This week’s car CD is Rubber Soul, the remastered version.
This is my favorite Beatles song. And I’m a Beatles fanatic, as you know. So let me tell you why, in terms that attempt to convey accurately why this song is in my DNA.
1. The lyrics are wonderful. “Give the word a chance to say that the word is just a way.” I think that’s a fascinating, elegant summation of the more genuine aspirations of the entire love generation before it became co-opted. And make no mistake, aside from the Beatles’ legacy, the love generation suffered a lopsided defeat at the hands of the “man”.
2. The arrangement. Wikipedia mentions that the song is in Dm, but it’s not really clear if the song is in minor or major keys, since the rhythm guitar (I refer to the guitar stabs on beat 2 and 3+) plays D7#9, which includes both major and minor! The main vocal line implies minor but the arrangement is traditional 12 bar blues, and as you know, you can sing a blues melody in major and minor within the same measure if you please. Another contributing factor is the fact that McCartney’s piano part is a major triad, and not minor at all. So minor melody, major piano, both in the guitar stabs. The song is in both.
3. The groove. It’s a kind of funk. It’s danceable. It can be soul, funk, pop, peace and love, anything you like.I love the drum sounds on Rubber Soul, and the bass guitar cuts anything recorded in the rock idiom before it, and for years to come. And when you look back on their contemporaries (even some of the black ones), what other act could so effortlessly create something like this? Of course, Lennon and McCartney confessed to being high when they wrote this, so there’s that. But John Denver also smoked an awful lot of grass, and…
4. The vocals. Two of the greatest singers in popular music history. At 1:47 there’s a slight lilt in McCartney’s upper harmony (one of the two tracks) that makes it even more reminiscent of the divergence to come from pop to soul-pop made popular by certain Motown acts. By the final chorus, the harmonies commit to minor, but that clashes with the piano part. Ok, not to delve too deeply, but listen to the way the high harmony on the phrase “chance to say” descends to the 6th instead of the flat 7th (or flat 6th). That implies a major scale when coming from the tonic to the 5th. Listen to all that dissonance! I love it. The first time I heard it, even then it reached down and touched my inner rhythm like nothing I had ever heard. It still moves me. It really does. Lennon sings with such conviction and soul that it’s hard not to want to come along.
I didn’t mention the amazing guitar sound, the way they cut off the end of every phrase in the chorus to add to the…I don’t even know the word (so to speak) to use aside from just “funky”.
This is my favorite Beatles’ song. What’s your’n?