Within You Without You

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"Within You Without You"
Song by the Beatles from the album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Released 1 June 1967
Recorded 15 and 22 March and 3 April 1967,
EMI Studios, London
Length 5:05
Label Parlophone
Writer George Harrison
Producer George Martin
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band track listing
Music sample

"Within You Without You" is a song written by George Harrison, released on the Beatles' 1967 album, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.


The basic tracks for "Within You Without You" featured only Harrison and a group of uncredited Indian musicians based in London. Producer George Martin then arranged a string section, and Harrison and assistant Neil Aspinall overdubbed the tambura. According to Prema Music, dilruba player Amrit Gajjar played on the track.[1] Hunter Davies wrote that Harrison "trained himself to write down his song in Indian script so that the Indian musicians can play them."[2] With "Within You Without You", Harrison became the second Beatle to record a song credited to The Beatles but featuring no other members of the group (Paul McCartney had previously done so with "Yesterday").

"Within You Without You" is the second of Harrison's songs to be explicitly influenced by Indian classical music (the first being "Love You To", released on Revolver the previous year). Harrison said "I was continually playing Indian [sitar exercises] called Sargam, which are the bases of the different Ragas. That's why around this time I couldn't help writing tunes like this which were based on unusual scales."[3] The song is Harrison's only composition on Sgt. Pepper after "Only a Northern Song" was omitted from the album. Harrison wrote "Within You Without You" on a harmonium at the house of long-time Beatles' associate Klaus Voormann ("We were talking about the space between us all, And the people who hide themselves behind a wall of illusion— never glimpse the truth").[4]

"Within You Without You" was heavily influenced by George Harrison's interest in Indian music and Vedanta philosophy.

Musical structure[edit]

The song is mostly in Mixolydian mode[5][6] or rather Khamaj thaat, its equivalent in Indian music.[3]

The song, in the tonic (I) key of C (sped up to C# on the finished recording), is structured around an exotic Mixolydian melody over a constant C-G 'root-fifth' drone that is neither obviously major nor minor.[7] It opens with a very short alap played by the tambouras (0:00-0:04), then dilruba (from 0:04) while a swarmandal is gently stroked to announce the pentatonic portion of the scale.[3][8] A tabla then begins (at 0:23) playing a 16-beat tintal in a Madhya laya (medium tempo) and the dilruba plaintively backs the opening line of the verse (Bandish) or gat: "We were talking about the space between us all." [3][8] The opening words "We were talking" are sung to an E-F-G-B♭ melody tritone interval (E to B♭) that enhances the spiritual dissonance sought to be evoked.[9] Soon an 11-piece string section plays a series of unusual slides to match the Indian music idiom where the melody is often "played legato rounded in microtones, rather than staccato as in Western music."[8] The instrumental after the second verse and chorus involves the tabla switching from the 16 beat tintal to a 10 beat jhaptal cycle.[10] As a pointed counterpoint to the verse echoes of ancient Vedantic philosophy ("wall of illusion" "When you've seen beyond yourself, then you may find peace of mind is waiting there") a sawal-jawab (musical dialogue) begins in 5/4 time between first the dilruba and Harrison's sitar, then between the full Western string section and Harrison's sitar, this tellingly resolving into a melody in unison and together stating the tihai that closes the middle segment.[10] Gould describes Martin's strings as here making "their way through the bustle and drone of the Indian instruments with the slightly shaky dignity of a procession of sahibs in sedan chairs."[11] After this, the drone is again prominent and the swarmandal plays an ascending scale, followed by a lone cello in descending scale that leads to the final verse in 16-beat tintal ("And the time will come when you see we're all one, and life flows on within you and without you") ending with the notes of the dilruba left hanging, until the tonal and spiritual tension is relieved by a muted use of canned laughter.[10]

Pollack considers that there two likely interpretations of the use of canned laughter. The first is that the presumably xenophobic Victorian/Edwardian-era audience implicit in the Sgt. Pepper band and concert concept "is letting off a little tension of this perceived confrontation with pagan elements." The second holds that the composer is engaging in "an endearingly sincere nanosecond of acknowledgement of the apparent existential absurdity of the son-of-a-Liverpudlian bus driver espousing such other-worldly beliefs and sentiments".[12] Two slightly different laugh tracks were used for the mono and stereo mixes. The laughter is slightly quieter than the instrumental track in the stereo version. However, it comes in more sudden and louder in the mono version.


Recording began on 15 March 1967 at Abbey Road studio 2 with Indian musicians from the Asian Music Circle, London,[13] sitting on a carpet with lights low and incense burning.[3] On 3 April 1967 George Martin's score for eight violins and three cellos was added, attempting to imitate the slides and bends of the dilrubas.[3] The recording released on the album was sped up enough to raise the key from C to C#; an instrumental version of the song at the original speed and in the original key (and without the laugh track) appears on the Anthology 2 album.

Love remix[edit]

The song was also included on the 2006 remix album Love. For this album, George Harrison's vocal and sitar parts were mixed over McCartney's bass and Ringo's drum parts from "Tomorrow Never Knows," although the opening lyric, "Turn off your mind ... Relax and float downstream ... It is not dying ... it is not dying," come from "Tomorrow Never Knows," as does the set of reversed sound effects utilised in the mashup. During part of the second verse of the mashup version, the drums and bass of "Tomorrow Never Knows" are silenced, replaced by the tabla percussion parts of "Within You Without You." Also, Harrison's vocals are heard in the song's intended key of C major. The blending of these two songs is considered the most effective form of mashup on the album.[14] All of the music for Love was remixed and remastered by The Beatles' producer Sir George Martin and his son Giles. The Love remix is one of the songs in The Beatles: Rock Band.[15] The original version has also been released as downloadable content along with the rest of the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album in November 2009.

Stephen Stills was so impressed with the lyrics that he had them carved on a stone monument in his yard.[16] John Lennon declared "Within You Without You" "one of George's best songs."[17]


Personnel per Ian MacDonald[18]

Cover versions[edit]

Year Artist Release Notes
1967 Peter Knight and his Orchestra (single) Orchestral version
1968 Soulful Strings (single) Instrumental version
1988 Sonic Youth Sgt. Pepper Knew My Father Originally released on a various artist's tribute album; re-released in 2007 on the deluxe edition of Daydream Nation
1999 Angels of Venice Angels of Venice Instrumental version
2003 Big Head Todd and the Monsters Songs from the Material World: A Tribute to George Harrison Various artists tribute album
2004 Thievery Corporation The Outernational Sound Instrumental version
2007 Oasis Sgt. Pepper's 40th Anniversary Tribute Originally aired for BBC Radio 2 on 2 June 2007
2007 Glenn Mercer Wheels in Motion
2007 Les Fradkin Guitar Revolution Instrumental version
2007 Patti Smith Twelve
2009 Cheap Trick Sgt. Pepper Live
2009 Easy Star All-Stars Easy Star's Lonely Hearts Dub Band Featuring Matisyahu

In 1996, Dead Can Dance released Spiritchaser that includes "Indus", a song with a melody very similar to "Within You Without You". After the similarity was discovered, they obtained Harrison's permission to use it and gave him partial songwriting credit after pressure from the record company.[19]


  1. ^ Prema Music 2010.
  2. ^ Gilliland 1969, show 45, track 4.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Walter Everett. The Beatles as Musicians. Revolver Through the Anthology. Oxford University Press. NY 1999 ISBN 978-0-19-512941-0 p112
  4. ^ Walter Everett. The Beatles as Musicians. Revolver Through the Anthology. Oxford University Press. NY 1999 ISBN 978-0-19-512941-0 p111
  5. ^ "Modes - iBreatheMusic Forums". Retrieved 19 November 2011. 
  6. ^ "Songs with only one chord". Retrieved 19 November 2011. 
  7. ^ Pedler, Dominic (2003). The Songwriting Secrets of the Beatles. London: Omnibus Press. p. 262. ISBN 978-0-7119-8167-6. 
  8. ^ a b c Peter Lavezzoli. The Dawn of Indian Music in the West. Bhairavi. The Continuum International Publishing Group Inc. New York 2006. ISBN 0-8264-1815-5 ISBN 978-0-8264-1815-9, 2006. p178
  9. ^ Pedler, Dominic (2003). The Songwriting Secrets of the Beatles. London: Omnibus Press. p. 523. ISBN 978-0-7119-8167-6. 
  10. ^ a b c Peter Lavezzoli. The Dawn of Indian Music in the West. Bhairavi. The Continuum International Publishing Group Inc. New York 2006. ISBN 0-8264-1815-5 ISBN 978-0-8264-1815-9, 2006. p179
  11. ^ Jonathan Gould. Can't Buy Me Love. The Beatles, Britain and America, Piatkus 2007 p406
  12. ^ Alan W Pollack. 'Notes on Within You, Without You' (1998) http://www.recmusicbeatles.com/public/files/awp/wywy.html accessed 5 Jan 2012
  13. ^ Lavezzoli, p. 178.
  14. ^ PopMatters 2006.
  15. ^ Frushtick 2009.
  16. ^ Dowlding 1989, p. 175.
  17. ^ Sheff 2000, p. 186.
  18. ^ MacDonald 2005, p. 243.
  19. ^ Morse 1996.


External links[edit]