Yes It Is
Composer(s) : Lennon and McCartney
Year : 1964
Chords/Tabs: Yes It Is
Notes on "Yes It Is" (YII)
KEY E Major
METER 2/4 (6/8)
FORM Intro -> Verse -> Verse -> Bridge -> Verse -> Bridge ->
Verse -> Outro (w/complete ending)
GENERAL POINTS OF INTEREST
Style and Form
- Comparisons of this song to "This Boy" are
inevitable and ubiquitous. Yet, for all their similarities, "Yes It
Is" (YII) is arguably the more fully developed and "mature" of the two
- Behind the standard two-bridge-no-solo form, and in spite of its B-side
status, YII features lyrics that are more clever, an harmonic palette more
rich, and a mood more sharply characterized than the earlier song.
Melody and Harmony
- The verse melody is constrained to an almost entirely pentatonic
range of six notes; from E up to C#. The bridge opens this range way
the heck up to G#; an unusually high note for John.
- The roster of chords appearing in the song is relatively standard but
both the ordering of their progressions, as well as the voice leading
transitions between some of them, is extraordinary. Only the bridge section
and the first phrase of the verse are made up of chord progressions that
approximate cliche patterns of the period. The remaining three-quarters
of the verse is pure Lennon/McCartney with its twice-surprising deployment
of flat-VII and the last-minute deceptive cadence to the relative minor
- This latter gambit of, in a song that is otherwise clearly in a
Major key, hovering around the relative minor chord to such an extent
that the identity of the actual home key becomes a tad or more ambiguous,
was something for which the Boys had a real penchant; e.g. check out our
studies of "Not A Second Time",
"And I Love Her", and
"I'm Happy Just To Dance With You". YII is
not quite as extreme an example as these others, but the principle is
the same. To the extent that AILH, IHJTDWY and YII are in the same
key, I wonder if they somehow had some a subliminal association of the
gambit itself with the world of 4 sharps!
- Back in "This Boy" we had already commented
on their use of an harmonic technique that had been popular in the
late-Romantic/Impressionistic periods of so-called classical music;
the one in which the resolution of 9/11/13th chords is delayed until
the point at which the root of the chord has already changed,
conjuring a feeling as if one chord has melted into the one that
follows it. The same technique is brought forward in the current song
to the point where some of the higher-order dissonant chords are found
to never quite resolve.
- The bridge section offers a short-lived but real modulation for a
change; something we haven't seen all that often in our studies.
- The three part vocal arrangement of the verse is dense and dissonant,
and its level of compositional sophistication begs some intruiging
questions about the working mode of the group and the involvement
of George Martin as a coach. Bootlegs of the unmixed final take 14
belie the cream-finished haziness of the officially released product
and betray just how dry and close-up the vocal parts were originally
- In the bridge we have John's double tracked solo in the first half
with George and Paul coming back in to give him appropriately moaning
support for the big climax.
- The rhythmic scaning of the words contains a large amount of syncopation
and two-against-three cross rhythms which cut across the evenly lilting
triplet rhythms of the backing track. You might go as far as to describe
this as the rhythmic analogue to the dissonant harmonic elements described
- George's "tone pedal" guitar adds an etherial touch that is as novel
as it is complementary to the vocal texture.
- Given just two measures of the 'I' chord, this intro sets forth
the basic backbeat and instrumental arrangement for the entire song.
- The piece begins with a guitar pickup of low B natural 'on FOUR'.
As we did back on "Don't Bother Me", I propose
that this song be parsed as though its measure lengths were half as
long as the 4-in-the-bar count-in heard in the outtakes would imply;
otherwise, the phrase lengths come out looking absurdly short.
- The first verse is an unusual fifteen measures long. It starts off
with a couplet of two phrases, each of which is four measures long.
This is balanced out by a closing phrase of six measures plus
one last measure of plain breathing space before the next verse
|E |A |f# |B |
E: I IV ii V
|E |A |D |B |
I IV flat-VII V
|E |- |A |D |
I6 IV flat-VII
** first inversion w/G# in bass
|verse #2 & 3 ...
|c# |E |- |- |
- The second and third verses, both of which are followed by a bridge
section, use a rhetorical repetition of the closing hook phrase to
extend this section out to a more typical sixteen measures. This allows
the sustained E Major chord at that point to be punningly leveraged as
not only the plain I, but also the V of the key of A, which nicely
sets up the modulation to that key just in time for the bridge.
- The flat-VII chord is used in two different and unusual ways in
the second and third phrases respectively. In the first case it
is used as a surprise surrogate for the ii chord heard in the
corresponding context of the previous phrase. The resolution of
of this same chord to vi (the relative minor of the home key) in
the third phrase is even more unusual, and quite evocative of the
bittersweet message of the song's lyrics.
- Some quick examples of the free dissonances created by the lead
vocal against the underlying chords: an A9 in measure 2, an f#11
in measure 3, and a D added sixth (called a 13th by some) in measure 7.
I believe one senses a feeling of exquisite yearning in the implied
resolution of the note D-natural upward to D# over the barline between
measures 7 and 8; the effect is ironically enhanced by the fact
that the voices actually drop out for measure 8, leaving this
D-D# literally implied rather than spelled out.
- The bridge is ten measures in length and it follows a similar plan
to that of the verse, with the second of its somewhat parallel phrases
being elongated; i.e. a 4 + 6 subdivision of the 10 measures:
|b |E |A |f# |
A: ii V I vi
|b |E |c# |E |
ii V iii
E: vi I
|F# |B |
- Formal contrast is provided in this section by the change of
vocal arrangement, a temporary cutback in the level of dissonance, a
large-scale opening up of the melodic melodic range, and the clear,
obvious build to a climax; the latter following on the heels of a
verse which had no such sense of dramatic shape.
- The modulation that is first hinted at by the E7 chord at the end of
the second verse is not fully consummated until the third measure
of this bridge. In fact, the continued use of D#'s in the melody
of this further serves to blunt one's sense of a modulation having
taken place in so many words, or perhaps I should say chords :-).
- The reappearance of the c# minor chord right at the start of what is
the quickening toward climax touches one as being somehow ominously
- The full ending is crafted out of a last-minute variation on the
sixteen-measure form of the verse, the two final reprises of the hook
phrase now being harmonized as follows:
|E |- |G# |A |E |
I V-of-vi IV I
- The appearance of G# Major at this turn half-surprisingly hints that
a belated modulation to the relative minor key of c# might yet actually
take place, but it even more surprisingly resolves deceptively to IV
and from there to the final I chord.
- The riff of pedal guitar notes which float away after the last chord
has already been sounded -- D# - B - G# - C# -- close things up in the
freely dissonant mode that characterized most of what preceeded.
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS
- Over the long run, John is nothing if not consistent in the style of
his wordplay. The red/blue pun which runs through the current song has
as its precedents not only the black/blue obvious example of
"Baby's In Black", but also the "this/that"
motif of "This Boy", and many others as well.
- A number of equally familiar verbal pirouettes reappear here,
some of which go beyond cleverness to hint at emotional content with
almost subconscious indirection. We have, for example: a vague reference
to something spoken offline from the song proper ("remember what I said
tonight"), a hint that the hurt of love lost is exacerbated by a feeling
of public humiliation ("everybody knows, I'm sure", and "but it's my
pride"), and just plain small talk cliches thrown in for good measure
(the title phrase, and "it's true.")
- Most potent of all is the ironic place of honor given in the song
to the persistence of memory; ironic because of the manner in which
the tyrannical, debilitating power of such memory is contrasted with
the simple, mundane objects and sensations of life which are capable
of triggering such hot flashes. Granted, John had already dealt with
this theme as early as the song "Misery", but
you can intuit that a more permanent and serious attachment was at
stake in our later song from a subtle shift in emphasis. Back in
"Misery" the tears were shed over the memory of "all the little things
we've done". Here in YII we're now talking about "the things we
Alan (firstname.lastname@example.org OR uunet!huxley!awp)
"Can you take me back where I came from ?" 090892#66
Copyright (c) 1992 by Alan W. Pollack
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Ook op Past Masters, Vols. 1:
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