Mark Drobnick
Mark Drobnick

"Lady Madonna, 214 Mystery!"

Remember how much fun the clues from the Beatle albums and songs were? 

Scrutinize hidden, pictorial meanings, play the songs backwards for secret messages, etc.  Were they all publicity stunts to sell more records?  Possibly. 

Well, here's another interesting factoid.  Please allow me to share my brand-new discovery of 09 January 2014, with all. 

The original, single-record version of Lady Madonna, which was premiered and played on top-40 AM radio, back in the day (with a Harrison song on flip side), clocked in, start to finish, the total, four sections, at two minutes, fourteen seconds, or, 2:14.  But, of course, this presumes a certain tempo.  And, guess what that number is!

If you said two hundred fourteen (214) beats per minute ---quarter note played that rapidly, four quarters per measure --- then you go to the head of the class!  Yes, 2:14 requires 214. 

Believe it or not!  What does it all mean?

John Lennon, never at a loss for acting or saying the controversial, pooh-poohed Beatle songs as being purportedly, paint-by-the-numbers, simplistic, and formulaic.  Further, he analogized to high school.  Would you want to go back there to repeat, after you had graduated university and made your way into the world?  He likened Beatle songs to high school level, at least in his development as musician and composer.

Conversely, I say, there is much to be lauded, as in our example.  Note that, mathematically and formulaically, how beautifully, Lady Madonna is organized and laid out.  It consists of 120 bars (measures), total, at four beats each.

When I play it, I think it sounds swell, slowed down to exactly three minutes, by setting metronome to 160 beats per minute.  But, that's simply a matter of personal taste, interpretation, and styling, combined with what's comfortable for the singer.

By the way, when I first heard this Lennon-McCartney song, it conjured up for me, "Three Blind Mice," or Moe, Larry, and Curly.  But, sounding it out on the keyboard, I don't hear too much similarity.  Maybe the, "see how they run" phrase, from the bridge (where the song changes), sparked me.

Brings to mind a wag band, who morphed "Stairway to Heaven" into the "Gilligan's Island" theme.  They went on to publicize it, for which they were "spanked" with an admonition from Led Zep legal counsel.  Was it a Louis Nizer book where I read that anecdote?

Back to the point, here's the layout of the song in question.  How symmetrically thought out, and balanced, is it put together!  That way, it's reminiscent of something from classical or Baroque music.  Runs like a clock.

  1.  INTRO - 8 bars
          (establishes boogie tonality and stomp beat)

  2.  First verse (lyrics) - 16 bars
  3.  First bridge (lyrics) - 16 bars

  4.  Second verse (lyrics, abbreviated) - 8 bars
  5.  Second verse (instrumental continuation:  A-major & D-major, arpeggiated triads alternate, followed by D-minor walk-up, layered over A-major passage bass) - 8 bars

  6.  Bridge (2nd, instrumental variation, or, "solo":  major and minor thirds of C-major/ Dorian mode scale, layered over D-minor passage bass) - 12 bars
  7.  "See how they run" (lyrics), bridge end - 4 bars

  8.  Third verse (lyrics, abbreviated) - 8 bars
  9.  Third verse remainder (1st instrumental variation, re-visited) - 8 bars

 10.  Bridge (rest of 2-syllable days, lyrics; story is completed) - 16 bars

 11.  Verse 1 (first half, repeated = succinct abstract of entire, lyrical exposition) - 8 bars

 12.  CODA - 8 bars
           (Gravitates about A, tonic center; incorporates suspended and diminished chord progression; chromaticism re-emphasized.  That is, musicality of recap., in full force.  Ends masterfully punctuated, you might say.)

 TOTAL = 120 bars

As you see, Lady Madonna begins with 8 bars of intro and ends with 8 bars of coda.  Sandwiched between are the A-major, tonic verses, and, D-minor, sub-dominant bridges. 

Verse and bridge words combine to relate the story.  They are intermittently re-rendered as instrumental interludes, while both "narrator" and listener, respectively, perhaps figuratively too, catch their breath and assimilate content.  That's how the song unfolds.

So, there you have this Beatle song's formulaic recipe, fully baked.  Again, it's a symmetrical formation of beauty, as if conjured by Mother Nature, herself.

And, as I began this essay, there is that underlying, integral, two fourteen (214) connection.  It is as profound as enigmatic, ineffable, mathematical abstractions like pi and the square root of negative one?  Beatle keepers of the flame aside, one wouldn't think so! 

Why do they all exist and how can they be explained?  Stochastic realities, or designedly so?

So it is.  Lady Madonna, played at 214 pulses per minute on your timekeeper, shall, invariably and inevitably, yield the 2:14 duration, exactly as its Beatles premiere!


Mark Drobnick


Waukegan, Illinois  USA


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