She's a Woman
Composer(s) : Lennon and McCartney
Year : 1964
Chords/Tabs: She's a Woman
Notes on "She's A Woman" (SAW)
KEY A Major
FORM Intro -> Verse -> Verse -> Bridge -> Verse -> Break (guitar solo) ->
Bridge -> Verse -> Outro (fadeout)
GENERAL POINTS OF INTEREST
Style and Form
- This one was one of Paulie's big personal triumphs. Not only was it
a staple of the Beatles stage repertoire for the season of '65, but as
recently as the "Unplugged Special" of last year, it was clearly on the
composer's own short list of Beatles songs he's proud to still play in
- At the time of its initial release, "She's A Woman" (SAW) was Paul's most
outrageous vocal performance since his earlier rendition of
"Long Tall Sally",
and it was also his first foray into this genre with an original
effort. As I commented back in my note on the LTS EP, the underlying
gesture of this stylistic masquerading would have far-reaching
repercussions for the Beatles in mid-to-late career. In terms of Paul's
own contribution, we can trace a relatively direct line between
our current song and the likes of
"Get Back" and
- This song would be just about the Beatles most blues-like number
to date on compositional grounds, as well as those of performance style.
The tune and the chord choices are bluesy in flavor, and the instrumental
break and outro sections even sport a true-blue 12-bar form. Even the
verses turn out to be in a subtly disguised expanded variation on the
standard 12-bar framework.
- As we've seen in other songs from this period, the bridge provides
the only respite here from the blues. This particular one is extremely
truncated in length to an extreme that one tends to hear what is
actually the beginning of the next verse as though it were a
continuation of the bridge itself.
Melody and Harmony
- The melodic hook of the song is to be found in the quite distinctive
melodic lick which opens the verse, with its dramatic initial upward
jump of a minor sixth, and the craggy manner in which it works its
way back down the other side of the arch. It also contains a tangy
implied cross-relation between the opening C# (on the word "my")
and the later C natural (on the first syllable of the word "presents".)
- The opening jump takes Paul all the way up to high 'A', a note that
is barely within his comfort zone. In fact, the predominant range of
the tune (the fancy technical word for this is "the tessitura") is on
the high side. Paul's evident strain in trying to reach the mark
indirectly adds an earthy, humanizing factor to the procedings. And
FYI -- for "Unplugged", the older Mr. McCartney saw it as prudent
to transpose the whole thing down a full fourth, all the way to the
key of E!
- With the exception of the two brief bridge sections, the chord
selection is strictly I-IV-V, though the bridge does manage in its
terse way to provide some respite.
- In trademark fashion, the entry of the percussion (both drums and
"chocalho" -- sounds like maracas to me) are delayed until the second
half of the intro. Furthermore, the style of drumming is modified for
the bridges and outro.
- The overdubbed piano, which doubles the guitar on those offbeat
chords in the intro (or is it actually some tricky double tracking
of the guitar, alone ??), sits out the first verse, only to return
for the duration in the next section with a part that is primarily
chordal but which also features the hook phrase of the tune in mockingbird
like antiphony with the singer; compare the latter effect with the
handling of the lead guitar lick in
"She Said She Said."
- There is some nice, ongoing interplay established between the bassline
and the piano, though for one precarious instant in the verse which
follows the first bridge, the ensemble between the two of them sounds
almost ready to fall apart.
- Macca sings solo throughout, though he is rather loosely double
tracked for the bridges. From one verse to the next, he employs
an uncommon (for him) amount of improvised variation on the basic
tune. These little twists seem to get steadily freer, louder, and
more extroverted as the song progresses; as well they should.
- The available outtakes of this song with their inevitable count-ins
show us that the music was conceived as being in a very rapid 4/4
meter. By this rule of thumb therefore, the intro is eight measures
1*2* 3 4
|E |- |D |- |A |- |- |- E |
A: V IV I V
- The outtakes also show that the unaccompanied chords played on the offbeat
were sufficiently clever to trip up the group virtually every time. Even
the flawless official version maintains the power to throw you, the
listener, off base a bit no matter how many times you've ever heard it.
- The verse is twenty-four measures long and though its formal outline
is very similar to that of the standard 12-bar blues frame, that
familiar structure here unfolds at half the normal pace (compare,
by the way, with the Larry Williams cover,
"Slow Down"), and its
resemblance is also further obscured by the recurrence of the
D Major (IV) chord in the midst of what would be, in a more pure
blues number, measures of just the plain A (I) chord:
--------------- 2X --------------
|A |D A |A |- |
I IV I
|D |- |- |- |A |D A |A |- |
IV I IV I
|E |- |D |- |A |D A |A |- |
V IV I IV I
- An hypnotic mantra-like effect is created by the four-fold reiteration
of the distinctive hook phrase over the course of this section. The
only other contrasting melodic material comes in little phrases that
move stepwise around a single note, and these too are repeated to
- The first verse is slightly different from all the rest, with its
lack of a piano part and its ending on a syncopated V chord, just
like the intro. Once the piano enters, it seems that whenever the
hook phrase occurs, the piano repeats the D-A chord change in measure
4 of that phrase even though the bassline appears to hold to the
sustained A chord pattern established in the first verse.
- As mentioned already, the bridge is a scant four measures in length.
It is built out of a repetition of the same two-measure melodic phrase,
and provides a terrific example of the way in which different chords
used under identical melodic conditions change the "feeling" of
the melody in each case:
|c# |f# |c# |D E |
iii vi iii IV V
- Appropriate bridge-like contrast is provided by several factors --
the non bluesy melody for a change, the new couple of chords, and the
brevity of the section itself.
- After having discussed in our Note on
"IFF" the relative propensity of
the iii chord to be followed by vi versus IV, we ironically find in this
next song an object lesson in which iii is alternately followed by
*each* of those targets. I have a reasonable doubt regarding whether
that chord on f# is a Major or minor triad; if the former, then change
my label to "V-of-ii", and add a footnote about how that chord suggests,
but far from consumates, a potential modulation to the key of b minor
that is left hanging in mid-air.
Break (Guitar Solo)
- In the guitar solo section, the music abandons all disguise and once
and for all offers us a classic 12-bar blues frame. Note both the
strange stereo mixing of the solo, as well as the manner in which
it manages to sound spontaneously improvised even while it incorporates
pieces of the opening hook phrase.
- The outro features a break out into the 12-bar improvisatory style
seen earlier in the solo section, this time including Paul's own
vocal part based on the title phrase.
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS
- I've suggested on a number of ocassions the seemingly far-fetched
possibility that there may have been times when John and Paul would,
if not quite compositionally compete with each other in any explicit,
technical way, subliminally work out some similar musical problem in
parallel with each other; the result of which might be two very
different songs which, nonetheless, betray a similar lyrical thesis
or technical structure at a level below the surface.
- I first suggested this way back in connection with
"She Said She Said"
"Good Day Sunshine"
, and "It Won't Be Long" versus
"All My Loving." We saw it more recently with
"You Can't Do That" and
"Can't Buy Me Love."
I predict we'll see it yet again when we get to
"Paperback Writer", and even
"Strawberry Fields" versus
- Indeed, the flip sides of singles seem to have been a frequent
and fertile place for this to happen. I suggest we have this same
phenomenon here between
"I Feel Fine" and
"She's A Woman." In this
case, I am particularly struck by the euphoric subtext of the words,
the stylized handling of the blues, and especially the V-IV-I intro
in which the ensemble doesn't quite start until the I chord.
- Paul's got one leading edge here with a small yet stylistically
prophetic bit of wordplay -- the manner in which he rhymes "jealous"
with "well as" seems just a tad too coincidentally similar to those
rhymes of "doin'" with "blue an'" and "runnin'" with "fun in"; to be
"What You're Doing",
recorded more or less during the same group of sessions as "
"She's A Woman." What a guy!
Alan (firstname.lastname@example.org *OR* uunet!huxley!awp)
"You'll have to love her; she's your symbol." 051892#56
Copyright (c) 1992 by Alan W. Pollack
All Rights Reserved
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Ook op Past Masters, Vols. 1:
Ook op Live At The BBC:
(c) 2020 Serge Girard