Composer(s) : Lennon and McCartney
Year : 1963
Chords/Tabs: Little Child
Notes on "Little Child" (LC)
KEY E Major
FORM Intro -> Verse -> Verse -> Bridge -> Verse -> Break ->
Bridge -> Verse -> Outro (fadeout)
GENERAL POINTS OF INTEREST
Style and Form
- The form of this song is a bit tricky. On strictly musical grounds, I
believe one hears it in the way that I've parsed it above, as one of the
standard and familiar formal models. However, the repeat pattern of
the lyrics would seem to argue otherwise; that what I've labelled a "verse"
is more of a "refrain" because the words are unvaried over four repeats
of the section. Similarly, that what I've labelled as a "bridge" is more
properly a "verse" because it is only in that section that the words *are*
varied. This alternate pigeon-holing scheme though would yield an unusual
formal structure indeed:
Intro -> Refrain -> Refrain -> Verse -> Refrain -> Break ->
Verse -> Refrain -> Outro (fadeout)
Hence, I'll stay with my original analysis, though this formal ambiguity
caused by the disposition of the lyrics is noteworthy. We ran into a similar
"It Won't Be Long" way back in article #10 of the
series and the
temporal proximity of these two songs makes me wonder if, on some level,
John was consciously experimenting at the time in this way.
- Another quite uncommon feature in the form of this song is the appearance
of an honest-to-goodness instrumental *break*, in strict 12-bar blues no
- The key is decidedly E Major and the mood ravingly upbeat. However, the
harmonic diet here is more low-budget than we've seen in a while, restricted
to only four chords and very common ones at that. In order of appearance,
there are the I, IV, V, and V-of-V; that's the Major chords built on E, A, B,
and F#, respectively. Note how the lack of any minor, diminished, augmented
or otherwise altered harmonies helps to project the uncomplicated emotional
tone of the song.
- Unlike many of the other songs we've looked at, in which harmonic rhythm
tends to follow a fairly regular pattern (e.g. chord changes in every
measure, or every other measure), the harmonic rhythm in this song is
a bit more flexibly varied to help articulate shape of the sections;
the verses in particular.
- There's a lot of overdubbing on this otherwise simple track to the extreme
that even the original British mix of it on _With The Beatles_ (WTB) has a
Dave-Dexter-Jr.-like muddiness that becomes part of the experience of
the song, whether or not you particularly like it aesthetically. Unlike
the case of "Thank You Girl" I'm afraid to think that there's no clean/dry
version of this one even in the vaults of EMI.
- On the vocal parts, a double-tracked John is featured solo, with Paul
joining him for little flashes of harmony. Instrumental overdubs
feature Paul on piano and John on harmonica pretty much the whole way
- Don't be fooled by those seemingly ad-lib and out-of-tempo harmonica chords
at the beginning. They are precisely *in* tempo making the intro weigh in
at four measures long:
|E |A |E9 |- |
E: I IV I
- Of course, your ear can't figure all this out until the accompaniment kicks
with that piano glissando right before the third chord, but it's just this
sort of ambiguity than enhances the fun of the music.
- The spicy F# in the harmonica played over the E chord in the third measure
sounds a jazzy, freely dissonant note that is picked up on again in the
the repeated appearance of Major 9th chords of the verses, and during a
good part of the instrumental break.
- The refrain-like verse is only eight measures long and built out of two
phrases equal in length:
|E |- |- A |E ||B |A |F#9 |B ||
E: I IV I V IV V-of-V V
- The first four-measure phrase itself subdivides rhetorically into a
ready-steady-go group of three short "phrasettes" (to coin a term :-)),
quite reminiscent of the "move over once, move over twice ..." snippet
in "One After 909", and it is harmonically closed in shape. The second
phrase nicely balances this out by subdividing more neatly right down
the middle of its four measures, and by its harmonically open ending
on the V chord.
- The second verse is a slight musical variant of the first one of the sort
we've seen before in songs like
"Ask Me Why",
"There's A Place", and the
"I Should Have Known Better." Here, the structural
of the change is to harmonically close up the ending of the second phrase:
|E |- |- A |E ||B |A |F#9 B |E ||
E: I IV I V IV V-of-V V I
- The stylistic gesture of short phrases seen in the verses is perpetuated in
this bridge as well, which is only six measures long, yet contains three
phrases equal in length:
|E |B ||E |- ||F# |B ||
I V I V-of-V V
- The usage in this section of a poetic triplet nicely contrasts with, and
provides some helpful relief from, the quatrains of the surrounding verses.
- Compared to a song like
"I'll Get You", there's a virtual absence in this
song of melodic appoggiaturas. However, in measure 5 of this bridge, above
F# chord, there's a stunner of a d# in the melody on the downbeat.
- It's a rare early Beatles song indeed that has such a break section as this
one, both completely instrumental and not based on one of the preceding
sections of the song.
- The last two chords of this otherwise pure 12-bar blues passage are
modified to include the IV -> V-of-V -> V progression which by this point
of the song strongly resonates with the end of the verse sections, and
this tweak helps to unify the break section with its surroundings.
- John's wailing solo is quite nicely done and as a little bonus he even
throws in some slow triplets right at the climactic penultimate measure
as though just to let us know for sure it's a "John song"; as if this fact
were not already clear as an azure sky or an unmuddied lake. My only
complaint here is the uncharacteristic roughness with which both the
beginning and end of this overdub were edited in.
- We have a very standard looping into the fadeout based on the final two
measures of the verse with some clever handling of the duet vocals as they
alternate in pattern on the "oh yeahs".
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS
- This song is the fifth one in a row on the first side of WTB in the key of
E. Though a comparison of the album's running order to a Baroque dance
suite is perhaps a jesting overstatement, there *is* a certain amount of
classic sensibility reflected in the way those five Beatles originals are
sequenced to provide a balanced and varied alternation of mood and tempo.
- That said, LC is probably the weakest of those five songs; following on
the heels of
"Don't Bother Me" it's a case of 'from the ridiculous to the
sublime', or shall we say it the other way around ? :-) On casual
acquaintance, it's easy to dislike LC for what are, by today's standards,
its condescendingly wise-guy/sexist lyrics. Even a closer look at the music
itself might make you think of it as a potboiling throwback to the first
album because of the small number of chords, the facile melody, and
- And yet, if you can get beyond your own hyper-serious reactions (heys, Alan,
speak for yourself), I believe you start hearing this song actually as
one feel-good rocker of no small "sincerity." In time, the words eventually
warm up to strike you as the quite realistic braggadocio of a cool dude
on the make. And what you at first reacted to as "rudeness" in that cool
appraising stare of his is nothing other than his active compensatory factor,
more or less.
Alan (firstname.lastname@example.org *OR* uunet!huxley!awp)
"I bet you're a great swimmer. My turn ? Bingo!"
Copyright (c) 1991 by Alan W. Pollack
All Rights Reserved
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(c) 2024 Serge Girard