White Album: The Musical Analysis Of The Beatles

2666 Words 11 Pages
Musical Analysis of “The Beatles”, the self-entitled White Album

The first song of the album, “Back in the USSR”, written by Paul McCartney, directly parodies and references the Beach Boys, with subtler allusions to Chuck Berry and Ray Charles. It is set in the key of A major and has a 4/4 meter. Song form consists of an intro, four verse sections, each followed by a refrain, a bridge that follows only the second and third refrains, and an outro. The melody is undoubtedly bluesy, but further innovates on the blues form by adding a flatted III chord into the standard three chord progression of I, IV, V. It emphasizes this flat III chord – this serves to create dissonance and lends an interesting contrast to the main A major chord structure.
…show more content…
The song’s lyrics and moderato backbeat contribute to a mood of unsteadiness, demoralization and loss of hope. Melodically, there are non-harmonic tones all throughout which create dissonance and passionate harsh sound. Harmony is primarily developed through two clichés – one being the rock n’ roll chord progression of I-VI-IV-V, and the other being the I-IV-V of the blues. The verse is a bluesy style twelve bar form, with Lennon incorporating two unconventional “surprise” chords into the harmony. The first is a tritone between G# and D in the verse’s second measure, and the second is an augmented triad on G# in the second measure of the third phrase in the verse. In the refrain, Lennon contrasts the harmonic openness of the verse with a closed full-circle harmonic shape. He also drastically slows down the harmonic rhythm. The final verse that follows the refrain contains begins with an ascending bassline riff that creates a dramatic image of suddenly withdrawing from the rage that is built up in the verse. The outro further plays on this idea, with loud drums and organ glissandos in the first two phrases play out an effect of rage consuming the victim but ends with a sotto-voce muttering which seems to establish a level of control in …show more content…
The song is sinister in effect, and bluesy in melody despite avoidance of the standard I-IV-V blues chord progression, with its emphasis on the blues third in the vocal part. Harmonic development relies on the I, flatted III, and IV chord and does not use the V chord at all. It generates a sort of sinister effect. The intro features a staggered entrance of lead vocal, drums and bass, and a descending chromatic line creates an ominous sense. The first verse largely remains on the I chord through its development while the rest of the verses transition sooner to the flatted III. The refrain is an 8-bar AA patterned phrase, with the I chord again being prominent; the second refrain removes this I chord, serving to speed things up a bit like the technique used in the second and third verses. The outro stops chord change outright, lending musical improvisation and electronic effects laid on top of a static

Related Documents