For No One - The Beatles

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"For No One" - The Beatles (1966)

“For No One” was classically-inspired with a “pinch of Burt Bacharach.”

McCartney recollects:

“Occasionally we’d have an idea for some new kind of instrumentation, particularly for solos... On For No One I was interested in the French horn, because it was an instrument I’d always loved from when I was a kid.”

In addition to the brooding, haunting melody, “For No One” is the first song where McCartney demonstrates his brilliance as a musical arranger. He maintains the sustaining rhythm- first with a chlavichord which was overdubbed onto his piano rhythm track and then with a French horn solo by Alan Civil of the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

Addressing us in the second person as if he were talking about the end of a love affair, the song is one of McCartney’s most perfect compositions, constructed with its author’s customary logic and moving methodically through its classical steps like a champion chess player.

Other than Paul, only Ringo played on the song. As reliable as ever, Ringo laid down the percussion tracks with the subtlety and finesse of an orchestral percussionist. He keeps simple time by strictly answering the bass line in the piano or the bass guitar by subdividing the beat.

The vocals sung by McCartney form a uniquely Beatlesque thematic harmony which floats over the whole of the foundation. It is true ballad writing. The style and the melody sound so distinct as if it was penned by Beethoven, Bach or Mozart. Classical, but with a modern sound.

Musicologist Naftali Wagner wrote:

“The limited selection of notes in the melody of the verse corresponds to the natural selection of notes of brass instruments and thus demands the inclusion of such an instrument. Unlike string instruments, for example, brass instruments are not good at ‘emotional’ expression and therefore they are consistent with the distance character of the verse. The frequent use of the second person in place of the first person (Your day breaks, you mind aches) produces more of a sense of distance than of empathy.

The narrator is giving guidance to someone and speaks of how it feels to be rejected. He cautions against thinking that his girlfriend needs him when she is moving on. The question is why she is “crying for no one.” She says that long ago she knew someone but now he’s gone. The person she loved is not the man she thought he was.

The narrator is saying- with good reason- that no matter how much you can want someone to miss you and be in pain after it’s over, sometimes they know it’s for the best, and there is no pain. There are no regrets. “No sign of love behind the tears” signifies that it’s supposed to be this way.

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