Monday, 13 June 2011

12:34 Say Something Odd (Something pt.2)

After setting the context last time, we're ready to start dismantling Something to see what makes it tick. But before we can understand why it works so well we need to grasp why it shouldn't work at all.

The verse (which makes up the bulk of the song) is bizarre. Structurally, lyrically, harmonically, melodically it seems to have no recognisable shape.

The lyrical structure is ABACCd.

A Something in the way she moves
B Attracts me like no other lover
A Something in the way she woos me
C I don't want to leave her now
C You know I believe and how

d - - - - - -

The two C's are a neat rhyming pair with the same syllable count. But the two A's only match because of the beginning, (Something in the...) not the end (she moves/ she woos me). The tune of the second A bears a slight resemblance to the first but moved up a tone. B and d don't seem to have any relation to each other or anything else. 'd' doesn't even have lyrics – it's played on electric and organ.

This final melody (d) seems to inhabit the middle ground between being an extremely short counter melody and an extension of the vocal line (much like Harrison's “do do do do” in Here Comes The Sun). It's too short to really be though of a part in it's own right like the guitar 'solo' in Eric Clapton's Wonderful Tonight.

Whichever way you slice it the phrase is not answered or concluded musically or lyrically. The first verse is nine bars long. After the ninth bar it immediately loops back to the beginning, so the resolution we're expecting from hearing a C major chord (the I) in the 10th bar happens in bar one instead so that we've started another verse almost before we realise it (this 'missing' 10th bar is another example of what I call the Lennon Edit). When we get to the end of verse 2 Harrison gives us a 10th bar but denies us the resolution altogether by jumping to a C# melody note on top of an A major chord.

The next 'verse' section is the guitar solo, where we loop back after 9 bars to a final 10 bar verse. Surely now we'll come into land on C?! No. We get the rug pulled out once more with the C# and A chord combination. But wait! It was a false ending and two bars later we finally get the single sustained C major chord pay off. In essence Harrison has made us wait the entire 3:03 for a proper resolution.

Lyrically we fare no better. How does George sum up his attraction to this person? “You know I believe and na na naaa naaa naaaaaaaa”.

Thanks for clarifying that then.

Knowing Harrison struggled to come up with the lyrics I'm intrigued to know if he tried to, or intended to, put any here? Frank Sinatra, for one, seems to think it needs some, as he 'sings' this part, but as George plays the lick within the rhythm guitar part on the Anthology demo, I suspect he always thought of it as distinct from the vocal melody.

So to sum up, There's very little structure or repetition in the melody, harmony or lyrics, all the phrases are odd lengths, the verses are 5 lines long (instead of the usual 4, 6 or 8) and 9 or 10 bars long (instead of 8, 12 or 16). And, of course, there are lots of chords that don't belong in this key.

It should be a terrible random mess of a song. But it's a classic. Why? Next time we'll dig a little deeper and find some answers.


  1. Thanks for explaining why this song, one of the first I tried to learn, was so hard to learn - an obstinate song, as it is very odd indeed. Really not a beginner's song at all.

    ~ Zac Sullivan ~

  2. I completely agree with Zac on this one, and Matt even gave me this song to learn, which was a good thing I suppose, because it pushed me relatively early on to learn something that is so much trickier than it seems.

    I actually like the 'Lennon Edit', with the irregular bars and that. I've done it myself by accident before, when I was in 4/4 and suddenly threw in a 2/4 here and there, but I wrote that without even thinking, probably much like Lennon did originally. Here I think Harrison was probably writing it this way on purpose, because it's a trick he carried on using in his solo career at times.

    Thanks for another great blog. :-)

  3. I really enjoy the lyric structure, even if it has only 2 end rhymes. Sometimes something like matching "something in the way..." can be just as effective as "how" and "now", as it certainly is here. I doubt anyone, without giving it thought, would notice he doesn't rhyme the lines.

    Can't wait for more on this song!

  4. To clarify - I really like all of the weird stuff mentioned above! Harrison basically transcends the rules and come up with a great song.

    @Brian J - I totally agree and have more to say about the lyrics - so stay tuned!

    @Marv - I think it was both deliberate anunconcious, if that makes sense. Deliberate in the sense of 'not an accident' but unconcious in the sense that I don't think he said 'hey this will be a really clever thing to do' - it was just the right thing to do

    @Zac not for beginners definitely - but well worth perservering with don't you think?