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Within You Without You

The history of this classic Beatles song

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Within You Without You

A Mexican 45 of "Within You Without You"

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Within You Without You

Working title: Untitled
Written by: George Harrison
Recorded: March 15 and 22, April 3, 1967 (Studio 2, Abbey Road Studios, London, England)
Mixed: April 4, 1967
Length: 5:03
Takes: 2

Musicians:

George Harrison: lead vocals, acoustic rhythm guitar (1962 Gibson J160E), sitar, tamboura
Asian Music Circle musicians: dilrubas, svarmandal, tabla, tamboura
Neil Aspinall: tamboura
Eric Gruenberg, Alan Loveday, Julien Gaillard, Paul Scherman, Ralph Elman, David Wolfsthal, Jack Rothstein, Jack Greene: violins
Reginald Kilbey, Allen Ford, Peter Beavan: cellos

Available on: (CDs in bold)
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (UK: Parlophone PMC 7027, PCS 7027; Capitol (S)MAS 2653; Parlophone CDP 7 46442 2)

History:

  • George's original contribution to the Sgt. Pepper project was actually the acerbic "Only A Northern Song," which used the name of the Lennon-McCartney music publishing company as a sly nod to his growing dislike of his own royalty rate. Although it was recorded on February 13, 1967 (with additional overdubbing on the 14th and 20th), producer George Martin was less than impressed with the song, however, and sent Harrison away to come up with something better.
  • Harrison visited the home of longtime Beatles friend and associate Klaus Voorman some time in late February 1967, and after dinner (and quite a bit of marijuana), wrote "Within You Without You" on Klaus' harmonium (an reed organ that uses a bellows to push air through the instrument, as an accordion does). The song was based on a piece by Ravi Shankar, the Indian music master who had schooled Harrison in the use of he sitar. Shankar's piece was half an hour long; George shortened it to just over six minutes. (in editing, the song was reduced to just over five.)
  • Harrison envisioned the song as a Western distillation of a traditional Indian raga, and wrote the song in three separate pieces, which he intended to record separately and then splice together. However, the final product was recorded in only two pieces, and only two takes.
  • First, Harrison secured the members of the Asian Music Circle, a collection of Indian musicians from London's northern Finely area, to lay down the basic track on March 15, consisting of the first and second verse in one take, and the instrumental middle break through to the end on the second take. Then, on March 22nd, two more dilrubas were overdubbed. Finally, on April 3rd, the last session for any song which made it onto Pepper, the Western element was added: George Martin scored a mix of violins and cellos, at Harrison's direction, to replicate the sound of a traditional Indian song. George then added sitar and acoustic guitar, then his lead vocal, but only after the original track was sped up one half-step to the key of C#.
  • The lyrics are based almost explicitly on the dinner party conversation at Voorman's house, which combined current theories about LSD experimentation and the death of ego with Hindu mysticism and philosophy. The words are almost a verbatim report; the opening line of each of the three verses begins "We were talking..."
  • The song ends with a burst of laughter from the sound-effects vaults at Abbey Road, put there at George's instruction to lighten the preachiness of the track. Some listeners have erroneously taken this to be the other Beatles (who were not present at any of the "Within You" sessions) laughing at the song.

Trivia:

  • Modeled as it is after the droning style of Indian music, this is the only Beatles song that consists of one chord. It's also the only Beatles song which features George alone.
  • John Lennon has claimed that this is one of George's best compositions. For his part, Stephen Stills was so taken with the song's lyrics that he carved them in a stone monument placed in his front yard.
  • The original mono and stereo mixes, for some reason, use a different taped laugh at the end of this song.
  • The lyrics printed on the back of the Sgt. Pepper album align in such a way that the words "Without You" seem to bloom out of the back of Paul's dead. Paul Is Dead theorists take this as yet another "clue" that the band was soldiering on after Paul's "death."
Covered by: Cheap Trick, Peter Knight and his Orchestra, Sonic Youth, Oasis, Rainer, Angels of Venice, Big Head Todd and the Monsters, Firefall, Thievery Corporation, Glenn Mercer, R. Stevie Moore, Les Fradkin, Patti Smith, Easy Star All-Stars
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