What You're Doing
Composer(s) : Lennon and McCartney
Year : 1964
Chords/Tabs: What You're Doing
Notes on "What You're Doing" (WYD)
KEY D Major
FORM Intro -> Verse -> Verse -> Bridge -> Verse ->
Verse (guitar solo) -> Bridge -> Verse -> Outro (fadeout)
GENERAL POINTS OF INTEREST
Style and Form
- The form of this song is a quite standard two-bridge model.
- Although the overall instrumental texture bears an uncanny resemblance
to that of "Every Little Thing", the
arrangement does contain a number of features which, if not entirely
novel and unique, we've not seen in our studies for a while.
Melody and Harmony
- Though clearly in the key of D Major, the heavily syncopated tune
makes emphatic use of the bluesy minor third scale degree (i.e. F
natural); it also contains an uncommon number of appoggiaturas,
suspensions, and free dissonances. While some amount of dissonance
is the life's blood of most musical styles, the extreme amount of it
found in this song is noteworthy. On an almost subliminal level, it
is one of the main ingredients that make you relate to the song as
"jazzy" in contrast to Paul's more hymn-like songs, such as
"Hey Jude" and "Let It Be"
where the dissonance is handled much more carefully, almost quaintly
- An average number of chords (five, count 'em, 5) are used though this
limited diet is rather spiced up by the high quotient of melodic
dissonance turning many of the plain triads into added-sixths and
"free" (i.e. non-dominant, non-resolving) sevenths and ninths.
- The chord progressions of both verse and bridge sections give some
prominence to the characteristic feeling of alternating between
vi and IV (i.e. b minor and G Major). Interestingly, this device
was something that Paul would come back to with increased fascination
in "Drive My Car". Note how in the refrain of
that later song, the extreme emphasis on vi and IV momentarily blurs
your clear sense of what is the home key.
- The solo use of drums here in the intro is a first for The Boys.
The hard thumping is reminiscent of the timpani drums used in "Every Little Thing", though I believe in this
song we are listening to the standard bass drum that comes along with
the kit. Timpani are tuned to a specific pitch and the drums on this
track, to my humble ears, have no pitch, only "thud". The other
passing resemblance here to ELT is found in the the
heavy-on-those-lower-octaves use of the piano.
- The second half of the intro offers up an ostinato figure that bears
partial resemblance to the tune; generally, in terms of its syncopated
nature, and specifically in the way that the last four notes of it echo
the hook phrase "what you're doin'". This ostinato provides some overall
unity to the song from the way it is deployed as a backing obbligato within
the verses, though its execution there by George is a bit timid and awkward
sounding in places.
- Paul's solo is double tracked throughout. The backing voices
though alternate between two functions. In the first instance, they
are used to punctuate, exclamation-style, the first words of the first
two lines of each verse. This trick anticipates what is likely the
Beatles most famous use of the technique in
"Help!", though its worth noting that the gambit had
already been tried by them once before in the much earlier
"P. S. I Love You". In the second instance, the
backing voices supply an "oohing" background wash to the soloist in
the second half of the verse.
- Since we're already doing more than the usual amount of
free-associating between this and other songs, I'd propose that the
layered handling of the intro and outro here, not to mention the
ostinato figure, suggests an anticipation of some of what would later
appear in "Day Tripper".
- The intro is longish and layered; its eight measures split into
two four-measure sections, the first of which is for solo drums
that mark out a repeated drum-majorette kind of fanfare, and the
second of includes the rest of the ensemble joining with a dual-
statement of the ostinato figure:
ostinato:D - - F# BAF#E - - ED EF# - -
chords: |D |G |D |G |
D: I IV I IV
- The identity of the home key is established entirely by the I and IV
chords. Looking ahead, it is noteworthy how only one other chord (vi)
in addition to these two is used until the bridge section; indeed, the
all important V chord is held back all the way until the end of the bridge!
- An exceedingly subtle though important difference between the ostinato
and the main tune is that the former starts off with a syncopation from
the "four-AND" beat of the previous measure, whereas the latter starts,
bang, on the downbeat.
- The verse is a standard eight measures which in turn breaks up
into two four-measure phrases. The verse sections which are followed
directly by another verse instead of a bridge are nine measures long,
with a two-measure repeat of the ostinato figure that begins
overlapping with the last measure of the eight-measure verse:
|D |G |D |G |
I IV I IV
--- ostinato ---
|b |G |- |D |G |
vi IV I V
- Examples of dissonance here include the following: the F-natural in
the melody against F# in the D Major chord every time the hook phrase
appears (as on the word "you're"), the A->G appoggiatura in the second
measure (on the word "doing"), and the G on the downbeat of measure 5
against the b minor chord.
- The bridge is eight measures long and is to be parsed into three
phrases which make an AAB pattern of 2 + 2 + 4 measures:
|G |b |G |b |
IV vi IV vi
|E |- |A |- |
- The verse was harmonically closed in shape, and this section contrasts
sharply with that. The first half of the bridge is heard almost as
though there had been a modulation to the relative minor key (b minor)
in which case your ear interprets the chords b and G chords as i and VI
respectively. One thing is sure in any event; this section opens away
from the I chord and ends wide open on the V chord by way of a broad
set up from V-of-V.
- The quotient of melodic dissonance remains the same here as seen in
the verse. To save space, I'll leave the finding of more examples as
the proverbial exercise for the canonical reader :-).
- One example, though, is worth pointing out, and that in the last
two measures where F# on the downbeat of measure 7 creates an
added-sixth, followed by the 4-3 (D->C#) appoggiatura on the downbeat
of measure 8. There is an interesting dramatic effect to be observed
in these two measures as well. The sustaining of the A Major chord
for two measures coupled with the descending melodic melisma on the
word "me" is an essentially relaxing or winding-down kind of gesture.
In sharp contrast to this, the rhythm backing takes the opportunity to
use the last beat of the last measure as an energetic springboard into
the next verse, and the overlap of the two gestures makes an uncanny
effect; kind of like your being pulled in two directions at once.
- The outro is longer and more complex in organization than usual.
We first start off with Paul's making an "old fashioned" triple
petit-reprise of the final couple measures of the verse. This sort
of gesture had been common in outros on the first two albums, but
the most recent time we'd seen one like this before now was back on
"I'm Happy Just To Dance With You".
- The triple-repeat is followed by a reprise of the intro, more or less:
first a single statement of the ostinato, followed by four measures of
the drum fanfare, accompanied this time in mid phrase by the bass guitar,
ultimately followed by a recap of the ostinato figure, repeated here not
just twice as above, but implicitly ad infinitum into the fadeout.
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS
- Paul's decision to rhyme "blue and" with "doing" and "fun in" with
"running" recycles a clever idea seen earlier in
"She's A Woman".
- I'm evenly divided on the question of whether the abandonment of
this pattern for the third verse ("lying" rhymed with "crying")
was a purposeful avoidance of foolish consistency, or something
more in the realm of careless oversight or being fresh out of clever
Alan (email@example.com OR uunet!huxley!awp)
"And don't you take that tone with me, young man!" 072292#63
Copyright (c) 1992 by Alan W. Pollack
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