Composer(s) : Lennon and McCartney
Year : 1968
Chords/Tabs: Yer Blues
Notes on "Yer Blues" (YB)
KEY Very bluesy E Major
FORM Verse-A -> Verse-A ->
Verse-B -> Verse-B -> Verse-B ->
Verse-C (guitar solo) -> Verse-C (guitar solo) ->
Outro (Verse-A) (fadeout)
GENERAL POINTS OF INTEREST
Style and Form
- This is another one of what I call the Beatles' big "gesture" songs;
those in which production and performance values rather overshadow,
even overwhelm the underlying raw material; where the gesture is
to be exploited for its suggestive connotations of the cliche and the
cultural ready-made. John was particularly fond of doing these; I
leave it to you as a classroom exercise or discussion topic to identify
- In this case, it is a kind of intense, over-wrought and stylized
Blues that is conjured, the sort that was quite popular in Britain
at the time; the sort for which you need a sidebar here on the likes
of the "Animals" and their influence-ee's to fully appreciate.
- The form stays completely within the same variation of the standard
12-bar blues frame, yet, manages to convey a sense of diversified
form by altering details in the melodic and rhythmic foreground;
compare this with "Rocky Raccoon," of all things!
- In particular, this song exploits the subtle contrast inherent in
alternately parsing the 12-bar frame as 8 + 4 versus 4 + 8. Look back
to our comparison of "Roll Over Beethoven" with
"Money" in 'covers2'
for the background on this gambit.
- There is also the uncanny way in which a "hiccup" of an extra beat
added to most of the verses is balanced out near the end by that most
rough and rude of splices.
Melody and Harmony
- The form and the melody are true blue, through and through. Granted,
in order to get the form to come out "right" I've parsed the meter as
an unusual 6/8 that contradicts the ordinal numbers heard in the
introductory count-in, but the melody, with its flat 3rd and 7ths
couldn't be more genuine if it tried.
- Although the harmony is dominated by the old I-IV-V, it includes the
rather optional flat-III and flat-VII for extra spice and tang. Alright,
so maybe I'm "imagining" the latter chord, but I promise that if you
use it in your own very personal cover of the song that it will not
sound out of place.
- The backing track sounds thick but also built up from relatively
spare resources. Keep your eye on that lead guitar lick that sort
of mimics the lead vocal.
- The lead vocal is strangely recorded to sound some vague combination
of double tracked, fed-back, and reverbed. Do I even hear Paul joining
in at one point?
- The rough edit for the outro has a visceral effect similar to that of
accidentally, unexpectedly smacking your forehead against a hard surface,
a brief seconds-worth of fainting spell, or if you like, a small but
critical few frames of celuloid cut out of a film.
- Ringo's count-in may be just as spliced as George's is in
here, at least, it's in tempo.
- All the sections are built around the same slow pounded-out 12-bar
frame. All the Verse-A and the first two of the Verse-B sections feature
one intentionally spastic extra beat in measure 10. The final Verse-B
section omits the extra beat in the interest of seizing an opportunity
to modulate the backbeat so that the measure lengths remain the same,
but the eighth-note triplets in the two instrumental Verse-C sections
are twice the speed they were in the rest of the song; suddenly the beat
feels more 4-square than ternary.
|E |- |- |- |
|A |- |E |- |
|G |B |E G A G |E D B |
flat-III V I IV I V
- Verse-A sections feature an 8 + 4 structure (AA + B), with the "wanna die"
phrase echoed in the second half of the first two phrases. The Verse-B
sections feature a 4 + 8 structure (C + AB), with the first phrase being
declaimed with dramatic pauses, and the next two restoring the original
beat. The true formal irony in this situation is the common factor of
the AB phrase filling out the second and third phrase of ALL the sections!
- For balance, the outro restores both the original backbeat and
the Verse-A formal structure.
- The obvious splice, aside from its special effect, would seem to
make an eye-winking mockery of all those other ocassions in which
this very same group would exert a surgeon's level of control to
imperceptably audio-retouch a track using essentially the same
- John's vocal, either mixed way down or recorded like from another
room adds just the right surreal balancing touch to the up close
ranting featured in the rest of the song.
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS
- Lewisohn labels this song as simply "a parody of the British blues
scene." Maybe so. But, when you contemplate John's track record over
the long run, (from "Twist and Shout"
and in the early days
to "Don't Let Me Down"
and "I Want You/She's So Heavy" in the Late
Period,) you've got to acknowledge that this screaming style is also
in equal measure a genuine part of his essential musical persona.
"What are you messing around with that boat for -- there's a car waiting,
come on!" 032298#146
Copyright (c) 1995 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 The Beatles [White Album]:
(c) 2022 Serge Girard