“Within You Without You” is the first song on side 2 of The Beatles’ Sgt Peppers album. Indeed, it is another George Harrison composition with an Indian flavour. Harrison took much influence from his visit to India in 1966, of course. This was George Harrison’s second Indian classical style song after “Love You To“. That song is available on The Beatles’ “Revolver” album, of course.
Released: 26th May, 1967
Recorded: 15th and 22nd March, also the 3rd April, 1967
Studio: EMI Studios, London
Genre: Indian classical, raga rock
Track Duration: 5:05
Record Label: Parlophone
Songwriter: George Harrison
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Geoff Emerick
George Harrison: lead vocals, tambura, sitar, also the acoustic guitar
Anna Joshi: dilruba
Amrit Gajjar, Amrit Gajjar: dilruba
Natwar Soni: tabla
Buddhadev Kansara, Neil Aspinall: tambura
Erich Gruenberg, Alan Loveday, Julien Gaillard, Paul Scherman, Ralph Elman, David Wolfsthal, Jack Rothstein, Jack Greene: violins
Reginald Kilbey, Allen Ford, Peter Halling: cellos
Within You Without You
“Within You Without You” is a George Harrison song, of course. At the time, he was deep into Hindu philosophy and the teachings of the Vedas (religious texts originating in ancient India). Together with his mentor and sitar teacher, Ravi Shankar, Harrison became much more spiritually enlightened. George Harrison’s exposure to Indian culture also allowed him to explore different avenues in the field of music.
“Within You Without You came about after I had spent a bit of time in India and fallen under the spell of the country and its music. I had brought back a lot of instruments. It was written at Klaus Voormann’s house in Hampstead after dinner one night. The song came to me when I was playing a pedal harmonium.”
“I’d also spent a lot of time with Ravi Shankar, trying to figure out how to sit and hold the sitar, and how to play it. Within You Without You was a song that I wrote based upon a piece of music of Ravi’s that he’d recorded for All-India Radio. It was a very long piece – maybe 30 or 40 minutes – and was written in different parts, with a progression in each. I wrote a mini version of it, using sounds similar to those I’d discovered in his piece. I recorded in three segments and spliced them together later”.
Indeed, none of the other Beatles took part in the recording of this song. It was just George with the help members of the Asian Music Circle and a few other musicians. However, Beatles aide, Neil Aspinall, has some contribution to the track. Be that as it may, the songs inclusion on The Beatles’ album, “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” shows how committed the band members were to each other.
It also shows how open the band were to different musical concepts. Moreover, it took Indian music right into the heart of the pop culture in the West. After all, “Sgt Peppers” became one of the highest selling albums of all time so the exposure was enormous.
Recording took place on the 15th March, 1967, in studio 2 of EMI’s famous Abbey Road studios. The working title of this song had the unusual name, “Untitled”.
With incense burning under low light and Indian tapestries on the walls, the performers sat on a carpet in anticipation. The almost spiritual atmosphere created in the London studio was to allow the musicians to put more feeling into the music.
In essence, there was a desire to get this song right from the beginning. Indeed, Harrison desperately wanted to promote his Indian style music to Western audiences, so he knew it had to be good. Not only did Harrison create the right atmosphere, but his preparation was perfect – there was only one take on the day.
Some instrumental overdubbing took place on the 22nd of March. Then, on the 3rd April, George Harrison recorded the lead vocals as well as adding further sitar and guitar instrumentation. This was to be the final day of recording for the Sgt. Peppers album.
On the 4th April, 1967, the final mixing took place with Harrison adding laughter from the Abbey Road sound effects tape. Although George Martin and Geoff Emerick didn’t approve of the canned laughter, they submitted to Harrison’s request. Harrison explains, “You were supposed to hear the audience anyway, as they listen to Sergeant Pepper’s Show.”
Within You Without You is not a typical Beatles’ song, of course. However, it did add a new dimension to The Beatles’ music. Some critics mocked it while others loved it. But, you can’t please everyone!
There are cover versions from artists, Big Jim Sullivan, Sonic Youth, Big Daddy and even Oasis. Stephen Stills loved the lyrics to this song so much, there is a carving of them on a stone monument in his yard!
So, what do you think of this song? You can reply here of course but we also have a massive Beatles Forum for debates too.