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Nowhere Man

Composer(s) : Lennon and McCartney
Year : 1965
Duration :
Key :
Meter :

Chords/Tabs: Nowhere Man

Notes on "Nowhere Man" (NM)

KEY E Major


FORM Verse -> Verse -> Bridge -> Verse (Guitar Solo) -> Verse -> Bridge -> Verse -> Bridge -> Verse -> Outro (w/complete ending)


Style and Form

- "Nowhere Man" (NM) remains a pioneering landmark example of what, within less than a year or so of its release, would be labelled as the "folk rock" sub-genre. Aside from the topical relevance of its lyrical theme, and in spite of the electric arrangement and pop-ish choice of chords, an ingenuously simple tune and non- syncopated beat help create a subtle fusion of styles.

- The form of this song is unusually long with its three bridges and a double verse in between the first two of them. In all our studies to date I don't believe we've yet seen another example with a third repeat of the bridge.

Melody and Harmony

- Superficially, the melodic material of the song is straight away in the Major mode. However, one's interest in the tune is piqued on a more subtle level by a combination of the large number of appoggiaturas, the pseudo pentatonic nature of the bridge, and the prominent role given to the flat 6th scale degree (C natural) in the backing vocals.

- The flat 6th also bears some influence on the harmony, "forcing", as it were, the appearance of one of John's much favored minor iv chords in the context of a Major key.

- A relatively small number of chords are used throughout, most of them being simple choices to boot. Aside from the minor iv chord already mentioned, the other point of harmonic interest here is found in the unusual iii -> IV progression; uncannily, the last time we had seen it used was in (no coincidence) a song by the same composer called "I Feel Fine." (And I do :-)).


- The instrumental texture is thick with the sound of electric guitars in a way that is rather anticipatory if not actually influenced by The Byrds or even The Wilburys :-). Paul provides an almost hyperactively arpeggiated marching bassline. And Ringo's drumwork remains uncharacteristically undifferentiated throughout.

- It is the vocals however which truly stand out in this arrangement, making it one of their more ambitious though relatively uncelebrated forays into three-part singing. The a cappella opening itself is unprecendented, (though I wonder if I'm the only one who finds that when instruments come in at the fifth measure the singers sound retrospectively as though they had been slightly off key).

- Also note how the chorale-like style of the verses is modified in the bridges to a solo-plus-two-backers-doing-"lalas" (reminiscent of "You Won't See Me"). In the current song, this switch nicely supports the change in the lyrics at the point from speaking in the third person to a direct address of the title's typological anti-hero.



- The verse is only eight measures long and is made up of three phrases, the last one of which is equal in length to the sum of the first two:

----- #1 ----- ------ #2 ---- -------------- #3 ------------- |E |B |A |E |A |a |E |- | E: I V IV I IV iv I

- The melody of this verse makes for an ironic contrast with the hook phrase of "Norwegian Wood" that we looked at so closely last time. Although both tunes share the downward traversal of an octave as their common backbone, the manner in which the octave is filled out here is both melodically and rhythmically much plainer than the other song; even a bit simpleminded by comparison. Also worth considering is that the octave run in "Norwegian Wood" is based on the 5th scale degree whereas in our current song it is based on the tonic 1st degree of the scale.

- I would suggest that it is this certain blandness in the tune itself which allows our hook-thirsty attention to be diverted to the little guitar riff which trails every verse section. This riff also happens to traverse a downward octave (one based on the 5th scale degree) and its rhythmic syncopation and fanfare like arpeggiation nicely contrasts with the tune and at the same time resonates with the bassline.

- The guitar solo verse further develops the characteristics of this little riff and concludes with a surprising gesture in which a sudden deep descent all the way down to the low, open E string is capped off by a ringing, harmonic high E.

- Because of the F# in the melody on the downbeat of measure 5, there is a part of me that might want to parse the chord in that measure as a ii6/5 instead of IV with an added 6th. It's moot to the extent that both such chords function synonomously as subdominants.


- The bridge is also eight measures in length and breaks down into a phrasing pattern similar to the verse, except that the first two short phrases here are identical, and even the longer third phrase is merely an extension of the material heard in the first two:

------------- 2X -------------- tune: |B C# |E F# G# B |B B |E D# C# B | chords: |g# |A |g# |A | iii IV iii IV tune: |C# B G# B |- | chords: |- |B | V

- Appropriate bridge-like contrast is provided by a number of factors. The melodic shape of this section is arch-like for a change, and harmonically, the start of this section away from I with a big finish on V that sets up the verse which follows.

- The sustaining of the A chord through measure 7 provides a subtly slow syncopation to the harmonic rhythm. To my ears, the bassline of the first bridge is played differently than the other two, creating some confusion as to whether the chord in measures 6 - 7 is actually A or f#, but both other bridges make a clear case for A.

- A comparatively large amount of dissonance between melody and chords is created in this bridge by a tendency in the tune to dwell on melodic notes which more properly belong to the chord that either precedes or follows the current one. This melodic effect is so pronounced that it combines with the already mentioned syncopation in the harmonic rhythm to create the illusion of a dissonant 4-3 suspension in the backing voices at the end of this section, whereas no such suspension actually exists!


- The outro contains a Beatles-trademark triple repeat of the verse's final phrase. The guitar hook, as might be expected, is given the absolutely last word.

- Paul vocally upstages the others in this coda, crying out loudly with the melodic flat 6th placed high in his range.


- Even if the lyrics here aren't quite the likes of Dylan (or even Barry McGuire :-)), it's worth recalling, at the risk of sounding like it's a case of damning with faint praise, that the mere *fact* of The Beatles essaying something this outspoken at this juncture of their career was historically remarkable.

- For myself, there is a slightly uncomfortable preachiness about these lyrics that one tends to associate more with George than John. Even one of the more clever tag lines -- "isn't he a bit like you and me" -- which in theory ought to have blunted some of the exhortatory tone with it's well-needed dose of self-inclusive deprecation, still strikes me as a bit forced and awkward.

- The title epithet, though, is, no question, still unabashedly worth the entire price of admission. If neccessary, you can give it to me, straight on the shoulder; or anywhere else for that matter.

Alan (

"Jeremy Hillary Boob, Ph.D."				      033093#79

                Copyright (c) 1993 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.

I wrote:
>- "Nowhere Man" (NM) remains a pioneering landmark example of what,
>  within less than a year or so of its release, would be labelled
>  as the "folk rock" sub-genre.

Whoops! I should've known better ...

I've already received a couple of letters in response pointing out that I've been discovered with my chronological pants down, so to speak.

Dylan's electric-set-induced fiasco at the Newport Folk Festival, indeed, was during the summer of '65. I'm doubly embarrassed to admit that I was one of his early fans that was rather disappointed in him at the time; oy! Such phenomena as the cover of his "Mr. Tambourine Man" by The Byrds were to follow very shortly if they did not acutally appear in parallel with the release of "Bringing It All Back Home."

THEREFORE, in truth I should alter the stance of my Note to acknowledge that while "Nowhere Man" remains an unusual stylistic venture for the Beatles per se, by itself it did not so much define the folk rock style of its time as much as stylize it.

Flame away, anyway!!

	Alan (

"Oh, by all means; I'd be quite prepared for that eventuality."

Ook op Rubber Soul:

ChordsNotes On
Drive My Car Drive My Car
Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)
You Won't See Me You Won't See Me
Nowhere Man Nowhere Man
Think for Yourself Think for Yourself
The Word The Word
Michelle Michelle
What Goes On What Goes On
Girl Girl
I'm Looking Through You I'm Looking Through You
In My Life In My Life
Wait Wait
If I Needed Someone If I Needed Someone
Run for Your Life Run for Your Life

Ook op Yesterday and Today:

ChordsNotes On
Drive My Car Drive My Car
I'm Only Sleeping I'm Only Sleeping
Nowhere Man Nowhere Man
Doctor Robert Doctor Robert
Yesterday Yesterday
Act Naturally Act Naturally
And Your Bird Can Sing And Your Bird Can Sing
If I Needed Someone If I Needed Someone
We Can Work It Out We Can Work It Out
What Goes On What Goes On
Day Tripper Day Tripper

Ook op Yellow Submarine Soundtrack:

ChordsNotes On
Yellow Submarine Yellow Submarine
Hey Bulldog Hey Bulldog
Eleanor Rigby Eleanor Rigby
Love You Too Love You Too
All Together Now All Together Now
Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds
Think for Yourself Think for Yourself
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
With a Little Help from My Friends With a Little Help from My Friends
Baby You're a Rich Man Baby You're a Rich Man
Only a Northern Song Only a Northern Song
All You Need Is Love All You Need Is Love
When I'm Sixty-Four When I'm Sixty-Four
Nowhere Man Nowhere Man
It's All Too Much It's All Too Much

Ook op 1962-1966:

ChordsNotes On
Love Me Do Love Me Do
Please Please Me Please Please Me
From Me to You From Me to You
She Loves You She Loves You
I Want to Hold Your Hand I Want to Hold Your Hand
All My Loving All My Loving
Can't Buy Me Love Can't Buy Me Love
A Hard Day's Night A Hard Day's Night
And I Love Her And I Love Her
Eight Days a Week Eight Days a Week
I Feel Fine I Feel Fine
Ticket to Ride Ticket to Ride
Yesterday Yesterday
Help! Help!
You've Got to Hide Your Love Away You've Got to Hide Your Love Away
We Can Work It Out We Can Work It Out
Day Tripper Day Tripper
Drive My Car Drive My Car
Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)
Nowhere Man Nowhere Man
Michelle Michelle
In My Life In My Life
Girl Girl
Paperback Writer Paperback Writer
Eleanor Rigby Eleanor Rigby
Yellow Submarine Yellow Submarine

(c) 2020 Serge Girard