If I Fell - The Beatles

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"If I Fell" - The Beatles (1964)

"If I Fell" merges one of Lennon’s most beautifully complex melodies with some of his most vulnerable lyrics resulting in a close-harmony ballad whose structure is intriguing.

It opens with an intro that contains no musical elements found in the rest of the song, and the body of this song has no real verse/chorus structure, just 2 verses that each turn halfway through on an unexpected chord. Lennon said that this was this first try at writing a ballad- and a precursor to “In My Life” as it shares the same chord structure.

The song is about an illicit relationship where the narrator is asking his lover to love him even more if he leaves his wife for her. More than he’s ever been loved before. It is a declaration of moral responsibility that what he is thinking of doing has consequences for all involved. He knows- or feels- that the manner in which one person’s happiness can only be gained through another’s despair.

The track has the feel of being played on one breath from beginning to end. The harmony by John and Paul was done on a single microphone which intesify their delivery as the symmetry of their voices merge in perfect form and precision. When they do come together in harmony they soar in unison onto a joint melodic line- before their return to separate, overlapping orbits. The way John structured the songs required chord changes on almost every note of the verse. It took them fifteen takes to get it right.

Musicologist Tim Riley writes:

"The melody itself seems written as harmonized- both lines are so lyrical it’s hard to say just which one is the “melody.” The intertwining harmonies are so strong that they seem to carry the entire song along beyond them. Melody and meaning govern the musical setting."

Beatle scholar Ken Womack adds:

"In itself, the song underscores the explicit disparities between the innocent narratives of the early Beatles of 1962–1963 and their mature, eminently more fractured and authentic counterparts in 1964 and beyond: “I’ve been in love before,” John and Paul sing, “And I found that love was more / Than just holding hands.”

In the end, it is the speaker’s ego—his wounded pride—that spells the difference between heartbreak and bliss:“’Cause I couldn’t stand the pain /And I would be sad if our new love was in vain.”

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