow raspily loudest of all. George's double-
tracked solo part returns for the bridges, but all the rest of the
verses, other than that first one, are sung entirely in 3-parts.
There's a really nice detail that I was originally going to map
out but decided to leave it as an exercise for the listener -- note
how the phrases of 3-part harmony start off in parallel 5/3 chords,
but then shift at the melodic apex to the 6/3 inversion.
- Finicky changes in the percussion part are yet *again* used to help
punctuate formal contrast. The tambourine is struck on beats 2 and 4
of each measure of the verses, but in the bridges it is shaken in
fast-moving even eighth notes.
- In the last phrase of almost every verse section (including the instrumental)
Ringo provides an eighth-note figure on the bass drum that leads into a
cymbal crash coinciding with the word "Someone." Do you suppose his leaving
this out during the final verse was out of a desire to avoid what I call
foolish consistency, or the result of his being asleep at the switch ?
- The song opens with an archtypically Beatlesque layered design, the
likes of which makes the fact that this one was recorded on the same
day as "Day Tripper" seem like more than a coincidence; for that matter,
both songs make uncommonly heavy use of an ostinato figure, as well.
- Entrances are leisurely staggered over the course of the intro and
first two verses, starting with just solo guitar, followed by the
rest of the instruments, then George, and finally, the backing vocals;
the latter, singing only on the hook phrase at first, and then later, for
the entire verse.
- The four-measure intro is built out of two repetitions of a two-bar
solo guitar ostinato lick that cleverly anticipates the tune which is
about to follow without necessarily giving it away, so to speak. Think,
for example, about the similarities between the two of pitch content
and range, the gentle but unceasing offbeat syncopation, and the implied
superimposition of the G chord over the home key chord A.
- The verse is a typical eight measures long, though it parses into
an extremely *atypical* three-phrase pattern, of 2+3+3:
|A |- |- |- |A/G |- |A |- |
A: I flat-VII susp. I
b: flat VII
- There is virtually no harmonic motion in this section; the sense of
home key arising more out of the insistence of the drone-like bassnote
than from chord 'progression' per se.
- The section that I've labelled as an instrumental break might be
more properly called a 'verse without words', given that its texture
is built out of wall-to-wall 3-part vocal harmonies and a guitar
solo variation on the opening ostinato figure that is almost
buried in the mix.
- The bridge is also eight measures in length but is built more simply
out of two even phrases:
|e |F# |- |b |e |F# |b |E |
b: iv V i iv V i
- The harmony of this section features an almost textbook-perfect pivot
modulation to the key of b minor. In particular, on the way back to
the home key at the end of the section, you get a clear opportunity
to observe how the mind 'reinterprets' the b minor chord in measure 7
retrospectively as the ii of of A once you've heard the E Major chord
that follows it.
- The home key of A Major is established by traditional V->I means rather
belatedly as this section moves into the following verse. In fact, this
is the only place in the song where the E Major chord, with its
concommitant use of G# (as opposed to the G natural of the flat-VII
- I'll leave most of the appoggiaturas in this song for you to find
for yourself, save the piquant 9->8 job in measures 4 of this section
(on the phrase "been like this") because, IMHO, it is so quintessentially
- The outro is a partial reprise of the instrumental middle break,
in this instance truncated to just two measures worth of vamping on
the I chord, modified to incoroporate the exact original ostinato
figure instead of a copycat variation of it, and followed by that
memorable final chord with the guitars playing plain open fifths
instead of the complete triad.
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS
- But what's 'e trying to say ? It seems to me that the lyric is
saturated by a conditional plan- and promise-making to an extreme
that seriously belies the protagonist's claim of being too much in
love" right (yes) now, thank you.
- Of course, whether such a mixed message be art or artifice, who can
really tell for sure ?
"I don't really know, but it sounded distinguished, like,
didn't it?" 111093#88
Copyright (c) 1993 by Alan W. Pollack
All Rights Reserved
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