Formal structure of  "Michelle":
Intro (Middle 8) 0:00-0:08 F minor
Verse 1 0:08-0:21 F major
Verse 2 0:21-0:33 F major
Middle 8 0:33-0:53* F minor
Verse 3 0:53-1:06 F major
Middle 8 1:06-1:26* F minor
Solo 1:26-1:38 F major
Middle 8 1:38-1:58* F minor
Verse 4 1:58-2:12 F major
Middle 8 2:12-2:20* F minor
Coda (solo) 2:20-2:42 F major
Comments: Personally, I have never been very fond of "Michelle". Revisiting the song for the purposes of this post, however, has given me a new perspective on the tune and in turn a new appreciation for its innovations. Indeed, "Michelle" features a number of interesting characteristics:
It plays between the parallel major and minor (in this case F major and f minor), just like  "I'll Be Back",  "Things We Said Today", and  "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)".
Verse 1 and Verse 2 are contiguous. Though to this point I have not kept a running tally of other Beatles songs to date that also feature contiguous verses, it is worth starting. They are  "Love Me Do",  "I Saw Her Standing There",  "Do You Want to Know a Secret",  "Misery", [9b] "Anna (Go To Him)", [9c] "Boys", [9d] "Chains", [9f] Twist and Shout,  "From Me To You", [13e] "Till There Was You",  "Little Child",  "Not a Second Time" (in which verses 1 and 2 are contiguous, as are verses 3 and 4),  "Can't Buy Me Love",  "And I Love Her",  "I Should Have Known Better",  "If I Fell'',  "I'm Happy Just to Dance With You",  "A Hard Day's Night", [31b] "Matchbox" (in which the first three and last two verses are contiguous, separated by a solo which replaces another verse),  "I'll Cry Instead",  "Things We Said Today",  "I Don't Want To Spoil the Party",  "What You're Doing",  "No Reply",  "Eight Days a Week",  "She's a Woman", [44b] "Kansas City/Hey Hey Hey Hey", [46d] "Words of Love",  "Ticket to Ride",  "I Need You",  "Yes It Is",  "The Night Before",  "You Like Me Too Much",  "Tell Me What You See", [56b] "Dizzy Miss Lizzy" (in which verses 1 and 2 are contiguous, as are verses 4 and 5), [56c] "Bad Boy",  "I've Just Seen a Face",  "Yesterday",  "If I Needed Someone", and  "We Can Work it Out". Of these 38 songs, all feature verse 2 immediately following verse 1.  "Michelle" may be added as the 39th.
There is no chorus.
Verses 2 and 3 share identical lyrics.
The solo replaces the verse (the backing chords are the same, but the vocalist is omitted, replaced by a guitar solo).
The middle 8 is actually 10 bars long (instead of 8).
Also, the middle 8s appear with greater frequency than is typical: four times throughout the song. The last iteration, however, is abbreviated, using only the last 4 measures of an other 10-measure section. The vast majority of Beatles songs use no more than two middle 8s. In fact, only a few to date have used three or more: [13d] "Devil in her Heart",  "I'll Be Back" - which actually uses two distinct middle 8s, and  "Nowhere Man". Of these three, none of them use more than three.
When "Strawberry Fields Forever" was completed in December 1966, it was intended to be released on the band's next album, eventually titled Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. However the band hadn't released any new material since Revolver in August 1966 - a span that would ultimately stretch into 6 months, the longest such drought of the Beatles' entire career. Thus, critics began to postulate that perhaps the Beatles were through, maybe the bubble had finally burst. In an effort to prove them strikingly wrong, the Beatles released the double-A-side single "Strawberry Fields Forever"/"Penny Lane".
Despite the name, singles actually feature two songs. This is, of course, because a vinyl pressing has two sides - to release a vinyl single would necessarily mean releasing one of those two sides blank - so it makes sense to include two songs on a single. With those two songs, singles tend to work best when there is a clear hierarchy - where one song is clearly superior to the other - and this notion is easily reinforced by the two sides of the vinyl disc: one side is the "A side", featuring the superior song, while the other is the "B side", featuring a weaker song.
But the Beatles instead opted for a single in which the two sides were equal, thus the release of the "double-A-side single". Martin always regretted the decision of a double-A-side single. "It was the biggest mistake of my professional life. ... If I had stopped to think for more than about a second, I would have realized that one great title would fight another; and this is exactly what happened. The reports came in, and they showed that our double-A-side was selling extremely well. There was only one problem. The weekly sales figures showed that two singles, 'Strawberry Fields Forever' and 'Penny Lane', were selling well. They were being counted separately! As far as the charts were concerned, one side was effectively canceling out the success of the other. I firmly believe that if the total sales of those two sides had been added together we would have squashed the opposition flat" (Martin, page 26). Instead, it broke the Beatles' string of 12 consecutive number one hits, beaten out by Englebert Humperdinck's "Release Me".
"We had agreed that if a song had been released as a hit single, we should try not to use it as a cynical sales-getter on a subsequent album. To our way of thinking, this was asking people to pay twice for the same material. I know it seems ludicrous these days: now a hit single is frequently used to sell a whole album; but we thought differently then. This was why 'Strawberry Fields Forever' and 'Penny Lane' did not make it on to Sgt. Pepper as originally intended" (Martin, page 26). In America, however, where record companies had no such moral qualms, both tunes surfaced both as a single and on the Magical Mystery Tour album.
Martin, George with William Pearson. With a Little Help from My Friends: The Making of Sgt. Pepper. Little Brown and Company, Boston, MA, 1994.
Formal structure of  "I'm Looking Through You"
Intro (verse) 0:00-0:07*
Verse 1 0:07-0:28
Verse 2 0:33-0:53
Middle 8 0:59-1:10
Verse 3 1:10-1:31
Middle 8 1:37-1:48
Verse 4 1:48-2:09
Coda (extension) 2:09-2:26
Comments: 2 part intro (like [6b] "A Taste Of Honey",  "Thank You Girl",  "Little Child", [14b] "Roll Over Beethoven",  "You Can't Do That", and [31b] "Matchbox",  "Baby's in Black", [38b] "Mr. Moonlight",  "I Feel Fine", [46e] "Honey Don't",  "Ticket to Ride",  "Run For Your Life",  "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)",  "Day Tripper", and  "If I Needed Someone").
Third quarter of verse differs from the other three quarters (like  "A Hard Day's Night",  "Things We Said Today",  "I Don't Want to Spoil the Party",  "No Reply",  "Eight Days a Week",  "I Need You", and  "The Night Before") in which the third part differs substantially from the rest of the verse:
I'm looking through you, Where did you go?
I thought I knew you, What did I know?
You don't look different, But you have change,
I'm looking through you, You're not the same.
In this case, vocal harmonies are added (in parallel thirds and sixths) which are noticeably absent from the other lines.
The first and fourth verses share identical lyrics.
Each verse also has an instrumental extension characterized by brief guitar licks, the last of which turns into a coda as McCartney improvises additional lyrics and the music fades out.
With the completion of take 7 on 29 November 1966, everybody thought "Strawberry Fields Forever" was finished. Everybody except John Lennon. So take 7 was ditched and the Beatles re-recorded the song from scratch. Then, with the completion of take 26 on 21 December 1966, everybody thought "Strawberry Fields Forever" was finished. Everybody except John Lennon. "Ever the idealist, and completely without regard for practical problems, John said to me, 'I like them both. Why don't we join them together? You could start with Take 7 and move to Take  halfway through to get the grandstand finish.' 'Brilliant!' I replied. 'There are only two things wrong with that: the takes are in completely different keys, a whole tone apart; and they have wildly different tempos. Other than that, there should be no problem!' John smiled at my sarcasm with the tolerance of a grown-up placating a child. 'Well, George,' he said laconically, 'I'm sure you can fix it, can't you?' whereupon he turned on his heel and walked away" (Martin, page 22).
Lennon, notoriously inept and ignorant at technical specifics and intricacies, had no idea what he was actually asking George Martin to do. If he had understood, he might not have made such a request. Nevertheless, it is a testament to George Martin's and Geoff Emerick's technical skill that they found a way to make it work.
The problem is that take 7 is in B-flat major at a tempo of 90 beats per minute, while Take 26 is in C major and at a tempo of 108 beats per minute - both higher-pitched and faster. To splice these two takes together as they were (i.e. without altering the original in any way) would have sound like this:
The whole point of editing, of course, is to hide the edit - a good edit is one that doesn't sound edited. If a listener can tell that a recording has been edited, then it is not a very good one, and the file above is an extreme example.
So how to make these two disparate takes fit together to the point of not sounding edited?
Using tape methods of recording, pitch and tempo are inextricably intertwined - if you change one, in doing so you necessarily also change the other. (In the digital age, of course, computers can alter pitch and/or tempo independently of each other, but in the 1960's that was not the case.) In what is probably the greatest coincidence in the entire Beatles saga, the two takes were proportionately equivalent - meaning that if take 7 were sped up, and take 26 slowed down, they could match both in tempo and tonality.
But this, too, presented problems: "George and I decided to allow the second half to play all the way through at the slower speed; doing so gave John's voice a smokey, think quality that seemed to complement the psychedelic lyric and swirling instrumentation. Things were a bit trickier with the beginning section; it started out at such a perfect, laconic tempo that we didn't want to speed it up all the way through. Luckily, the EMI tape machines were fitted with very fine varispeed controls. With a bit of practice, I was able to gradually increase the speed of the first take and get it to a certain precise point, right up to the moment where we knew we were going to do the edit. The change is so subtle as to be virtually unnoticeable" (Emerick, page 140). (Parenthetically, I can hear the tempo difference, but what remains a mystery to me is why there is not a corresponding difference in pitch. The whole point of this "splice story" is predicated on the fact that if you change one, you necessarily also alter the other - and yet here it appears that somehow the tempo was changed while the pitch was not. I have absolutely no idea how...)
After many hours of work, George and Geoff had a finished product. Though expertly masked, the splice can still be heard at precisely 1:00. (It is easiest to hear the edit if you listen to the drums.)
Don't be embarrassed if you cannot hear it - neither could John Lennon. "As we played the results of our labours to John for the first time, he listened carefully, head down, deep in concentration. I made a point of standing in front of the tape machine so that he couldn't see the splice go by. A few seconds after the edit flew past, Lennon listed his head up and a grin spread across his face. 'Has it passed yet?' he asked. 'Sure has,' I replied proudly. 'Well, good on yer, Geoffrey!' he said. He absolutely loved what we had done. We played 'strawberry Fields Forever' over and over again that night for John, and at the conclusion each time, he'd turn to use and repeat the same three words, eyes wide with excitement: 'Brilliant. Just brilliant.'" (Emerick, page 140).
There is another major edit at the end of the song that also survived to the released recording. "There is the end section of the orchestrated version of the song, where the rhythm is too loose to use. In spite of all our editing, I just could not get a unified take with complete synchronicity throughout. The obvious answer would have been to fade out the take before the beat goes haywire. But that would have meant discarding one of my favourite bits, which included some great trumpet and guitar playing, as well as the magical random mellotronic note-waterfall John had come up with. It was a section brimming with energy, and I was determined to keep it. We did the only thing possible - we faded the song right out just before the point where the rhythm goes to pieces, so the listener would think it was all over, then gradually faded it back up again, bringing back our glorious finale" (Martin, page 22-23).
With Lennon (finally) satisfied, "Strawberry Fields Forever" was (and remained) complete. It was now ready for release.
Emerick, Geoff with Howard Massey. Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of The Beatles. Gotham Books, New York, NY, 2006.
Martin, George with William Pearson. With a Little Help from My Friends: The Making of Sgt. Pepper. Little Brown and Company, Boston, MA, 1994.
Formal structure of  "Nowhere Man":
Verse 1 0:17-0:32
Middle 8 0:32-0:48
Solo (verse) 0:48-1:04
Verse 2 1:04-1:20
Middle 8 1:20-1:36
Verse 3 1:36-1:51
Middle 8 1:51-2:07
Coda (chorus) 2:23-2:42
Comments: Opens with chorus (like  "She Loves You",  "It Won't Be Long",  "Can't Buy Me Love",  "Any Time at All",  "When I Get Home",  "Another Girl", and  "You're Going to Lose That Girl").
Coda is an extension of the chorus.
Of the 15 takes of the backing tracks to "Strawberry Fields Forever" recorded on 8 December 1966, parts of takes 15 and 24 were edited together and labeled take 25. Seven days later, on 15 December 1966, four trumpets and three cellos recorded overdubs on to that 25th take.
Lennon overdubbed vocals, and then double-tracked them, with the product being labelled take 26.
This take is a far cry from the Spain recordings and early Abbey Road takes - it is much faster, and much heavier and more aggressive in character. Lyrically, Verse 1 has been omitted. Tonally, too, the song is now back in C major - a major second higher pitched than the previous takes.
With these changes, overdubs, and edits, the song was (once again) deemed complete on 21 December 1966.
Formal structure of  "We Can Work it Out"
Verse 1 0:00-0:19*
Verse 2 0:19-0:37
Middle 8 0:37-1:04
Verse 3 1:04-1:21
Middle 8 1:21-1:48
Verse 4 1:48-2:05
Comments: No introduction - just launches right in to first verse (like  "All My Loving",  "Not a Second Time", [29b] "Long Tall Sally",  "No Reply", [46b] "Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby", and  "I'm Down" and  "Wait").
Both Middle 8s feature two sections, nearly identical except for lyrics and that the latter both times inserts a D7 chord to transition back to the verses (which is absent from the former).
Verses 1, 3 and 4 share identical lyrics.
With the completion of take 7, "Strawberry Fields Forever" was deemed complete. John Lennon, however, decided otherwise. "Before the very first recording of 'Strawberry Fields Forever' John stood opposite me in the studio and played me the song on his acoustic guitar," said George Martin. "It was absolutely lovely. Then when we actually taped it with the usual instruments it began to get heavy. John didn't say anything but I knew it wasn't what he had originally wanted. So I wasn't totally surprised when he came back to me a week or so later and suggested we have another go at recording it" (Lewissohn, page 89).
This quote has always puzzled me a little bit because if Lennon thought take 7 was too heavy, why did they subsequently create an even heavier version? Wouldn't it make more sense to do a lighter version? Regardless, Martin agreed to write a score for four trumpets and three cellos, but before those could be recorded the band had to create a new backing track on to which the orchestral instruments could be overdubbed. On 8 December 1966, 15 additional takes were recorded (numbers 9 through 24 - takes 8 and 19 do not exist).
But those backing tracks weren't the only thing recorded that day. Producer George Martin and engineer Geoff Emerick had prior commitments that particular evening and thus could not attend the recording session until rather late. "When Geoff and I strolled in at about eleven, Studio No. 2 was in the grip of a controlled riot. The boys had decided it would be fun to lay down an 'unusual' rhythm track for 'Strawberry Fields Forever' on their own, with anyone and everyone available simply banging away on whatever came to hand. The racket as we walked in was like something from a very bad Tarzan movie. ... Above it all, Ringo was struggling manfully to keep the cacophony together with his regular drum-kit. The Beatles were at play, and here was I coming in to party-poop! ... Towards the end of this rogue track ... everyone was whooping or yelling, and John can clearly be heard chanting very slowly, and in time to the rough-and-ready beat: 'Cranberry sauce, cranberry sauce . . .' Why cranberry sauce? Why not? It was coming up to Christmas! Some of that wild and whacky recording survived through to the release of the record, and you can still hear John chanting these words, if you listen closely. This gave rise to one of those absurd Beatle myths: that Paul was dead. Instead of 'Cranberry sauce', people heard 'I buried Paul' " (Martin, page 19-20).
Indeed, at the very end of the released version of "Strawberry Fields Forever" you can hear John slowly drawling "cranberry sauce" (about 4 minutes in to this video):
Those notorious words may also be heard - and more clearly - on The Beatles Anthology 2, CD 2, Track 3, from 3:57-4:07:
(I should point out, however, that in typical The Beatles Anthology fashion this track appears to have been inappropriately edited: The body of the song on this track - from the beginning through 2:56 - was taken from take 7, which was recorded on 29 November 1966; but the coda - from 2:56 through the end - was from the "Tarzan scene" George Martin described, which was recorded on 8 December 1966. On the Anthology, though, they are presented as a whole, as if they were recorded all at the same time.)
Lewissohn, Mark. The Beatles Recording Sessions. Harmony Books, New York, NY, 1988.
Martin, George with William Pearson. With a Little Help From My Friends: The Making of Sgt. Pepper. Little, Brown and Company, New York, NY, 1994.
Formal structure of "In My Life"
Intro (trans.) 0:00-0:09*
Verse 1 0:09-0:28
Middle 8 0:28-0:46
Verse 2 0:51-1:10
Middle 8 1:10-1:28
Middle 8 1:47-2:05
Coda (m8, trans.) 2:10-2:25
Comments: Transition is intro halved.
Solo replaces a verse.
"In My Life" is the second Beatles recording to date to use transitional musical material in the introduction and coda - the first being  "Day Tripper". Both of these songs use this transitional lick (in "Day Tripper" it's the famous opening guitar riff, in "In My Life" it's the opening piano motive) cohesively, gluing together the sections of the song.
Two additional backing track takes of "Strawberry Fields Forever" were recorded on 29 November 1966 (numbers 5 and 6), the first of which was a false start, the second second of which was complete. Several overdubs (including Lennon's vocals) were added to that sixth take, and the product was labeled take seven.
This seventh take does not reveal any change from take 4 in terms of lyrics, chords, or formal structure. It does, however, show a more finished product - Lennon's vocals are double tracked and thus fuller, more present.
With take 7, "Strawberry Fields Forever" was deemed complete. At least for the moment.
This blog is a workshop for developing my analyses of The Beatles' music.