On 27 December 1963, The [London] Times published a now-famous article titled "What Songs the Beatles Sang", with the byline "From our music critic", presumed to William Mann. In his article (the full text of which may found here), Mann wrote, "one gets the impression that they think simultaneously of harmony and melody, so firmly are the major tonic sevenths and ninths built into their tunes, and the flat submediant key switches, so natural is the Aeolian cadence at the end of Not A Second Time (the chord progression which ends Mahler's Song of the Earth)."
As a well-educated musician, I am both intrigued and confused by Mann's words. While I know what the terms "aeolian" and "cadence" mean separately, I have never previously encountered them used together. In his book A Hard Day's Write: The Stories Behind Every Beatles Song, Steve Turner is equally perplexed: "An 'aeolian cadence' is not a recognised musical description and generations of music critics have puzzled over exactly what Mann was referring to" (page 40).
A quick Google search of the term "aeolian cadence" produces two basic types of results: first, those quoting Mann's article; second, those asking what Mann's article means. (Try it and you'll see.) This blog, then, will weigh the evidence in an attempt to discover precisely what he meant.
The term "aeolian" refers to a specific type of scale consisting of the following interval pattern: W H W W H W W (where W = whole step, H= half step). This is the same pattern as the natural minor scale, and may also be described as the notes A to A on the piano if you play only the white keys.
The term "cadence" refers to a concluding musical gesture, and cadences are usually found at the end of structural sections, or at the end of a song. Quoting a very popular and widely-used harmony textbook, "We use the term cadence to mean a harmonic goal, specifically the chords used at the goal" (Kostka/Payne, page 152). If the goal is reached at the end of a song, there is no reason to conclude by fade out. On the other hand, that sense of harmonic conclusion may be obfuscated by a fade out instead of a cadence. Though I suppose it is possible for a song to use both a concluding cadence and a fade out, I do not believe I have ever heard a song that actually does so. It would, after all, be redundant since both cadences and fade outs are concluding gestures.
"Not a Second Time", however, is in G major (not aeolian) and uses a fade out instead of a cadence for its conclusion; so what exactly Mann was referring to by "Aeolian cadence at the end of Not A Second Time" is uncertain. My best guess is that the last several seconds of the song feature just two chords: G major and E minor, and the G major scale (G-A-B-C-D-E-F#-G) and the E aeolian (from which the chord E minor can be extracted) scale (E-F#-G-A-B-C-D-E) share identical notes, they just start on different pitches, making these two tonalities very closely related. I wonder if Mann heard this progression and mistakenly identified it as a cadence.
Some scholars have concluded otherwise, suggesting Mann was referring instead to the E minor chords that follow D7 chords at the end of the Middle 8s:
Am Bm D7 Em
You hurt me then, You're back again. No, no, no, not a second time.
Personally, I find this explanation less satisfying than the one above because (1) it's not "at the end" of the song, as the article specifies (though perhaps the article meant "at the end of the Middle 8"?); and (2) this pattern is known - as it was in 1963 - as a deceptive cadence, in which the fifth scale degree (in this case D7) resolves not to the first scale degree (G) as a listener might expect, but rather to the sixth (E minor). But Dominic Pedler, in his book The Songwriting Secrets of the Beatles, addresses that concern head-on: "Mann would argue that it is not the same thing as a "V-vi" Interrupted or Deceptive cadence because - at that precise point in the song - the role of the E minor as a "vi" is being questioned and is veering towards tonic status" (page 137). Yet this is uncertain: Typically a B7 would be needed to justify E minor as "tonic status", and the chord used in the song is a Bm - not a B7. This subtle but significant difference implies that E minor is not tonic, and thus this progression is a deceptive cadence.
Or maybe that's precisely why Mann referred to this as an aeolian cadence and not a deceptive cadence - because if the song is in E aeolian, B would be minor (since D is natural, not sharp). Basically it comes down to opinion: How do you hear this passage - with G as tonic, or with E as tonic?
Am Bm D7 Em
You hurt me then, You're back again. No, no, no, not a second time.
G major: ii iii V7 vi
E aeolian: iv v bVII7 i
Both are unusual, and evidence can be presented in favor of both, but I have to say I hear G as tonic, making this a deceptive cadence - particularly when looking on a slightly larger scale. Here are the lyrics and chords immediately preceding the passage in question:
Am7 Bm7 G Em
You're giving me the same old line. I'm wondering why.
In this instance, G is quite clearly tonic. This firm tonal grounding and the use of very similar chords immediately following lends credence to calling the original progression a deceptive cadence and not an aeolian cadence.
Another option: Perhaps Mann simply got his vocab terms confused and really meant "deceptive cadence" when he wrote "aeolian cadence". While this interpretation solves the problem of a lack of cadence, the issue over "at the end" remains. At the end... of what? If it's the end of the Middle 8, then problem solved; but if it's at the end of the song, we are still left with uncertainty.
Mann provides another clue when he claims that the same chord progression concludes Gustav Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth), but simple observation proves otherwise. Below is a reduction of the last 10 measures of Das Lied (click to enlarge in a new window).
This example shows a C9 chord (though the root is absent from these measures, it is heard shortly beforehand and a listener would have no problem retaining that tonality in their mind's ear) resolving to a C6 chord at marker 69. That C6 chord is the harmony that concludes the piece. By contrast, "Not a Second Time" concludes by fading out over alternating G and Em chords. While not entirely unrelated (both make use of the sixth scale degree), the degree of relation is far removed. Thus, the claim that "Not a Second Time" and Das Lied end with the same progression is irrefutably false. It would, in fact, be far more accurate to compare the ending of the Mahler to the ending of "She Loves You" (which was released four months prior to Mann's article) , which also ends with an added sixth chord.
However, Mann has clearly shown that the word "end" is open to great interpretation. If, as was suggested early, Mann meant to refer to the cadence "at the end [of the middle 8]", then perhaps his use of the term "end" is similarly flexible regarding the Mahler: Perhaps the cadence is in the final movement of Das Lied, not at the very end but perhaps at the end of a particular section; yet listening to the entire 6th movement of Das Lied yields no such cadence. In fact, much of Mahler's later work (such as Das Lied and the 9th and 10th Symphonies) "follows Wagner's lead in taking tonality closer and closer to the breaking point. Nearly every piece of music before Wagner's time was very clearly in a particular key; Mahler's music, on the other hand, has long stretches that don't seem to be in a key at all" (Pogue, page 61). Cadences are largely dependent on tonality, and without tonality, the impact and effect of cadences are greatly thwarted. Nevertheless, Mahler scholar Constantin Floros found what he believed to be deceptive cadences at rehearsal marker 24-26 of the final movement of Das Lied in his book Gustav Mahler: The Symphonies (page 267-68), illustrated as a piano reduction below (click to enlarge):
Personally, I don't hear these as cadences. Modulations, certainly, but the tonal expectation that characterizes cadences (and especially deceptive cadences) is greatly lacking in this excerpt - to the point where I cannot justify the label of cadence of any kind, much less deceptive cadence.
Even if these were explicitly clear deceptive cadences, they are not very similar to the progression in "Not a Second Time". In each of the three potential cadences in the Mahler, the bass ascends by half step (B-flat to C-flat, G to A-flat, and F to F-sharp), while the Beatles' cadence ascends by whole step (D to E).
(Parenthetically, Mahler did use deceptive cadences in his 4th and 5th Symphonies. Maybe Mann was confused and meant to say one of those works instead of Das Lied? That might be too much of a stretch - even for William Mann.)
After all of that, I think it's safe to say that regardless of what William Mann really meant, he failed to clearly express his ideas. Even so, Mann's article remains widely cited and quoted because even though Mann's analysis is faulty, it is the first instance of Beatles music being seriously analyzed. Quoted from 1972 in The Beatles Anthology, John Lennon (the song's primary author) said, "I still don't know what it means at the end, but it made us acceptable to the intellectuals. It worked and we were flattered." (page 96). Even so, Lennon could not help but make fun of the article, admitting a "quiet giggle when straight-faced critics start feeding all sorts of hidden meanings into the stuff we write. William Mann wrote the intellectual article about the Beatles. He uses a whole lot of musical terminology and he's a twit" (Anthology, page 96); and in a 1980 interview with David Sheff of Playboy, Lennon (despite mistakenly remembering the article referring to "It Won't Be Long") claimed, "To this day I don't have any idea what [aeolian cadences] are. They sound like exotic birds" (page 87).
Beatles. The Beatles Anthology. Chronicle Books, 2000.
Floros, Constantin. Gustav Mahler: The Symphonies. Amadeus Press, Portland OR, 1993.
Kostka, Stefan and Dorothy Payne. Tonal Harmony. McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1995.
Pedler, Dominic. The Songwriting Secrets of the Beatles. Omnibus Press, 2001.
Pogue, David and Scott Speck. Classical Music for Dummies. IDG Books Worldwide, Chicago, IL, 1997.
Sheff, David. All We Are Saying: The Last Major Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono. St. Martin's Griffin, 1981.
Turner, Steve. A Hard Day's Write: The Stories Behind Every Beatles Song. itbooks, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2005.
Deceptive cadences refer to a particular pattern of chords in which the chord built on the fifth scale degree, which usually resolves to the first scale degree, instead proceeds to the sixth scale degree. This may be expressed in roman numerals as follows:
Deceptive V-vi (or, less commonly, V-bVI)
One of the defining characteristics of a deceptive cadence is the aural anticipation of tonic following the dominant chord. That expectation is then thwarted, thus the term "deceptive".
Additionally, cadences by definition conclude phrases. Deceptive cadences, then, may only be found at the ends of phrases. Many Beatles songs ( "There's a Place",  "Thank You Girl",  "She Loves You",  "And I Love Her",  "Any Time At All",  "I Don't Want to Spoil the Party",  "Ticket to Ride",  "Yes It Is",  "You Like Me Too Much",  "Drive My Car",  "We Can Work it Out",  "I'm Looking Through You",  "A Day in the Life",  "She's Leaving Home",  "Glass Onion"  "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill",  "Something",  "Her Majesty", and  "Because") use the same chords that would be used in a deceptive cadence, but these are not actually so because they bridge phrases (with V concluding the former phrase and vi starting the new phrase) rather than conclude them (with V-vi concluding the former phrase and the new phrase beginning on some other chord).
Conversely, some songs ( "I Want to Hold Your Hand",  "I Should Have Known Better",  "Tell Me Why",  "I'm Happy Just To Dance With You",  "I'll Cry Instead",  "The Night Before",  "In My Life",  "For No One",  "Strawberry Fields Forever",  "When I'm Sixty-Four",  "With a Little Help From My Friends",  "All You Need Is Love",  "Hello Goodbye",  "Piggies",  "I'm So Tired",  "Let It Be",  "Oh! Darling",  "Polythene Pam") use the right chords in the middle of their progression - rather than at the end as part of a cadence.
More unusually,  "Eight Days a Week" uses the same chords not as V to vi, but as bVII to i during a tonicization of the relative minor during the Middle 8; and  "Sun King" uses the chords, but in a non-functional harmonic context.
All of these instances are not examples of deceptive cadences and are thus purposely omitted from the list below. With those out of the way, 7 Beatles songs actually do employ true deceptive cadences, and each is identified below with analysis and explanation.
 "P. S. I Love You" uses probably the most blatant of all the Beatles' deceptive cadences a total of four times (0:25, 0:43, 1:15, 1:47), each iteration using the same lyrics and chords.
A Bb C D
P. S. I love you, you, you, you.
V bVI bVII I
Deceptive cadences, as their name implies, are deceiving by nature. But this particular deceptive cadence draws further attention to itself by proceeding from V to bVI - a strikingly foreign chord in D major. In a textbook example of a deceptive cadence, the insertion of this bVI extends the phrase (from what would have been 8 bars to 10) and delays the eventual resolution to I.
 "Do You Want to Know a Secret" uses the five iterations of the same deceptive cadence: 0:38, 1:05, 1:43, 1:47, 1:51 - the first three of which come at the end of each verse; the last two coming in quick succession as part of the song's coda, which fades out as the cadence repeats.
F#m B7 A B7 C#m
Say the words you long to hear: I'm in love with you.
ii V7 IV V7 vi
This deceptive cadence also extends the phrase and delays tonic by two measures.
 "Not a Second Time" uses a total of three deceptive cadences (0:41, 1:01, 1:47), the first and last of which are to identical lyrics sung by Lennon . . .
Am Bm D7 Em
You hurt me then, You're back again, No no no, Not a second time.
ii iii V7 vi
. . . while the middle cadence is during the solo, which employs the same melody and chords as the outer deceptive cadences, just played by a piano instead of sung by Lennon. In all three instances, the deceptive cadences replace resolution to tonic (rather than delay resolution to tonic, as was the case with "P. S. I Love You" and "Do You Want to Know a Secret".)
 "When I Get Home" is the jackpot for Beatles songs that use deceptive cadences. With a total of nine iterations of four unique progressions, it uses more deceptive cadences than any other Beatles tune.
The first (the most frequent with four occurring at 0:12, 0:42, 1:13, and 1:47) appears near the conclusion of each chorus with identical lyrics and chords each time.
D7 G7 Am
I got a whole lot of things to tell her when I get home
II7 V7 vi
The next-most-frequent, with three instances occurring at 0:31, 1:01, and 1:51, appears near the end of each verse, with identical chords but different lyrics each time.
C F7 G7 A
I've got a whole lot of things I've got to say to her. Woah-oh-oh-ah
I've got a girl who's waiting home for me tonight. Woah-oh-oh-ah.
I've got no business being here with you this way. Woah-oh-oh-ah.
I IV7 V7 VI
These deceptive cadences vary slightly from the previous examples (from the same song) because while they both feature G7 (V7) chords followed by chords based on A, the former uses A minor while the latter uses A major.
The last two instances are both unique in the song. At 1:32, near the end of the Middle 8:
F G7 Am
till I walk out that door again.
IV V7 vi
The final deceptive cadence, occurring at 2:02, is identical to those four occurring at 0:12, 0:42, 1:13, and 1:47 except for the final chord, which is major instead of minor. In this way, this cadence may be viewed as a combination of the previously heard deceptive cadences, with the purpose to propelling the song to its conclusion.
D7 G7 A
I got a whole lot of things to tell her when I get home
II7 V7 VI
In all nine instances of deceptive cadences in "When I Get Home", the deceptive cadence expands the phrase and delays the resolution of tonic.
 "Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da" uses just one deceptive cadence (2:58) but it's also one of the more obvious in the Beatles repertoire because by the time we hear the deceptive cadence, we have already heard it as an authentic cadence (V to I) 3 times (0:42, 1:16, 2:07). In explicit and definitive terms, then, this deceptive cadence serves to prolong the phrase and delay the resolution to tonic.
Bb Dm/F Gm7 Bb F7 Gm
Ob-la-di Ob-la-da Life goes on bra, La la how the life goes on.
I iii/5 vi7 I V7 vi
In  "I Will", all four deceptive cadences are saved for the end of the song. The final verse substitutes vi for I three times (1:11, 1:15, and 1:20), prolonging the phrase and delaying tonic resolution - but not before the really attention-grabbing deceptive cadence at 1:25, which pulls the same stunt (V to bVI) McCartney used way back in "P. S. I Love You".
Bb C7 Dm Bb F (Fdim Gm C7 Db7)
Sing it loud so I can hear you
Make it easy to be near you
For the things you do endear you to me and you know I will
IV V7 vi IV I i* ii V7 bVI
 "Octopus's Garden", just like "I Will", saves both of its deceptive cadences for the coda (2:34, and 2:39).
A B C#m A B C#m
In an octopus's garden with you. In an octopus's garden with you.
IV V vi IV V vi
Both of these deceptive cadences prolong the final verse, propelling the son to its conclusion, and delay resolution of tonic.
OBSERVATIONS & CONCLUSIONS:
1963: 2 ( "Do You Want to Know a Secret",  "Not a Second Time")
1964: 1 ( "When I Get Home")
1968: 2 ( "Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da",  "I Will")
1969: 1 ( "Octopus's Garden")
This blog is a workshop for developing my analyses of The Beatles' music.