In My Life
Composer(s) : Lennon and McCartney
Year : 1966
Chords/Tabs: In My Life
Notes on "In My Life" (IML)
KEY A Major
FORM Intro -> Verse -> Bridge ->
half-intro -> Verse -> Bridge ->
Verse (instrumental) -> Bridge ->
Outro (w/complete ending)
GENERAL POINTS OF INTEREST
Style and Form
- In spite of the Baroque keyboard solo of the original, or the schmaltzy-
cum-foklsy arrangement cooked up by Joshua Rifkin for Judy Collins' cover
if it, the "style" of this song remains tantalizingly indeterminate.
- The form contains a folk ballad-like rote alternation of sections,
though the use of a bridge rather than a refrain, coupled with the
inconsistent deployment of the motif heard in the intro as a 'spacer'
between sections, blurs most of whatever specifically folk-style
associations you might otherwise derive from the it (the form) per se.
- Above all, the song creates a delicate and delicious balance between
heart baring intimacy of the first order and a vaguely subordinate and
reticent unease. The closest I can pinpoint the latter is to something
not quite straightforward about some of the chord progressions and the
way in which the tune runs roughshod over them. In the final result,
this "unease" is something that, as a long term listener, I feel
more strongly than I can discern with any precision. But if I am at
all on the right track, it is as though whatever confidence is shared
within the confines of this song is done so at no small cause of pain,
as though it were happening compulsively on some level, in spite of
the author's will.
Melody and Harmony
- The rising interval of a sixth provides a melodically hopeful and
pervasive subtext to the song, appearing as it does in all sections:
e.g. the very start of the intro, and the very end of both the verse
and the bridge.
- The tune remains almost rigidly pentatonic until the bridge where the
4th scale degree (D) is introduced for the first time in the tune on
the word "lovers". The 7th scale degree (G#) appears nowhere in the
song, melodically, other than as the last note of the introductory
- The melody incurs an unusually large amount of free dissonance against
the chords of the accompaniment from its large number of appoggiaturas,
"escapes", and gratuitous 7ths and 9ths. The pervasiveness of this
melodic style lends a puzzling attitudinal touch of I'm-so-tired laziness
or enervation, at least, that runs at cross-currents to the otherwise
earnest theme of the song.
- The choice of chords for the song is relatively simple though the
verse features John's much favored minor iv chord motivated by the
chromatic descent of an implied inner voice. The bridge features some
increased complication in the choice of chords and their progression.
- Outside of the so-called "spacer" motif, the harmony of this song
strongly avoids the type of clear key definition and closure one
associates with straightforward V->I cadences. Note how the V
chord doesn't even show up in the bridge, and its one appearance
in the verse is followed "deceptively" (that's a technical term,
son) by vi (that's a chord, not the Unix text editor). I pick up
on this as yet another source of curious indirectness and reticence.
- The stereo image places the basic backing texture of electric guitar,
electric bass, and percussion off toward the left, with the voices
and, later, the piano off to the right.
- John sings the lead double tracked with Paul providing a Beatles-trademarked
duet of free counterpoint on the odd numbered phrases, with John left by
himself for the even numbered ones. As much as I always prefer John in
single track mode (and feel that *this* song, above many others, would
particularly lend itself to such an immediate delivery), the transition
between the duet and a single tracked solo would likely have been too stark.
- As is not at all unusual in other arrangements of theirs from this period,
it is the percussion section which helps articulate the form. For the
intro and verses, the drumming features an understated syncopated pattern
that is punctuated by quickly damped cymbals. For the bridges, the beat
shifts to something close to four in the bar, and the dry damped sound of
the verses is traded in for the bright ringing sounds of a tambourine and
drum sticks tapping lightly on cymbals' edge.
- George Martin's much celebrated solo on electric piano was played for
the recording an octave lower, and half as slow as it sounds on the
finished track. I would bet that the motivation for this was as
much to distort the attack/decay timbre of the instrument to make it
sound more like a harpsichord as it was to help project a sensation
of almost un-natural speed in the performance; the solo turns out
to be not *that* difficult to perform in tempo -- even the running
scale at the end.
- The four-measure intro establishes the home key while introducing the
melodic upward sixth and setting a measured pace by virtue of its slow
--------------- 2X --------------
|A |E |
A: I V
- The two-measure motif from which this intro is built recurs throughout
the song as a unifying device; repeated here in the intro, a single
reprise just before the second verse, and in extended repetition for
the outro. The 'AA' inner form of intro itself pressages the parallel
kind of structure that is to be found in both the verses and bridges
which follow below.
- The verse is eight measures long and is structured as an 'AA' couplet
based on the following four-measure phrase:
------------------------------ 2X -----------------------------
|A E |f# A7 |D d |A |
A: I V vi V-of-IV IV iv I
- Melodic "dissonance" abounds: in the first measure there's the B->A/
9->8 appoggiatura on the downbeat (on the word "pla-ces") and the
escape from the neighbor tone C# (on the first syllable of "remember");
measure 2 starts with a "free" seventh on its downbeat (on the second
syllable of "remember"); and measure 3 starts off with a B->A/6->5
embellished appoggiatura (on the drawn out word "life").
- There is an unusual syncopated boomy noise in the second half of the
measure 2, right after the A7 chord is reached. I imagine that it's
either the result of a collision between an A played by the bass with
a G-natural played just below the A on a low string of the rhythm guitar;
or else it may be one of those strange double stops of Paul's.
- The bridge is also eight measures long and is structured as a *pseudo*
|f# |D |G |A |
vi IV flat-VII I
(or V-of-flat VII)
|f# |B |d |A |
vi V-of-V iv I
- The melody of the two phrases may almost be the same, save for the
exceedingly subtle change in the the rhythmic execution of the upward
'flip of a sixth' at the end, but the harmony of the second phrase
is very different.
- Granted, both phrases make a similar harmonic gesture, starting away
from the home key yet converging back toward it via different routes
that are comparably indirect. Rather it is in the specific chord
choices and progressions that each phrase asserts something unique.
In the first phrase the appearance of flat-VII comes as an especial
surprise against the backdrop of the pentatonic verse. The second
phrase provides a triple whammy: the thwarting of V-of-V when it is
*not* followed by V (a favorite Beatles device of long standing),
the F#/F-natural cross-relation created by the minor iv chord, and
the straightfaced irony that the tune is essentially the same between
the two phrases.
- Still more melodic dissonance abounds. In particular, we have the
C#->B appoggiatura on the downbeat of measures 2 and 5. In the
former case (on the word "moments") this creates a 7->6 double
dissonance (!!), and in the late (on the word "living") we have
more of a garden variety 9->8 resolution.
- The outro is creatively structured as one iteration of the intro/spacer
phrase + a last petit reprise of the last phrase of the bridge + one
last iteration of the spacer, this time modified to provide the complete
- The extended nature of this outro, especially in its poignant use of
the minor iv chord is strangely anticipatory in a subdued way of the
likes of the much later "Happiness Is A Warm Etc."
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS
- I have it on good authority that I'm not alone in my personal experience
of, having heard it for the first time as an romantically earnest if yet
adenoidally awkward teen, walking around for many years thereafter
"searching" (cross-referance to
"Anna") for the significant other to
whom I could in all sincerity and good consicence dedicate this song.
And by "dedicate" I don't necessarily mean having Scott Muni or Bruce
Morrow blab it all over the AM air waves; a discreet email will do just
nicely, thank you.
- What is it, I wonder, that makes such a song so ultra special if not
sacred to the collective consciousness ? People often talk about the
elliptical nature of John's text as they mine for potentially relevant
autobiographical underpinnings. But, again, I wonder if there isn't
something just a bit circular or at least reflexive about this mining
- Is it possible that the vague references and ellipses of this song, beyond
their being pregnant per se with whatever embedded or hidden meaning, also
serve equally to invite and encourage the listener to respond personally,
and autobiographically, indeed ?
"You'll have to love her. She's your symbol." 082293#86
Copyright (c) 1993 by Alan W. Pollack
All Rights Reserved
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Ook op Rubber Soul:
Ook op 1962-1966:
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