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Today The Beatles finished recording George’s “I Want to Tell You.” I talked about the lyrics yesterday, but today I want to say a few words about the music. To me the thing that really jumps out is the piano part, which appears to be in a different key than the rest of the song. Most of the time it’s close enough that you don’t really notice it, but at the end of each verse it veers off into a note that’s totally at odds with the rest of the instruments.

I can’t think of any examples before this of The Beatles — or any pop band for that matter, not that I’d know — consciously making use of dissonance in their music. I feel like I read somewhere that George Martin argued against it, but I can’t find any evidence of this, so I may have imagined it. In any case, to this day there’s something about “I Want to Tell You” that makes you a little uneasy, makes it not quite entirely pleasant to listen to.

This no accident, of course. Given the nature of the lyric, I would posit that the dissonance represents the state of mind of the singer, who feels out of tune with the world around him. The irony is that the dissonance only complicates matters that much further, throwing up one more barrier between the person attempting to communicate (George) and those he’s trying to communicate with (His wife? His band? The world at large?).

Only at the very end does the piano seem to get into tune with the rest of the song. This matches the lyric, which takes a turn for the hopeful at the last second after being mostly bleak. It’s a nice moment, one to savor; in my parallel-universe version of Revolver, “I Want to Tell You” comes at the end of Side 1 and finishes with a locked groove playing on the final words: “I’ve got time.” But for now, it’s time to go.

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