The opening section of the Long One was also the first to be recorded and one of the few sections to be cut as a single song. Having said that the song itself is clearly several unrelated musical ideas pieced together. Before we can get into what the song has to teach us, we need to unravel the very convoluted structure.
AAA BB CCCCC D1 E D2 F D3 GGGGGGGGGGGGGG
A You never give me your money... (0:00 – 1:09)
By far the strongest part of this sound collage and the place where most of the songwriting lessons are to be found. An 8 bar circle of fifths progression in Am played 3 times (Intro/verse 1/verse 2)
B Out of college... (1:10 – 1:31)
A four bar pattern played twice. Though we've switched to C major (the relative key to A minor) thematically this has a lot in common with the A section. It isn't immediately obvious (more on that in the next post) because it's obscured (or ruined, take your pick) by the crunching gear change. Suddenly we have drums, honky tonk piano, an obnoxiously loud and busy walking bass line and boxy, heavily eq'd vocals. Imagine (or better yet, play) the A and B sections in a similar style and whaddaya know! - they almost sound like they belong in the same song!!!
C But oh, that magic feeling... (1:32 – 2:11)
Now we're in C mixolydian. Though the progression (Bb, F, C or bVII, IV, I) is pretty stock for this scale the fact that it's 3 bars long (instead of the universal 4) gives it a constant sense of forward motion. The next pattern keeps starting before your brain registers that the old one has finished. There's real sense of openness and freedom which matches the lyrics here brilliantly. And the lyrics fit into 3 bars without needing a 4th which is the hallmark of the Lennon Edit (Ticket 37).
D1 Instrumental (2:09 – 2:18)
Now it starts going downhill. We get a preview of the “one sweet dream” section but (broadly speaking) in key of C instead of A (see below).
C D7 Eb G C7
A B C E A
the weird thing here is that the first chord here is also the last chord of the C section and the last chord is also the start of the E section.
E Instrumental (2:18 – 2:28)
Now it really gets odd. Essentially what we're trying to do here is get from the C major at the end of the C section to the A at the beginning of the F section. So how would you do it? Well there's plenty of ways here's how Paul McCartney does it -
(C), D, Eb G, C7
(C7) A7, Eb7 C7, F#7 Eb7, A7 F#7 G7 G#7 (A7)
That's the musical equivalent of getting from the bedroom to the bathroom by opening the window, shinning up the drainpipe, climbing onto the roof and tunnelling your way through the ceiling. What was the point?
D2 One sweet dream... (2:28 – 2:38)
Now we get the four bar progression we had a preview of in the instrumental section. We're possibly in A major but I'm hearing that first chord as an A7 which means we're in A mixolydian. Either way, it's irrelevant one bar later...
A, B, C, E, A
Did I say mixolydian? Hmm...basically the B doesn't belong in the same key as A7, C doesn't belong in the same key as either of them, E clashes with C but finally E to A is your standard V – I resolution. So though everyone's completely unsettled we're finally home. What shall we do? Let's throw in a completely different riff!
F Soon we'll be away from here... (2:38 – 2:43)
That right – after all, we played the previous section a grand total of once, it's time to shake things up a bit. After McCartney's trip across the roof, let's watch TV by flipping channels every 10 seconds. So we spend a leisurely 2 bars in D dorian...
D3 One sweet dream... (2:43 – 2:47)
...before recapping the 4 bar pattern in A mixo-I-can't-make-up-my-mindigan. Did I say 4 bars? Let's make it one and half this time.
G ...Today, came true today... (2:47 – 4:02)
And the ride slows down to a gentle stop allowing nauseous customers to disembark via a 2 bar pattern played 14 times. At first it bears no relation to anything else (except Carry That Weight last section where it reoccurs) but it's a distant cousin of the C section
C section Bb F C
G section C G/B A
The first is bVII, IV, I and the second bIII, bVII, I. So they both contain the flat 7 chord and the root. Also the movement from first to second chord in both examples is down a fifth. Like I say distant cousins. Could still raise a family in some states.
What have we got?
To sum up this starts out as a great idea that literally fragments more and more as the song goes on. Some Beatles songs are classics. A few are utter rubbish. But I don't know of any other Beatles track that goes from awesome to complete garbage in the space of 4 minutes.
Next time we'll salvage a few valuables from the wreckage.