Lennon's obvious response to McCartney's "Can't By Me Love", "You Can't Do That" was the first song recorded explicitly for use in the film A Hard Day's Night. Like his band mate's counterpart, it employs the 12 bar blues, but in G major (rather than the C major of "Can't Buy Me Love") to better suit Lennon's lower vocals.
On 24 February 1964, the Beatles recorded 9 takes (only 4 of which were complete) of "You Can't Do That".
Conspicuously absent from this sixth take are any non-lead vocals. Where the backing vocals were originally in "Can't Buy Me Love" but then removed before completion, the opposite is true of "You Can't Do That": By the time the song was completed, both McCartney and Harrison's vocals are heard.
Lastly, "You Can't Do That" is the first Beatles recording to feature Lennon playing lead guitar (lead was always played by Harrison up to that point).
The first track from the album A Hard Day's Night to be recorded ("This Boy" was recorded the previous 17 October, but despite appearing in the film is absent from the accompanying soundtrack), "Can't Buy Me Love" is, in Paul McCartney's own words, "my attempt to write a bluesy mode” (Miles, Many Years From Now , page 161). And what better way to write a blues song than through the use of the 12 bar blues, the most standard (even cliché) of blues progressions?
The song was first recorded on 29 January 1964 at the Parthé Marconi Studios in Paris, France - one of the relatively few Beatles tracks not to be recorded at Abbey Road (then EMI) Studios. The band did four takes. Take 1 has never surfaced, but take 2 shows a very different style than the released version. First, the tonality of the song is C# major - a major second higher pitched than the finished product. This gives McCartney's voice a slightly strained timbre - very bluesy, and quite similar to that which can be heard on "She's a Woman" or "I'm Down". In addition, Harrison and Lennon both add backing vocals starting in the second verse ("Oooooh, love me too", "Oooooh, give to you", et cetera) that again parallels the standard blues idiom. (By the way, I've been searching for a predecessor to this take, something that perhaps inspired or influenced the band's decision to experiment with these backing vocals, but I've had a surprisingly difficult time finding an adequate example. If anybody ever reading this has any suggestions, please do comment!)
Despite lasting less than a minute before breaking down, take 3, by contrast, omits the backing vocals entirely. Also, the tonality has been lowered to B major, which significantly reduces the intensity of the lead vocals and instead provides a calmer, more in control timbre.
The fourth take splits the difference tonally - it's in C major. This gives McCartney's voice a bit of that bluesy edge, but slightly assuaged so it's not quite so gritty and intense. This fourth take served as the basis for the released version of the song, on to which George Harrison overdubbed a double-tracked guitar solo, and McCartney overdubbed his lead vocals on 25 February. The finished product was then mixed by George Martin on 10 March.
Miles, Barry. Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now. Henry Holt and Company, New York, NY, 1997.
Formal structure of  "Flying":
Section A (beat) 0:00-0:31
Section A (horn) 0:31-1:02
Section A (vocals) 1:02-1:31
Coda (independent) 1:31-2:15
Comments: This even beats out  "Love Me Do" as the simplest formal structure of any Beatles song. There is only one section (even "Love Me Do" had two!), which is repeated twice (for a total of three iterations). The chord progressions are identical in each: a 12 bar blues. The biggest difference is the instrumentation: first it's heard just with rhythm section, then with a horn (or, more precisely, a mellotron set to sound like a horn), and finally with vocals.
For good measure, a coda (musically independent from the rest of the song) is tacked on at the very end.
Formal structure of  "Day Tripper":
Intro (trans.) 0:00-0:18*
Verse 1 0:18-0:46
Verse 2 0:53-1:21
Verse 3 1:49-2:17
Coda (trans.) 2:31-2:46
Comments: Many Beatles recordings to date used two-part intros in which a single instrument starts, then after a few seconds the rest of the band joins in ([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", and  "Run For Your Life"). "Day Tripper" is similar, but doubles the intro into four parts: first we hear a lone guitar, then it's joined by the bass, followed shortly by the tambourine, and then finally the drum set.
"Day Tripper" is the first Beatles recording to use and introduction based on transitional material, and also the first to use a coda likewise based on transitional material. In this case, that means the famous opening guitar lick, which functions as "musical glue" connecting the various formal components.
The Trans./Break/Solo employs elements of all three, so exactly what to call it is uncertain - it really is a mix of all three.
The verses employ a modified 12 bar blues structure. For more detailed analysis on that aspect, read my 14 January 2013 blog.
Formal structure of  "I'm Down":
Verse 1 0:00-0:06*
Verse 2 0:21-0:27
Solo 1 0:41-0:59*
Verse 3 0:59-1:06
Solo 2 1:19-1:36*
Comments: Begins with verse, like  "All My Loving",  "Not a Second Time", [29b] "Long Tall Sally",  "No Reply", and [46b] "Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby".
Dual solos, like [29b] "Long Tall Sally",  "I'm a Loser", [46b] "Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby", [46e] "Honey Don't", and [56b] "Dizzy Miss Lizzy".
Verse and chorus combine to form a 12 bar blues pattern (though the chorus is extended through repetition of the final two measures, so it's actually a 14 bar blues).
The final chorus fades out, and thus functions as a coda.
Formal structure of [56c] "Bad Boy":
Intro (ind) 0:00-0:07
Verse 1 0:07-0:42
Verse 2 0:42-1:17
Verse 3 1:39-2:14
Comments: Each section except the intro is a 12 bar blues pattern.
Perhaps the shortest coda of any Beatles song: a single chord.
Formal structure of [46e] "Honey Don't":
Intro (coda) 0:00-0:07*
Verse 1 0:07-0:22
Verse 2 0:43-0:57
Solo #1 1:18-1:47*
Verse 3 1:47-2:02
Solo #2 2:23-2:37*
Coda (intro) 2:50-2:57
Comments: Another two-part introduction (along with [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", and  "I Feel Fine").
The first solo section is also in two parts, though clearly the same solo (and not two separate solos back-to-back). Despite being identical to the first half of the first solo, the second solo section melds into the chorus for the second half.
Formal structure of [46b] "Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby"
Verse 1 0:00-0:07
Verse 2 0:19-0:24
Solo #1 0:35-0:53
Verse 3 0:53-0:58
Solo #2 1:09-1:43
Verse 4 1:43-1:49
Verse 5 2:00-2:06
Coda (solo) 2:14-2:25
Comments: no intro, two part coda (many feature two part intros, but few feature two-part codas), two solos (second twice as long).
The verses and choruses combine to make a 12 bar blues progression. Partly for this reason, it would certainly be justifiable to combine each verse and chorus into a single section rather than split them into two, as I have done above.
The basic formula of a 12 bar blues progression, as written in Roman numerals with each character representing one measure, is as follows:
I I I I
IV IV I I
V IV I I
This pattern can, of course, be used in any key. Below are 5 examples
in C major: in D major: in E major: in G major: in A major:
C C C C D D D D E E E E G G G G A A A A
F F C C G G D D A A E E C C G G D D A A
G F C C A G D D B A E E D C G G E D A A
27 songs recorded and released by the Beatles use a 12 bar blues progression or something comparable. Of those 27, 15 were original compositions and 12 were covers. Below are all 28 tracks, listing their year of release, tonality, a concise harmonic analysis, and brief commentary.
[9c] "Boys" (1963)
E7 E7 E7 E7
A7 A7 E7 E7
B7 A7 E7 B7
It is clearly modeled on the 12 bar blues - the only alterations being (a) every chord is a seventh chord (making each chord slightly more dissonant and gritty sounding), and (b) the very last chord is B (the dominant in E major) instead of the traditional E. No doubt this is because B7 leads very nicely to E, which starts the progression all over again.
[9d] "Chains" (1963)
Bb Bb Bb Bb
Eb9 Eb9 Bb Bb
F9 Eb9 Bb F
Another clearly modeled on the 12 bar blues. The only alterations are (a) a few ninths are added to a few chords, and (b) the very last chord is F (the dominant in Bb), which of course leads strongly back to Bb to start the progression all over again.
[13c] "Money (That's What I Want)" (1963)
E7 E7 (A) E7 E7
A7 A7 E7 E7
B7 A7 E7 B7
In addition to adding sevenths to every chord, "Money" also adds an extra A chord in the second measure of each verse. This chord is listed in parentheses above because unlike every other chord listed above it does not represent a full measure. (If it did, it would make this a 13 bar blues pattern instead of 12.) Rather, it represents a brief instrumental fill (listen right after the words "life are free") that embellishes the 12 bar blues progression but does not interfere in any way with its function.
[14b] "Roll Over Beethoven" (1963)
D7 G7 D7 D7
G7 G7 D7 D7
G7 A7 D7 D7
In addition to adding sevenths to every chord, "Roll Over Beethoven" also replaces the second chord (which 'should' be D7) with a G7. The 9th and 10th bars are also reversed (G7 A7 instead of A7 G7).
 "Little Child" (1963)
E7 E7 E7 (A) E7
B7 A F#7 (B7) E
The most significant departure from the mold that is still clearly based on the mold, "Little Child" turns the 12 bar blues into an 8 bar blues for the verses. It omits measures 4-8 and replaces them with 9-12. But those measures offer something new as well when an F#7 (which has no place in a normal 12 bar blues) is used in the 11th measure. The solo section, however, adopts a more usual 12 bar pattern . . .
E7 E7 E7 E7
A A E7 E7
B7 A F#7 B7
. . . although it still is hardly standard with the added F#7 in the 11th measure and yet another dominant chord in the 12th.
 "Can't Buy Me Love" (1964)
C7 C7 C7 C7
F7 F7 C7 C7
G7 F7 F7 C7
The only substantial deviation from the model is using an F chord in bar 11 (instead of the more typical C).
 "You Can't Do That" (1964)
G7 G7 G7 G7
C7 C7 G7 G7
D7 C7 G7 D7
Just like [9c] "Boys", [9d] "Chains", [13c] "Money (That's What I Want)", and  "Little Child", "You Can't Do That" uses a typical 12 bar blues progression except for the very last chord, which is changed to a dominant to heighten the harmonic tension and release when the pattern is repeated.
[29b] "Long Tall Sally" (1964)
G G G G
C C G G
D7 C7 G D7
The comments above regarding  "You Can't Do That" may be iterated in regards to [29b] "Long Tall Sally".
[31b] "Matchbox" (1964)
A7 A7 A7 A7
D7 D7 A7 A7
A7 E7 A7 E7
The only significant deviations from the mold are the 9th through 12th bars (A7 E7 A7 E7 - again ending with a dominant chord - instead of the more typical E D A A).
[32b] "Slow Down" (1964)
C C C C C C C C
F F F F C C C C
G F C C C C C C
"Slow Down" takes the 12 bar blues and augments it into a 24 bar blues. The first 16 measures of "Slow Down" are simply the first 8 measures of a normal 12 bar blues doubled (but proportionally maintained); and the last 8 measures of "Slow Down" are just the last 4 measures of normal 12 bar blues with 4 extra bars of C grafted on to the end.
 "She's a Woman" (1964)
A7 D7 A7 A7 A7 D7 A7 A7
D7 D7 D7 D7 A7 D7 A7 A7
E7 E7 D7 D7 A7 D7 A7 E7
Just like [32b] "Slow Down", "She's a Woman" takes the 12 bar blues progression and doubles it into a 24 bar progression. The D7 chords in measures 2, 6, 14, and 22 serve as harmonic ornamental embellishments and thus do not interfere with the overall function of the 12 (24) bar blues progression. (Since this is a McCartney original, perhaps Paul learned the trick from Berry Gordy Junior and Janie Bradford, who wrote [13c] "Money (That's What I Want)" or from Chuck Berry, who wrote [14b] "Roll Over Beethoven".) This is in contrast to the use of the same chord when it is heard in measures 9-12 and 19-20, which do function as integral components of the blues progression.
"She's a Woman" also employs a dominant in the final measure (just like [9c] "Boys", [9d] "Chains", [13c] "Money (That's What I Want)",  "Little Child",  "You Can't Do That", [29b] "Long Tall Sally", and [31b] "Matchbox")
[44b] "Kansas City/Hey Hey Hey Hey" (1964 in UK, 1965 in US)
G G G G7
C C G G
D C G G (D)
This one is about as standard as a progression can get. The only two things I can mention are the use of a seventh in the 4th bar (to heighten the pull towards C in the 5th bar), and once again the band uses a dominant chord (in this case D) in the final bar (although this time only for the second half of that final bar) to heighten the pull towards the beginning of a repetition of the progression.
[46b] "Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby" (1964)
E E E E
A A E E
B7 A E E
This one, too, is about as standard as a progression can get. The only thing I can mention is the use of a seventh in the 9th bar, which provides more harmonic dissonance and thus tension to the chords.
[46c] "Rock and Roll Music" (1964)
A7 A7 A7 A7
D7 D7 A7 A7
E7 E7 E7 A7 E7 A7
"Rock and Roll Music" extends the 12 bar blues to a 14 bar blues by repeating the last two measures.
[56b] "Dizzy Miss Lizzy" (1965)
A A A A
D D A A
E7 D A E7
The only non-standard thing about this one is the use of a dominant chord in the final bar (non-standard, that is, for those other than the Beatles - this is now the 10th of 15 Beatles tracks that use the 12 bar blues to do so, making the deviation actually more common than the standard).
[56c] "Bad Boy" (1965 in US, 1966 in UK)
C7 C7 C7 C7 C7 C7 C7 C7
F7 F7 F7 F7 C7 C7 C7 C7
G7 F7 C7 G7
"Bad Boy" pulls the same trick found in [32b] "Slow Down" and  "She's a Woman" in that the first 8 bars of the 12 bar blues have been doubled in length, but retain their proportions. Unlike "Slow Down" and "She's a Woman", however, the final 4 bars of "Bad Boy" are not augmented. This makes a unique (at least in the Beatles' recorded and released output up to this point in history) 20 bar blues progression.
The final chord, once again, is a dominant.
 "I'm Down" (1965)
G G G G
C C G G
C C D7 G D7 G
Perhaps following the example of [46c] "Rock and Roll Music", "I'm Down" turns the 12 bar blues into a 14 bar blues by repeating the final two measures of the pattern.
 "Day Tripper" (1965)
E7 E7 E7 E7
A7 A7 E7 E7
F#7 F#7 F#7 F#7
A7 G#7 C#7 B7
"Day Tripper" is a prime example of what I have come to call the Beatles' adolescence (roughly November of 1964 through December of 1965) - a period of just over one year in which their output is split between songs with clear roots in the past ("Everybody's Trying to be my Baby", Dizzy Miss Lizzy", "Run for your Life", et cetera) and songs that begin to push the boundaries and anticipate the band's experimentation and artistic breakthroughs of the later 60's ("You've Got to Hide Your Love Away", "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)", "In My Life", et cetera). It is as if the band has one foot still firmly in the teeny bopper pop music world and simultaneously the other foot in the more grown-up 'art music' world, just as an adolescent retains aspects from childhood while simultaneously growing into adult life. This can be observed in analyzing "Day Tripper": The first eight measures are identical to the 12 bar blues model (representing the retrospective side), but then the pattern is broken and new and unusual chords - totally and completely unrelated to the 12 bar blues model - are heard (representing the anticipatory, progressive side). Neither F#7 nor G#7 'belong' in E major - much less in an E major 12 bar blues - and yet a listener intuitively feels their propriety. The Beatles are finding their own unique individual solutions to musical problems. They are beginning to distance themselves from the past, taking one of their first steps towards full artistic maturity. "Day Tripper" is one of the first hints at the innovations to come.
 "The Word" (1965)
D7 D7 D7 D7
G7 G7 D7 D7
A G D7 D7
This one's about as standard as it can get.
 "Flying" (1967)
C C C C
F7 F7 C C
G7 F C C
Fits the mold perfectly.
 "Don't Pass Me By" (1968)
C C F F
C C G G
F F C C
Uses the same chords as the mold, in the same order, over the same duration, but with different proportions.
 "Yer Blues" (1968)
Where [56c] "Bad Boy", [32b] "Slow Down", and  "She's a Woman" maintained the proportions of the 12 bar blues but doubled its length (24 instead of 12), "Yer Blues" likewise maintains the proportions but halves its length (6 instead of 12). The last two bars both use more than one chord.
The last chord is once again a dominant.
 "Birthday" (1968)
A7 A7 A7 A7
D7 D7 A7 A7
E7 E7 A7 A7
The only difference between this and the template is the 10th chord (which is E when it 'should' be D).
 "Why Don't We Do It In The Road" (1968)
D7 D7 D7 D7
G7 G7 D7 D7
A7 G7 D7 D7
 "For You Blue" (1970)
D7 G7 D7 D7
G7 G7 D7 D7
A7 G7 D7 A7
The second chord is a G (instead of D), but this is ornamental and does not effect the function of the 12 bar blues pattern ( a la [13c] "Money (That's What I Want)", [14b] "Roll Over Beethoven", and  "She's a Woman").
Last chord is once again a dominant.
 "The One After 909" (1970)
B7 B7 B7 B7 B7 B7 B7 B7
B7 B7 E7 E7 B7 F#7 B7 B7
Uses the same chords as a 12 bar blues and nearly in the same order, but it's stretched to 16 bars in duration and is missing an E before the final B. The proportions are not the same as the model.
This one does not use a dominant as a final chord.
 "The Ballad of John and Yoko" (1969)
E E E E E7 E7 E7 E7
A A E E B7 B7 E E
Just like "909", "The Ballad of John and Yoko" stretches the 12 bar blues into a 16 bar blues by doubling the first four measures. It uses the same three chords in nearly the same order (it's missing an A before the final E).
The Beatles played a great many songs using the 12 bar blues chord progression, especially during their early years (i.e. Hamburg and before). One reason for this was because 12 bar blues are very, very easy to play - it is often one of the first things a beginning guitar student will learn how to play. Since the band needed material and hadn't yet developed and honed their performance skills, the 12 bar blues was a natural fit.
Furthermore, the Beatles' early bass player was not Paul McCartney but Stuart Sutcliffe, who by all accounts was the least talented performer of the band. Stu's lack of ability as a performer limited the band's repertoire. Howie Casey, saxophonist with the band Derry and the Seniors with whom Stuart played in Hamburg, said of the bassist, "All we could do with Stu was to play twelve-bar blues. He couldn’t venture out of that" (Sutcliffe page 88). If the Seniors couldn't play anything but 12 bar blues because of Stu's limited facility on bass, no doubt the Beatles couldn't either.
Even when Sutcliffe left the band and McCartney (a much more gifted musician) assumed the role of bassist, the Beatles' retained many 12 bar blues tunes in their repertoire, several of which wound up on Beatles records. As the band progressed and their musical abilities developed, however, their reliance on the formula decreased, replaced by their own unusual and strikingly original harmonic progressions. Certainly by 1967 the 12 bar blues was ancient history from the band' perspective. Referring to the orchestral passages in "A Day in the Life", Paul McCartney said, "It was very exciting to be doing that instead of twelve-bar blues" (Anthology page 247). (Odd that Paul would say that regarding 1967 when the previous year the Beatles released no songs whatsoever that incorporate the 12 bar blues.) During the three years from 1963 through 1965, the Beatles released 19 songs using the 12 bar blues or something comparable; during the five years from 1966 through 1970, only 8.
Beatles. The Beatles Anthology. Chronicle Books, San Francisco, CA, 2000.
Sutcliffe, Pauline and Douglas Thompson. The Beatles’ Shadow: Stuart Sutcliffe & His Lonely Hearts Club. Pan Books, an imprint of Pan Macmillan Ltd, London, UK, 2002.
This blog is a workshop for developing my analyses of The Beatles' music.