OK I'm finally ready to roll up my sleeves and get into Let It Be's oldest tune One After 909.
It's a very unassuming blues tune. Is there anything of interest lurking underneath?
The melody is very conjunct, based almost entirely on 4 notes (A B C# D). As the key is B major that means we're hearing the b3 (D) and b7 (A) clash with various chord tones in blues approved fashion (check out the b7 on travelling on that LINE ). That's bluesifying your melody (ticket 22)
Lyrically it's an intriguing blend of clever and stupid. We've got an original title, we have to wait until the bridge to find out the 909 is a train, but we never find out what number of his baby's train IS! Other parts are nonsensical - is he travelling on that line or waiting at the station? And what does she need to move over for? (is he a train?).
As always Lennon & McCartney increase the stickiness by seeding the song with repeated phrases and words in different parts of the song (ticket 24)
move over once/twice/honey
I begged her
Only fooling round
Pick up my bags
Musically, my favourite part of the arrangement are the stops which accent the vocals (ticket 30) on the “move over once/twice” section
The verse structure is an extended and mutated 12 bar blues (tickets 19 and 33) with a bridge (creating a long AABA structure – ticket 26)
B7 B7 B7 B7
B7 B7 B7 B7
B7 B7 E7 E7
B7 F#7 B7 B7
It's a pretty courageous choice staying on the I chord for so long, but the stops help avoid monotony.
The bridge's chord progression is unusual - a more standard bridge would use the v of V movement which crops up in many jazz classics like I Got Rhythm.
D#7 D#7 G#7 G#7 C#7 C#7 F#7 F#7 - B7
D#7 is the 5th of G#7, is the 5th of C#7, is the 5th of F#7, is the 5th of B7 (which would be the first chord of the verse)
What we get instead is
E7 E7 B7 B7 C#7 C#7 F#7 F#7
repeated, giving us a 16 bar 'middle eight' (?!). I suspect they get away with this because they had underused E7 in the verse so it still felt fresh as an option going into the bridge.
How thought out was this on Lennon's part? As it was one of his earliest songs I think he was working on pure instinct.
Verdict. It's a fun little blues song with no great lessons to impart. Lennon and McCartney didn't hold it in high regard. The lyrics are just as dumb and illogical as She Came In Through The Bathroom but my tolerance for that kind of thing is inversely proportionate to how serious the song takes itself. It's hard to hate this little guy - he means well.