Composer(s) : Lennon and McCartney
Year : 1965
Notes on "Girl" (G)
KEY c minor/E-flat Major
------ 2X --------
FORM Verse -> Refrain -> Bridge -> Refrain -> Verse ->
Refrain -> Verse (instrumental) -> Refrain (fadeout)
GENERAL POINTS OF INTEREST
Style and Form
- This predominantly acoustic, stylized folk ballad embodies many of
the trends, themes, and techniques that characterize the overall image
of _Rubber Soul_. It often does seem unfairly lost in the shadow cast
by certain bigger hits on the album. Yet, even though it may be
neither as trenchant as "Norwegian Wood"
nor as sublime as
"In My Life"
, "Girl" does contain much to be admired;
particularly in its intense yet oblique baring of the author's heart it lies
directly along a vector from the earlier "You've Got
Hide Your Love Away"
- Considering that the Beatles didn't go in for full-fledged modulations
all that much in their songs, this one is quite notable for the way in
which it keeps changing key throughout. In particular, it makes use of the
technique of alternating between a minor key and its relative Major
towards ends that are both expressive and structural. Paul would appear
to have as much a soft spot as John for this gambit over the long run.
Off the top of my head we've seen it most before in "Not a
Second Time" , "And I Love Her" , and
- The form is of interest for its inclusion of *both* a refrain and a
bridge, as well as its placement of the instrumental solo so near to
the very end; the latter, yet another gonnection with
"You've Got Hide Your Love Away"
Melody and Harmony
- The choice of chords is straightforward throughout. This allows
one to more undistractedly focus in on the systematic changes of key
which, as stated, are the arena of harmonic interest in the song.
- The melody is similarly uncomplicated though a nice exotic touch
is to be found in the augmented seconds (as in "girl who came to
stay") made possible by the so-called 'harmonic minor' scale.
- The strumming acoustic guitar work oom-pah bassline of the backing
track are, in large part, the sources of the overall folky flavor
of the track.
- John's single track lead vocal has a quivering sincerity that is
intensified by the placement of the tune so high in his range, and
the rhythmic fexibility given to his scanning of the words against
the underlying meter. Lewisohn describes it as "sultry"; I relate
to it more as "extremely direct presence".
- In the refrain the backing voices provide a classically Beatles-like
italicizing of title word. In the bridge they provide a uniquely
"naughty" (again, nach ML) scat singing backwash.
- With the exception of two significant momentary lapses the backing
rhythm is carried by a rocking or lilting of implied fast triplets.
The lapses occur in the bridge and final verse where a shift to
exactingly even eighth note motion signals a mood change; the even
motion connoting a "no mincing of words" kind of rise above the more
relaxed and resigned feeling of the triplets. This use of surface
rhythm as a combination leitmotif and articulative/associative device
is (IMHO) a mark of extreme compositional sophistication.
- Layering the arrangement a bit had always been a favorite trick
of theirs, but here it's carried a step more subtle. What sounds
like either a mandolin or acoustic 12-string adds a counter-melody
to the lead vocal in the second verse. This idea is further developed
in the final (and completely instrumental) verse section by the addition
of a *second* counter-melody (this one sounding very much like a finger
picked sitar!) played in counterpoint to the one that had already been
heard the previous time around. The choice to recapitulate the "no
mincing" rhythm in *this* verse, so late in the song and the only
instrumental section of it to boot, is an uncanny and unfying stroke.
- The song opens completely "in medias res" (recall your High School studies
of Greek tragedy!) without any intro, fanfare, or even an instrumental cue
for the start note. In the Beatles oeuvre this is relatively rare, but when
it happens it's always treat -- look back, for example, at
"She Loves You"
, "It Won't Be Long"
"All My Loving"
, "Can't Buy Me Love"
"You're Going To Lose That Girl."
- The verse is eight measures long and is built out of two parallel phrases;
the melodies of which are identical but with a small different twist in
the chord progressions:
|c G |c |f |E-flat G |
c minor: i V i iv VI V
|c G |c |f |c |
i V i iv i
- This section is entirely in the minor mode with a i-to-i closed shape,
though the first phrase does end with a rather prophetic deceptive/fake
pass at the relative Major.
- The refrain is brief and most bittersweet; just four measures built
out of two short parallel phrases. Harmonically, I have some doubt
as to what is intended as the second chord of the first measure.
My gut and "mind's ear" tells me that the overall progression of this
section is the R&R classic cliche of I-vi-IV-V (E-flat, c minor, A-flat,
and B-flat respectively); indeed, there's at least one book in which
I've seen this stated this with apparent confidence. What complicates
life for me is Paul's downward scale-wise bassline: if D is the bassline
note played against the second chord, it strikes me as more dissonant
against a c minor chord than what is heard on this recording; below
I opt for a g minor chord (in the 6/4 'second inversion', no less)
with a 4-3 appoggiatura in the tune. Try it on for size and call me
in the morning if it doesn't seem to fit:
------------------------------ 2X -----------------------------
chord: |E-flat g |A-flat B-flat |
bass: |E-flat D |C B-flat |
E-flat: I iii6/4 |IV6/3 V |
- The lyrics consist of the title 'word' plus a pitchless phoneme that
is, with great calculation, executed indeterminately somewhere in between
a hiss of frustration on the one hand, and on the other side, a sigh of
deepest regret that is comingled with a moan of jealous, unquenchable
desire. The key change in this section to the supposedly more cheerful
Major mode works at ironic cross-currents to those ambigously blue-mood
- The bridge is structured similarly to the verse, being eight measures
long and built out of two parallel phrases that have identical melodies
with a slightly varied harmonization for the second one:
|f |C |f |C |
f minor: i V i V
|f |C |f |A-flat |
i V i III
- The mood intensifies here in every way that you could measure it.
There's a modulation to f minor. The tune shifts over to a rantingly
rhetorical hammering style; not to mention the even eighth note rhythm
and the 'tit-tit' backing vocals.
- The words too intensify. The attitude earlier in the song had been
more on the side of sadness than anger, but starting here and continuing
into the final sung verse a streak of bitter and not entirely becoming
pique and anger exposes itself. How true to form it is, as well, for
John's hurt to be revealed as critically linked on some level to
humiliation in public by the words and deeds of his beloved.
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS
- The most intruiging aspect of this song is how it manages to
forge an ultimately coherent statement out of what on the surface
would seem to be a tangle of internally contradictory and changable,
confused sentiments. There's a restless emotional shifting of mood and
perspective as we move from one section to the next as the song unfolds;
this is reinforced on the purely musically plane by the extent to which
the key and melodic style changes every time to match.
- It is as though coherence is dynamically established here as a kind of
tense truce drawn for the moment between the negative anxiety and hurt
of the verses and bridge articulated explicitly by words, and and the
ineffible certainty of desire of the refrains, left entirely implicit
and embedded between the phonemes.
"She'll only reject me in the end..." 062493#84
Copyright (c) 1993 by Alan W. Pollack
All Rights Reserved
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Ook op Rubber Soul:
Ook op 1962-1966:
(c) 2020 Serge Girard