For You Blue
|"For You Blue"|
US picture sleeve
|Single by the Beatles|
|from the album Let It Be|
|A-side||"The Long and Winding Road"|
|Released||11 May 1970|
|Recorded||25 January 1969, 8 January 1970
Apple Studio, London; Olympic Sound Studios, London
|The Beatles US singles chronology|
"For You Blue" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles from their 1970 album Let It Be. The track was written by George Harrison as a love song to his wife, Pattie Boyd. It was the B-side to "The Long and Winding Road" single, issued in many countries, but not Britain, and was listed with that song when the single topped the US Billboard Hot 100 in June 1970. On the Cash Box Top 100 chart, which measured single sides individually, "For You Blue" peaked at number 71.
A light-hearted recording in the acoustic country blues style, it features John Lennon playing lap steel guitar. The song was one of seven Beatles tracks included on the 1976 compilation The Best of George Harrison. Paul McCartney performed the song at the Concert for George in November 2002, a year after Harrison's death.
Background and composition
George Harrison wrote "For You Blue" in late 1968 as a love song to his wife Pattie Boyd. In his autobiography, I, Me, Mine, he describes the composition as "a simple twelve-bar song following all the normal principles except it's happy-go-lucky!" The song was also influenced by Harrison's stay in Woodstock in upstate New York, where he had enjoyed jamming with the Band and collaborating with Bob Dylan.
"For You Blue" is in the key of D. Aside from the introduction, it is one of the few original Beatles songs in which every section follows the traditional twelve bar blues (I-IV-V) pattern. The five-bar introduction deviates from the pattern due to its length and the inclusion of what musicologist Alan Pollack terms a "V-of-V" chord, namely E7 in the home key. The song's bluesy feel is accentuated by the addition to the blues-based minor pentatonic scale (I-flat3-4-5-flat7) of a flat7 on each of the I (D7), IV (G7) and V (A7) chords.[nb 1] The composition comprises four verses interspersed with instrumental passages. In his lyrics, Harrison unashamedly states his love for Boyd; according to author Ian Inglis, "Her 'sweet and lovely' personality makes her irresistible … he now loves her 'more than ever.'"
As reproduced in I, Me, Mine, Harrison's original handwritten lyrics show the song title as "For You Blues". Its working title was "George's Blues (Because You're Sweet and Lovely)" when the Beatles recorded the song in late January 1969 for what became their Let It Be album. It was renamed sometime between 10 March and 28 May, when the song was listed as "For You Blue" on the final mix for the unreleased Get Back album.
The Beatles recorded "For You Blue" at their Apple Studio in central London on 25 January 1969. The song features Harrison on acoustic guitar and John Lennon playing lap steel guitar. According to various commentators, Lennon used either a cigarette lighter, a shotgun shell – as favoured by Mississippi bluesman Elmore James – or the standard slide that came with the Höfner lap steel. To achieve Harrison's request for a "bad honky tonk piano" sound, Paul McCartney played the piano with paper intertwined between the strings.[nb 2] Ringo Starr contributed a drum part that, in musicologist Walter Everett's description, provides a "heavy backbeat" throughout the performance.
After the abandoned Get Back film project was revived in January 1970, under the new title of Let It Be, Harrison chose to re-record his lead vocal for the track. The session took place at Olympic Sound Studios in south-west London on 8 January. Harrison's ad-libbed comments during the instrumental breaks, including "Go, Johnny, go!" and a reference to Elmore James, originated from this overdubbing session also.
When Phil Spector remixed the song for inclusion on the Let It Be album, on 30 March 1970, he added a spoken introduction by Lennon: "Queen says no to pot-smoking FBI members." This comment was edited in from dialogue recorded at Twickenham Film Studios in early January 1969, over two weeks before "For You Blue" was recorded. Described by Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn as a "most interesting" idea, Spector created a tape loop of the song's instrumental break over which he inserted other items of dialogue from the film, including contrasting reactions from members of the public to the Beatles' Apple rooftop concert on 30 January 1969. The tape was possibly intended to help promote Let It Be but never released.
Apple Records issued Let It Be, with "For You Blue" sequenced as the penultimate track, on 8 May 1970. The release came four weeks after the Beatles' break-up and shortly before the premiere of the Let It Be documentary film. The song's appearance in the film signalled the change of location for the troubled Get Back project, from Twickenham to Apple Studio.
The song was selected as the B-side to "The Long and Winding Road", a single released in the United States on 11 May, and in many other countries. In the US, "For You Blue" gained sufficient radio airplay for Billboard to list the two songs together, as a double-sided hit, when the record topped the magazine's Hot 100 chart. The release was similarly treated as a double A-side when it topped Canada's singles chart and peaked at number 6 on Australia's Go-Set national chart. On the US listings compiled by Cash Box, which continued to monitor single-sides individually, "For You Blue" peaked at number 71.
As one of Harrison's most successful songs on the Billboard charts, "For You Blue" was among the seven Beatles tracks that Capitol Records selected for inclusion on the 1976 compilation The Best of George Harrison. Recognising that its status as a US chart-topper was due to Billboard's policy at the time, however, Apple did not include the track on the Beatles' 1 compilation, released in 2000.
Among contemporary reviews of Let It Be, Alan Smith of the NME described "For You Blue" as "another strong one from George, a whispery chunky rocker … 'Elmore James,' he calls out at one point, 'got nothin' on this baby!'" Melody Maker's Richard Williams considered it to be "an amusing trifle", citing Lennon's "camped-down bottleneck guitar" and the reference to James. Less impressed, John Gabree of High Fidelity magazine found the lap-steel playing the only point of interest on an "otherwise boring" track.
In a 2003 review, for Mojo, John Harris highlighted "For You Blue" as one of the tracks that remained true to McCartney's original concept for a "return to the group's beginnings" with the Get Back project. Harris admired the song's "mesh of piano, acoustic guitar and lap steel" as "quietly wonderful". While also considering the track to be in keeping with the band's intended back-to-basics approach, Justin Gerber of Consequence of Sound pairs it with "I Me Mine" as Harrison compositions that are "not bad, but pale in comparison to his offerings on [the White Album]".
Live performances and cover versions
"For You Blue" was part of Harrison's set on his Dark Horse Tour of North America in 1974. Harrison performed the song as a jam track during which he introduced the musicians in his tour band. A live version, featuring solos by Robben Ford, Emil Richards and Willie Weeks – on guitar, percussive bells and bass, respectively – appeared on the disc accompanying Songs by George Harrison, a limited-edition illustrated book published by Genesis Publications in 1988.
On 29 November 2002, McCartney sang "For You Blue" at the Concert for George, held at the Royal Albert Hall in London on the first anniversary of Harrison's death. McCartney was backed by a large band that included Starr, Eric Clapton, and Harrison's son, Dhani, with Marc Mann playing slide guitar.
Pete Molinari covered the song for Mojo's Let It Be Revisited CD, included with the October 2010 issue of the magazine. In 2013, Dhani Harrison recorded the song as a charity release in aid of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation and the Harrison family's Material World Charitable Foundation.
According to Ian MacDonald:
- George Harrison – vocal, acoustic guitar
- John Lennon – lap steel guitar
- Paul McCartney – piano, bass
- Ringo Starr – drums
- Harrison uses a capo on the fifth fret of his guitar, allowing him to play chord shapes as if the song was a twelve-bar in the key of A.
- While neither Ian MacDonald nor Kenneth Womack list a bass guitar part in their respective credits for the track, Harrison acknowledged in a 1987 interview with Creem that McCartney also played bass.
- Sutherland, Steve (ed.) (2003). NME Originals: Lennon. London: IPC Ignite!. p. 75.
- Fontenot, Robert. "The Beatles Songs: 'For You Blue' – The history of this classic Beatles song". oldies.about.com. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 9 August 2016.
- O'Toole, Kit (3 November 2012). "Deep Beatles: 'For You Blue' from Let It Be (1970)". Something Else!. Retrieved 28 March 2016.
- Inglis 2010, p. 14.
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- Pollack, Alan W. (1999). "Notes on 'For You Blue'". soundscapes.info. Retrieved 12 August 2016.
- Pedler 2003, p. 24.
- Everett 1999, p. 233.
- Inglis 2010, p. 15.
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