When I Get Home
Composer(s) : Lennon and McCartney
Year : 1964
Chords/Tabs: When I Get Home
Notes on "When I Get Home" (WIGH)
KEY A Major/a minor/C Major
FORM Refrain -> Verse -> Refrain -> Verse -> Refrain ->
Bridge -> Verse -> Refrain -> Outro (w/complete ending)
GENERAL POINTS OF INTEREST
Style and Form
- We wind up here completing our study of the Beatles third album with
this relatively less popular but nonetheless characteristically novel
and interesting number. I believe that some listeners find in this song
a tense agitation in the refrain and a fierce determination in the verse
that are irritatingly out of proportion to the situation implied by
the lyrics. For my own tastes, this contrast only goes to heighten
a sense of irony and intruigue about the song.
- After all, just *why* the forceful delivery ? Is the hero simply
worried that he'll be somehow prevented by woman#2 from returning
"home", or perhaps is it more the reflection of an inner ambivalence
within the hero himself about wanting to effect such a return ? I
similarly wonder what in blazes he possibly means by the line "I'll love
her more till I walk out that door again." -- Just going to work or
out on errands the next day after his planned return, or is this some
off-handed allusion to the inevitability of repeated philandering ?
Such wonderfully elliptical ambiguity! :-) But getting back to
the music ...
- The most unusual item found here is the key scheme. The relatively
large number of songs on the AHDN album which make conspicuous use of
either relative Major/minor shifts (e.g.
"And I Love Her" and
"I'm Happy Just To Dance With You"
) or parallel Major/minor shifts (e.g.
"Things We Said Today" and
"I'll Be Back") has already been discussed
in this series. But "When I Get Home" is the only example we've
seen in which *both* gamibts are used in the same song.
- Secondarily, the form of the song is also unusual, starting off with
a refrain, but also containing a bridge, as well. Compare this, by
the way, with "Tell Me Why."
Melody and Harmony
- The parallel Major/minor gambit is based on the keys of A, with the
refrain starting out in A Major but ending in a minor. The relative
Major/minor gambit is based on the relationship between the appearance
of a minor just mentioned and C Major which dominates the verses as
well as the bridge.
- Surprisingly, barely six different chords are used within the entire song
to exploit such a complex tonal situation, in which your sense of where
the home key is is kept continually in flux. I'd suggest that this
changeability is so strongly a subliminal hook element of the song
that the final ending on C sounds a tad abrupt and forced; perhaps
a fadeout would have worked better.
- The melodic style here is essentially declamatory with short phrases
of 3-6 notes repeated frequently repeated for rhetorical effect; a
Beatles trademark running as far back as "Love Me Do."
- The instrumental backing contains a fuzzy/boomy texture heard on
several other tracks from the same album, though some of the fancier
drum work (such as fills which bridge the gap between the ends of
refrains and the beginning of verses) stands out nicely.
- The vocal arrangement features John single tracked in the verses, double
tracked for most of the bridge (sounds like they rather fussily omit
the second track for the climactic "I love her more" phrase of that
section), and accompanied for emphasis by the others in the refrain.
- The refrain contains a rhythmic hook to be found in the recurring
hard syncopations on the final eighth note of the measure (i.e. on
"four-AND"), unusually followed by *no* demarcation of where the
downbeat of the next measure actually is; a special effect which
only goes to make the syncopation feel all the more gut-wrenching.
- The refrain is eight measures long and is structured out of two
parallel phrases of two measures each that are balanced out by
a single phrase of four measures:
|A |- |- |- |
|D9 |G |a |G |
IV flat-VII i flat-VII
- The melodic use of G naturals in the A Major context of the first
two phrases lends a bluesy touch. The last phrase is especially
tangy by vritue of the melodic E over the D chord in measure 5,
followed by the F natural over the G chord in the next measures.
Lyrically, the opening of this section must be one of the earliest
examples in the Beatles oeuvre to feature wordless phonemes so
- In terms of dramatic structure, this section strangely begins right
off at a point of climax, giving us listeners the feeling of having
walked in on something already well in progress. This effect is
further heightened by surprising series of harmonic moves in the
last couple measures; first the arrival of a *minor* in a place
where you expect it to be *Major*, followed immediately by the
G Major chord which punningly pivots as a dominant V chord over
to the key of C Major.
- Note too, how the uneventful harmonic rhythmic of the first
half of this section contrasts with what happens in the remainder
- The verse is eight measures long and structured in a manner similar
to the refrain. This time, the initial two-measure melodic phrase
is repeated three times before blossoming out a bit the final time
|------------- 3X --------------|
|C |F |G |- |
C: I IV V
- Instead of containing bluesy hints, the tune in this section is shot
through with little chromatic scale riffs. In common with the refrain
though is the melodic emphasis on the F natural over the G chord near
the end here.
- The tone of this verse is hard-edged and determined, and it is
effectively designed to not only contrast with the comparative
turbulence of the refrain, but also, by virtue of its rhetorical
repetitiousness and harmonically open ending on V, to build
momentously toward that next section.
- I'll leave the second chord of the verse simply labelled as IV, though
I believe it could (and should) be more academically (and correctly)
analyzed as the "ii 6/5"; i.e. d7 in the first inversion. Listen
carefully and note how Paul plays a double stopped fifth (F-C) in
the bass, while the melody contains a D natural against it. For
further discussion of this type of chord, see our much earlier note
on "No Reply."
- This bridge is ten measures long, the only un-square section to
be found in the entire song, and can be broken down into a series
of five short two-measure phrases which coalesce into an uneven
grouping of 2 + 3:
|C |a |C |a |
C: I vi I vi
|F9 |G |F |G |a |G |
IV V IV V vi V
- The tone of this section is closer in spirit to the verses than
the refrains, though the internal shape of the bridge is more
arch-like with an internal climax somewhere near the middle of
the section (on those melodic octave leaps to the F9 chords),
rather than ending, like the verses, just on the verge of a
- Note how the final measure of the refrain which immediately precedes
this bridge is modified to sustain the a minor chord.
- The outro of this song is in the form of a 'petit-reprise'-like
extension of the final refrain. In measure 7, this time, an A
Major chord is substituted for the expected a minor, which nicely
motivates a repeat of the second of the second half of the refrain,
starting from the D Major chord; except, of course, for the final
surprising ending on C!
- As the final C chord reverberates and fades away, I detect a
curious resonance of the note F#, which may or may not have been
deliberate. Either way, the subtle appearance of such a dissonant
and foreign tone in this context lends a connotation of something
uneasily left unresolved which somehow surely seems to fit in
with the spirit of what has preceded.
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS
- In considering the thirteen tracks on the _A Hard Day's Night_ album
as a whole and in comparison with the group's work which preceded this
collection, a number of interesting trends and other observations
come to mind.
- First off, a number of earlier trademarks of the group seem
conspicuously downplayed, if not entirely avoided. In particular, they
would seem to have traded in their sinewy two-part vocal counterpoint
for more in the way of solo lead vocals that get punctuated by
antiphonal touches of three part singing. There also seems to
be much less of the free-verse uneven phrasing here than before.
And with exeception of the Major/minor gambits mentioned above or
the intro to "If I Fell", there also seems to be less than their
typical level of experimenting with unusual chord progressions.
- But of course, there are the undeinable signs here of stylistic
development as well. In the absence of cover songs for the first
time, it is particularly notable how many different moods, tempos,
and instrumental textures are included in the mix; in additional
to the obligatory rockers, we also have the likes of a ballad
"And I Love Her", as well as a couple of semi or pseudo
acoustic numbers (e.g.
"Things We Said Today" and
"I'll Be Back")
which anticipate the folk rock style heard later on _Rubber Soul_.
- Just as importantly, there are also the examples of increasingly
sophisticated word play and imagery, as well as the several ways in
which the spirit and flavor of "the blues" are conjured with only very
little if any direct reference.
Alan (firstname.lastname@example.org *OR* uunet!huxley!awp)
"I've only one thing to say to you, John Lennon." 043092#54
Copyright (c) 1992 by Alan W. Pollack
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