We Can Work It Out - The Beatles

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"We Can Work It Out" - The Beatles (1965)

Recorded in October 1965,McCartney says he wrote "We Can Work It Out" with a county and western up-tempo in mind.

Ray Davies of the Kinks said in 2001 that Harrison told him he suggested to put the middle into waltz time- like a german waltz. The Beatles spent 11 hours in the studio to create this record- the longest amount of studio time they had devoted to any song until that point.

McCartney added:

"The lyrics might have been personal. It is often a good way to talk to someone or to work out your thoughts. It saves you going to the psychiastrist, you allow yourself to say what you might not say in person.”

Commenting on how the song reflects the relationship between Lennon and McCartney, Beatle scholar Tim Riley said:

“As collabroates, their idiosyncraasies appear explicity in dialogues like this song, a song about a lovers’ quarrel that turns out to be an argument in itself.”

What is unique about the song is how it changes to a near-waltz tempo that just temporarily slows the song at the end of the middle eight. This very unusual effect adds a degree of texture- embellished by an old harmonium that McCartney said they found in the studio which they used to “add color.” The new keyboard instrument, with its wheezing and swelling movements, caries the tense suspensions in the track.

As a true collaboration by Lennon and McCartney, the song is often misread as the musical representation of an ongoing conflict between the songwriters’ personalities. This misinterpretation, as it turns out, finds its roots in the words of John himself:

“You’ve got Paul writing ‘we can work it out,’ real optimistic, you know, and me, impatient, ‘Life is very short and there’s no time for fussing. . .’”

Riley wrote that the song exemplieifes the Lennon and McCartney collabroative technique of joining two separate parts to form one larger whole so. The song’s structure is simple: Paul sings the verses, Lennon sings the bridges.

It’s the details that are telling as Paul’s verses are hopeful and have a steady backbeat. Lennon’s bridge is in minor, the sentiment is frustrated, and the rhythm jumps into double time. Where Paul is laid back, Lennon is impatient; where Paul is cheerful, Lennon is doubtful.
The song is really about noncommunication, and makes its point most strongly in the way it fends off its own resolution.

While this was a case of two songwriters collaborating as equals, for McCartney it was somehwat of a breakthrough as his part lyric displays a dramatic instict which would soon begin to dominate his work. The song represents the end of Lennon’s dominance over the band’s output. From now on, his bandmate  would be in the ascendant not only as a  songwriter, but also as instrumentalist, arranger, producer and de-facto musical director of the group.

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