The Ballad of John and Yoko
Composer(s) : Lennon and McCartney
Year : 1968
Chords/Tabs: The Ballad of John and Yoko
Notes on "The Ballad of John and Yoko" (TBOJAY)
KEY E Major
----- 3X ----
FORM Intro -> Verse/Refrain -> Bridge ->
----- 2X ----
Verse/Refrain -> Outro (w/complete ending)
GENERAL POINTS OF INTEREST
Style and Form
- Recorded on impulse in a single session with just John and Paul on
hand, and providing all the music in one way or another, this stylized
blues quickie remains quite a curiosity of the Beatles catalog.
- The production is a triumph of period technology. You'd never suspect
only two people did it with multiple overdubs based on what you can hear.
Macca on drums is a particularly pleasant surprise. Alright, so he's not
up to Ringo's standards, but at risk of damning with faint praise, he surely
does much better (read: steadier) than the erstwhile Mister Best.
- Beyond technique, you don't need to read Lewisohn to tell with your own
ears how urgent a sense of creative fun and collaborative byplay was
shared by John and Paul in this April '69 recording session, in spite of
the overtly John&Yoko focus of the narrative. It forces you to question
the well worn conventional wisdom that insists their musical relationship
had manifestly gone bust by the previous January.
- The flavor of the music is quite bluesy but the form avoids any suggestion
of the 12-bar idiom.
Melody and Harmony
- The tune is quite bluesy by virtue of the heavy use of the flat 7th and
lighter use of the flat 3rd.
- The harmony is equally bluesy by virtue of the chord set being limited to
ones rooted on I, IV, and V.
- The I7 chord is exploited for its capability of sounding like a V-of-IV, and
the V chord is frequently embellished by the simultaneous Major/minor 3rd
- A facsimile of the session notes for this song that spells out all
you need to know about who plays what is conveniently reproduced in
Lewisohn's _Recording Sessions_, page 172.
- They were never too busy to sweat the details:
- John sings the first three Verse/Refrains single tracked by himself
though with some extra reverb. Paul joins him for the final two
sections; tentatively at first, in the 4th iteration (he jumps in
for just the last word of each line of the verse, "bath, said, head,
drag"), but sits out the refrain; then, for the grand finale, Paul
sings all the way through.
- The verses feature bluesy lead guitar licks between the phrases
in left-to-right ping-pong stereo.
- The refrains feature chromatic scale runs in the guitar. The
first three follow a pattern of down, down, down, down. The last
two are down, up, down, down. Don't tell me it's a coincidence.
- The piano, which is used in quite sparingly in the rest of the song,
joins in for the entirety of the final verse. Together with Paul's
similar vocal, this appropriately thickens up the ensemble for the
- We get just two measures of vamping on the I chord to set the key and tempo.
- Don't underestimate the extent to which the extreme brevity of this section
sets a hurried (albeit "pleasantly" hurried) tone for what follows.
- The verse is 8 measures long, vamping on a single chord. The lyrics come
in very short bursts that add up to a surprisingly large number of poetic
lines for the relatively short length of the section; I'd parse it as
AA/A'A'/A'', followed by the long pickup to the refrain:
|E |- |- |- |
A' A' A'' Pickup ...
|E7 |- |- |- |
- The tune hangs in there at a precarious part of the scale;
centered on 5, but stepping down down to 3, and later jumping up to
- This section is also 8 measures long. Harmonically, it starts away from
I but clearly, directly converges toward it:
|A |- |E |- |
|B |- |E |- |
- You might want to parse this and what I label as the "verse" together as
a single section to the extent that neither one feels quite sufficient on
its own. hence my use of the label "Verse/Refrain" instead of
"Verse -> Refrain."
- The tune (don't forget to include the pickup) first raises the melodic
ceiling up to the octave (i.e. 8), and then, by a ragged combination of
skips and steps brings it all the way down to 1, which just happens to
be the melodic floor of the song as well.
- The bridge is a couple beats longer than 8 measures long, and
harmonically both starts and ends off the I chord:
|A |- |- |- |
|A |- |B |- | **plus 2 extra beats!
- The syncopated hiccup effect at the end of this section is an
ear catching trick that John was fond of; see
"Yer Blues" and
for starters; or the half measure of radio
noise interpolated before the repeat of the intro in the midst
- It's hard to parse by ear with 100% certainty, but I believe the
exclamation of "Think!" is on the fourth beat of measure 8, with
Paul's three eighths worth of drum pickup start on "One-And" in
the ninth and partial measure.
- The outro provides an example of the three-times-you're-out gambit
based on a petit reprise of the second half of the refrain:
|B |- |E |- |
- After the last complete refrain, the second phrase is sung one
last time, followed by the final iteration for just the backing
- Three signature details appear at the very end:
- slow triplets in the lead guitar
- ending on an added 6th chord
- an absolutely trailing drum fill delayed past the point
where you assume the track is over
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS
- Aside from whatever Messianic connections John may have been
subliminally drawing between this song and the much earlier
I cannot escape thinking that in his choice of words for this song's
refrain, he was, in part, settling an old score with the press, the
radio stations, and the world for the way in which he was some
combination of cajoled and bullied by the press in August '66 to
somehow apologize for saying the Beatles were "bigger than Jesus."
- Take a look at the film clip from the infamous press conference which
has appeared in The Compleat Beatles if not The Anthology(?). Yeah,
he was sorry, alright.
"How d'you recokon that one out?" 030799#163
Copyright (c) 1995 by Alan W. Pollack
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Ook op Past Masters, Vols. 2:
Ook op 1967-1970:
Ook op 1:
(c) 2020 Serge Girard