This book needs more explanation than most because it is unusual. I have loved John Lennon’s windmilling rhythm guitar on "All My Loving" since I first heard it on With the Beatles released in November 1963, but more to the point he never used that particular rhythm again, just that one time in all of Lennon-McCartney's 162 collaborations, and it got me wondering what else they might have done just once in a song, never to repeat themselves.
I listened again, closely and repeatedly, to each of their 162 songs, paying attention to each of the elements that comprise a song: melody, lyrics, arrangement, production, structure, and chords. Astonishingly, aside from about a half dozen songs each song had something new to offer. Even more interesting were the incidental discoveries to be made, among them John and Paul’s unmistakable and individual songwriting fingerprints, but perhaps most interesting of all is the case of "Yesterday."
Paul requested sole writing credit for "Yesterday" from Yoko Ono because John had contributed nothing to the song. Paul awoke one morning with the song fullblown in his head (except for the lyrics). Yoko denied Paul the credit, but for the wrong reason: neither she nor even Sir Paul seem to be aware of John's very real contribution,
Copyright 2015. Boman Desai. All rights reserved
unconscious though it may have been. You can tell a Johnsong from a Paulsong by who sings lead. If both sing together, the collaboration is equal. Until "Yesterday," the verses, choruses, and bridges of all songs credited to Paul had even numbers of measures (4, 6, 8, 10). John, on the other hand, wrote songs with odd numbers of measures. "Not a Second Time," "I’ll Be Back," and "Baby’s in Black," all have 7 measures. Later songs by John included "I'm Only Sleeping" (9 measures), "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" (19 measures), "Good Morning, Good Morning" (9 measures), and "Glass Onion" (13 measures) among others. "Yesterday" was Paul's first song in their catalog with an odd number of measures (7). Surely that is significant?
Dancing About Architecture is full of such discoveries as it explicates each song in the order of its release from “Love Me Do” to “The Long and Winding Road.” Also of interest, John and Paul would sometimes exploit the same discoveries at the same time, but each in his own inimitable fashion. "Can't Buy Me Love" and "You Can't Do That," two sides of the same single, provided their first instances of 12-bar blues progressions, but Paul's "Can't Buy Me Love" is predictably more pop and John's "You Can't Do That" more bluesy. "She Said She Said" and "Good Day Sunshine" have the same syncopation and were released on the same album, but again there is no mistaking who wrote which song. "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and "She's Leaving Home" are their first waltzes (though John had written songs in triple time before), and again there is no mistaking who wrote which. "Martha My Dear" and "I'm So Tired" both open with the same chord progression, I-VIIb, the first time either of them had used that particular progression, and again no mistaking who wrote which.
Also of interest are the ties that bind songs that appear world's apart on a first listen. "Do You Want to Know a Secret" and "Glass Onion" share DNA. So do "Good Morning Good Morning" and "Two of Us," "Your Mother Should Know" and "Hey Jude," and "Norwegian Wood" and "The Fool on the Hill" among many others - but I will leave the reader to make those discoveries for herself in the book.
I should also say something about the title. Elvis Costello is reputed to have said: "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture. It’s a really stupid thing to want to do." Considering how much Elvis Costello has written about his own music, we know his tongue was lodged well within his cheek, but I love the phrase, and I have written more about the title in the introduction to the book – so, for now, enough!
DANCING ABOUT ARCHITECTURE
A Songwriter's Guide to the Lennon-McCartney Catalog
Entry for "LOVE ME DO," the first of the entries for Lennon-McCartney's 162 collaborations.
The First single, the First A side, the First chart performance, and better known for firstness than anything else, “Love Me Do” deserves a closer look, revealing as it does the songwriters in embryo.
The verse or chorus or bridge of a pop song is commonly 4 or 8 or 12 or 16 bars in length, less commonly 6 or 10 or 14 or 18. “Love Me Do” has no chorus, and its bridge is a standard 8 bars, but the verse is unusual for the pause at the end. The pause tweaks the verse to an uneven 13 bars (actually, 9 bars, but a repeat of the last line takes the verse to 13.
These two aspects of the song (uneven number of bars, repeating the last line) pass without fanfare and have never been given the importance they deserve, displaying as they do individual fingerprints in part of John and Paul as songwriters long before the world began to see differences in their approaches to their craft – very likely before they were aware of the differences themselves.
John & Paul came to an early agreement to share songwriting credits no matter who was responsible for the song though they rarely worked together as did the Gershwins, or Rodgers and Hammerstein, or Bacharach-David, one on music, the other on lyrics. J&P worked on songs individually, coming to the other when they found themselves stuck, either for a line or bridge (the middle-8), or just moral support – but it is only with hindsight that their individual contributions to a song can even be guessed, and “Love Me Do” reveals some differences from the very beginning.
In brief, among other things, John was more prone to write songs with uneven numbers of bars (“All I’ve Got to Do,” “Not a Second Time,” “Any Time at All,” and “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” among others), Paul to expand the verse by repeating the last lines or otherwise extending the verse (“And I Love Her,” “I’m Down,” “You Won’t See Me,” and “Bluebird” among others), and “Love Me Do” exemplifies these particular hallmarks of each of their styles.
Additionally, they agreed that the writer primarily responsible for the song would sing lead, the other (sometimes with George) harmony. Both John and Paul sing lead together on “Love Me Do,” George adding harmony – but despite innovations to the 8-bar format “Love Me Do” remains a goose’s neck stretched (by the pause and repeated lines) into a swan’s, making it both more than a goose and less than a swan. The melody is repetitive, seesawing through the chorus between just two chords, tonic and subdominant (I IV), adding the dominant (V) for the verse (the most basic of combinations). The pause, momentarily throwing the listener off course, adds interest to the melody – but the lyric is as repetitive as the melody.
The outro is a fade, by definition a steady loss of faculty, the most cliched of closes, one which they were to parody better than anyone in “Hey Jude” – but that came much later.