Many Beatles songs are based on an AABA design.
AABA refers to a structural pattern in which the first verse is heard (A), followed by the second verse (A), a contrasting bridge (B), and finally a third verse (A).
'Please Please Me' is a textbook example:
(A) Verse 1 0:07-0:35
(A) Verse 2 0:35-1:02
(B) Bridge 1:02-1:19
(A) Verse 3 1:19-1:50
Several other tracks also employ a textbook AABA (no more, no less) structure:
And a handful of others employ a compound AABA structure (no more, no less), in which a verse + chorus combine to create the compound A sections, with a B section bridge for contrast:
The majority of AABA Beatles songs, however, would be too short with only a literal AABA form. They therefore supplement that base with additional iterations of A and/or B sections.
Perhaps the most obvious reprise is a "full reprise", in which the entire AABA structure is repeated. But full reprises are rather rare, being found in only three tracks:
Much more common are partial reprises. By far the most frequent of the "AABA with partial reprise" structures is the extension -BA (making the final form AABA|BA). This is found in:
Similarly, two songs implement this -BA extension, but also add a C section solo in between the base AABA and its -BA partial reprise (making the final form AABA|C|BA):
One employs that -BA extension twice (making the final form AABA|BA|BA):
Two songs use an -AA extension (making the final form AABA|AA):
Uniquely, the solo and reprise of the intro on 'I Feel Fine' (1:07-1:25) function as an interlude (not as part of the formal structure), interspersing the base AABA with its -ABA partial reprise (making the final form AABA|I|ABA, with the "I" standing for "interlude").
The vast majority of these songs conclude with an A verse, but a couple conclude with the B bridges.
* * * * * * * * *
There is a particular AABA structure half way in between "AABA with full reprise" and "AABA with partial reprise". When the overall form is AABAABA, the third A section (underlined) doubles as both the end of the initial AABA, and as the start of a full AABA reprise, in what's known as an "AABA with elided reprise".
'From Me To You' is a perfect example:
(A) Verse 1 0:07-0:21
(A) Verse 2 0:21-0:35
(B) Bridge 1 0:35-0:49
(A) Verse 3 0:49-1:03
(A) Solo 1:03-1:17
(B) Bridge 2 1:17-1:31
(A) Verse 4 1:31-1:56
Another 13 Beatles songs employ this AABAABA or "AABA with elided reprise" structure:
And 2 more expand upon it:
* * * * * * * * *
Another AABA subset is the "broken AABA", in which A and/or B sections are reprized at the end, but in no discernible pattern.
At its simplest, the "broken AABA" uses just one section after the AABA base. This is, more often than not, an A section (making the total form AABA|A) as in:
But it can also be a B section (making the total form AABA|B) as in:
Then there are "broken AABA" structures which are longer than a single section extension.
Both 'And Your Bird Can Sing' and 'Blackbird' feature -BAA extensions (making the total form a palindromic AABA|BAA).
Uniquely, the extension on 'Only A Norther Song' is -BAB (making the total form AABA|BAB).
Two songs, 'Roll Over Beethoven' and 'The Ballad of John and Yoko', both add an anticipation (in both songs, an extra A which come before the AABA base) in addition to the extensions (which come after).
Lastly, while "compound AABA" and "broken AABA" are both reasonably common, the combination of them ("compound broken AABA") is found only in 'With A Little Help From My Friends':
(A) Verse 1 0:09-0:26
(B) Chorus 1 0:26-0:43
(A) Verse 2 0:43-1:00
(B) Chorus 2 1:00-1:13
(C) Bridge 1 1:13-1:30
(A) Verse 3 1:30-1:48
(B) Chorus 3 1:48-2:00
(C) Bridge 2 2:00-2:17
(B) Chorus 4 2:17-2:44
The (A) verses and (B) choruses combine to create the compound A section. The (C) bridges, then, constitute the compound B section. This is nothing terribly unusual, as seven other Beatles songs ('Magical Mystery Tour' and 'Ob-la-di Ob-la-da' being the most famous) also employ this compound AABA technique.
'Friends' then offers a partial reprise. Again, this is nothing out of the ordinary. 'You're Going to Lose that Girl', 'Wait', and 'Ob-la-di Ob-la-da' are all "compound AABA with partial reprise" structures: [AB] [AB] C [AB] | C [AB]. These are very nearly identical to 'With a Little Help From My Friends', except that 'Friends' omits the last A, making the final form [AB] [AB] C [AB] | C B. And that is what makes the song structurally unique: Its partial reprise is of the bridge and chorus, but it omits the verse. The partial reprise is thus "broken".
It's relatively common for songs to "tighten up" their endings as a way to propel the music to its conclusion. 'Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds', for example, omits the pre-chorus in the third and final compound section for precisely this reason. 'Cry Baby Cry' elides choruses at its end for the same reason.
All of the individual structural techniques implemented in 'With a Little Help From My Friends' can be found in other Beatles songs, but no other incorporates all of them within the same song.
The Wisconsin component of my spring 2016 tours concludes tomorrow with one final rendition of "Band of the Sixties":
Tuesday, 24 May 2016, 6:00-7:00 p.m.
Watertown Public Library, 100 S Water St, Watertown, WI
The Beatles: Band of the Sixties
Explore the music of The Beatles in this 60-minute multimedia presentation (part history and part musical analysis) spanning the full 1960's: beginning with the band's seminal visits to Hamburg, continuing through Beatlemania, and concluding with Abbey Road. The program will be supplemented with audio clips of music and excerpts from interviews with the band members.
This blog is a workshop for developing my analyses of The Beatles' music.