Day 178: “Not a Second Time”

When was it recorded?   Sept. 11, 1963

When was it first released, and on which album?   Nov. 22, 1963 on “With the Beatles”

Who wrote it?   Lennon

Have I heard this song before?   No

What my research dug up:

According to John, “I wrote ‘Not A Second Time’ and, really, it was just chords like any other chords. To me, I was writing a Smokey Robinson or something at the time.” As Alan Pollack wrote, “Though far from having been one of the big hits of its period, this one has its own share of small-to-medium sized stylistic innovations, especially in terms of form and key definition.” We’ll come back to that.

The Beatles recorded five takes of “Not a Second Time” on Sept. 11, 1963. They overdubbed George Martin’s piano part and John’s vocals. According to the Beatles Bible, “This was the first Beatles recording not to feature George Harrison.”


“Not a Second Time” is probably more memorable for the analysis it spawned. In an article published Dec. 27, 1963 by The Times, musicologist William Mann wrote, “Harmonic interest is typical of their quicker songs, too, and one gets the impression that they think simultaneously of harmony and melody, so firmly are the major tonic sevenths and ninths built into their tunes, and the flat submediant key switches, so natural is the Aeolian cadence at the end of ‘Not A Second Time’ (the chord progression which ends Mahler’s ‘Song of the Earth’).” He further praised them for their understanding of music theory.

The Beatles had no idea what Mann was talking about.

“To this day I don’t have any idea what [Aeolian cadences] are. They sound like exotic birds.” — John Lennon (David Sheff, All We Are Saying)

It’s OK, John; my grasp of the concert is pretty shaky, too.




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