Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Well, I am at home sick today, which of course irritates the crap out of me. I almost never get sick, honestly, so when I do I get especially angry and self-pitying and act like a gigantic baby. It's just pleasant as hell for everyone, really.

What I really want to do today is listen to a Beatles song and then try to get some sleep. So I figured "Because" might be a good one to lull me there. Famously, John described this song as the first movement of Beethoven's Piano Sonata #14 (the so-called "Moonlight" Sonata) played backward. It's not literally those chords played backward, but you can definitely hear the inspiration in the triplet-ish arpeggios and the whole mellow sustained sound of the thing. If you've forgotten your Beethoven, that's OK-- you can listen to the first movement of the Moonlight Sonata at its Wikipedia entry and hear what I'm talking about. (Or you can go there to listen to the sonata's third movement, which I think is cooler anyway. But that's me digressing.)

Before I get off on a Beethoven rant, let's just listen to "Because" already, which is not as related to Beethoven as John implied anyway.

That hypnotic opening figure is played by producer extraordinaire George Martin on an electric harpsichord, which is probably among the top five instruments that I wish I owned. Anyway, it's joined by John's guitar, and then in come the voices, truly the stars of this particular song. John, Paul, and George are, thanks to the miracle of multiple-tracking, singing nine-part harmony on this. At least that's what I've read-- the texture is too thick for me to actually pick out nine lines, so I'll just believe the experts on this. John has always loved this dense vocal sound, most notably in early songs like "This Boy," but "Because" is like "This Boy" to the nth: it's the thickest vocal ever on a Beatles song, just lush and gorgeous as all out, so much so that harmonies become more important than the melody. I mean, what IS the melody, anyway? My ear gravitates toward one of John's lines, but that's only a subjective listening, and you might sing along to a different line than I would. Isn't that neat? Melody is sort of meaningless in "Because"-- it's all about the movement of chords rather than notes.

And the chords go into some interesting places, too. Music theory students could have a ball doing a harmonic analysis of this thing. But luckily, I don't have to-- I'm getting tired anyway. What I like about this song right now, when I want to sleep, is the whole mood. No percussion is on this track at all (I guess Ringo skipped this session), so nothing disturbs the mellow, floaty feel. And the ongoing guitar and harpsichord figures are rhythmically disjunct enough to cloud where the beats are, which helps too. It's all so beautiful that the lyrics, which are basically just hippie-dippie cliches, are made weirdly believable. Ahhhhh.

One more thing before I pass out: Although I don't think this song isn't normally considered a part of the Abbey Road side B medley (which "officially" begins with "You Never Give Me Your Money"), it does lead into it naturally-- the last chord of "Because" is a diminished seventh which totally resolves beautifully into the minor seventh chords that kick off "You Never Give Me Your Money." Isn't that AWESOME? I get a wicked kick out of details like that.

"Because," released in the U.K. side B track 2 of Abbey Road, September 26, 1969; in the U.S. October 1, 1969.
I am indebted for all discography information to the tremendous Beatles-Discography.com.

1 comment:

  1. First off, let me congratulate you on a wonderful site. I will visit regularly. I grew up in the Sixties and the Beatles were a huge part of my teen and college years. I agree that Because is just simply a beautiful song, and, like you, i consider it part and parcel with the side two Medley even if it technically isn't. (it is a full song and the medlelly is comprised of odds and sods.) I read somewhere that George Martin said that Paul was the only one who could have strung all those "bits" together, being the only one who would have had the desire to do so and the deeper musical understanding to pull it off. Cheers ... Frank