I Me Mine
|"I Me Mine"|
Cover of the original Hansen Publishing sheet music for the song
|Song by the Beatles|
|from the album Let It Be|
|Released||8 May 1970|
|Recorded||3 January & 1 April 1970|
|Studio||Abbey Road, London|
"I Me Mine" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles from their 1970 album Let It Be. Written by George Harrison, it was the last new track recorded by the band before their split in April 1970. The song originated from the Get Back/Let It Be sessions in January 1969, and its lyrics serve as a comment from Harrison on the fractious situation within the group at that time. The song's musical mood alternates between waltz-time verses, during which Harrison laments the ego problems afflicting the Beatles, and choruses played in the hard rock style.
The Beatles rehearsed "I Me Mine" at Twickenham Studios in January 1969. A year later, by which point John Lennon had privately left the group, the three remaining members formally recorded it at EMI's Abbey Road Studios. When preparing the Let It Be album for release in 1970, producer Phil Spector extended the track by repeating the song's chorus and second verse, in addition to adding orchestration. The original version of the track, at just 1:34 in duration and without the orchestral overdubs, appeared on the Beatles' 1996 outtakes compilation Anthology 3, introduced by a mock announcement from Harrison referring to Lennon's departure. Harrison titled his 1980 autobiography, I, Me, Mine, after the song.
Background and composition
– George Harrison, The Beatles Anthology
The set of pronouns that form the song's title are a conventional way of referring to the ego in a Hindu context. For example, the Bhagavad Gita 2:71-72 can be translated as "They are forever free who renounce all selfish desires and break away from the ego-cage of 'I', 'me' and 'mine' to be united with the Lord. This is the supreme state. Attain to this, and pass from death to immortality." In a 1997 interview, George Harrison recalled: "I kept coming across the words I, me and mine in books about yoga and stuff ... [about the difference between] the real you and the you that people mistake their identity to be ... I, me and mine is all ego orientation. But it is something which is used all the time ... 'No one's frightened of saying it, everyone's playing it, coming on strong all the time. All through your life, I me mine.'"
Harrison wrote "I Me Mine" during the second week of the Beatles' filmed rehearsals at Twickenham Film Studios in January 1969, and drew inspiration from the divisive atmosphere in the band. For Harrison, the power struggle between John Lennon and Paul McCartney contrasted sharply with the atmosphere he had recently enjoyed when making music with Bob Dylan and the Band in upstate New York. Author Jonathan Gould describes the song "as a commentary on the selfishness" of Lennon and McCartney, and considers it poignant that the composition was only properly recorded because it had provided accompaniment to Lennon and his partner, Yoko Ono, dancing. Musicologist Walter Everett says that, after Harrison had written "Not Guilty" in 1968 as a "defense against the tyranny of his songwriting comrades", "I Me Mine" was his "mocking complaint about their stifling egos". Gould writes that Harrison was particularly upset at Twickenham "that his fellow Beatles could complain about the amount of time they had to spend learning the arrangement for 'I Me Mine' and then turn around and submit to a laborious rehearsal of a song like 'Maxwell's Silver Hammer' which struck George as a paragon of pop inanity." Gould contends further that, if "friends like Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton heard something worthwhile in material like [Harrison's] 'All Things Must Pass'" then only "sheer egotism could account for the air of complete indifference with which Lennon and McCartney first greeted" both that tune and "I Me Mine".
After receiving his "eternal problem" inspiration when writing the song at home, Harrison played some chords to a 6/8 time signature. The melody was inspired by the incidental music on a BBC television program, Europa – The Titled and the Untitled, which aired on 7 January. Harrison completed "I Me Mine" that night and performed it for the other Beatles the following morning.
The verses of "I Me Mine" are in the key of A minor but the chorus is in A major. This technique of parallel minor/major contrast is also present in Beatles songs such as "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", "Savoy Truffle", "The Fool on the Hill", "Fixing a Hole", "Michelle", "Things We Said Today", "Do You Want to Know a Secret" and "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)". Everett likens the melody of the verses to the European folk music typified by Mary Hopkin's debut single for the Beatles' Apple Records, "Those Were the Days".
The song begins in 6/8 time on "All through the day" with a shift from the I minor (Am) chord to a IV (D7) which musicologist Dominic Pedler considers emphasises the Dorian mode. The progression in 3/4 time beginning with an F melody note on "Now they're frightened of leaving it" against minor iv (Dm) chord (the ♭3rd emphasising in Pedler's view the Aeolian mode) shifts to an V7 (E7) on "comin' on strong", but here (at 0.27 secs) the hauntingly strong ♭9 (F natural) melody note results in the suitably "dark drama" of the very rare (in pop music) E7♭9 chord in the key of A minor. The song is also notable for concluding on an ♭VI (Fmaj7) chord in A minor key.
The Let It Be documentary film features a segment in which Harrison plays the song for Ringo Starr and describes it as "a heavy waltz". He jokes to Starr, with reference to McCartney's idea that the Beatles should perform a televised live concert: "I don't care if you don't want it in your show." Harrison, Starr and McCartney are then seen performing the tune while an uninterested Lennon dances with Ono. Close to a year later, by which time Lennon had privately announced he was leaving the band, director Michael Lindsay-Hogg chose to include the "I Me Mine" segment in the film. The Beatles therefore had to record the song for inclusion on the Let It Be album. On 3 January 1970, Harrison, McCartney and Starr met at EMI's Abbey Road Studios to work on the track with George Martin. Lennon did not attend the session, since he and Ono were on holiday in Denmark at the time.
– Harrison's announcement before take 15 of "I Me Mine", referring to Lennon's departure from the Beatles
The group recorded 16 takes of the song, the last of which was deemed satisfactory. Before take 15, Harrison delivered a mock press statement in which he made a joking reference to Lennon's absence by recasting the four Beatles as members of the British pop group Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich. The statement, followed by take 16 of "I Me Mine", was released on the Anthology 3 compilation in 1996. The song lasted just 1 minute 34 seconds until Phil Spector – who had been invited by Lennon and Harrison to complete the Let It Be album – extended the length by copying the rock-style chorus in the middle of the song and the second verse, and repeating them at the end of the track. The extension was carried out on 23 March. On 1 April, Starr recorded a new drum part, replacing his original contribution, and Spector overdubbed a string and brass accompaniment. The final version, as "re-produced" by Spector, was included on Let It Be. A similar edit, without Spector's orchestral overdubs but retaining the repeated section, was made available on the Let It Be... Naked album in 2003.
Although the sessions for "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" and "The End" in August 1969 were the last where all four Beatles were present in the recording studio, "I Me Mine" was the last new song recorded by the Beatles (albeit without Lennon) until sessions for the band's Anthology project in 1994. It was not their final recording session, however, since McCartney, Harrison and Starr continued to carry out various overdubs on the Let It Be tracks.
Release and reception
Let It Be was issued on 8 May 1970 with "I Me Mine" sequenced as the fourth track, between "Across the Universe" and "Dig It". The release followed a month after McCartney's public announcement that he was leaving the Beatles, which had resulted in the group's break-up. Commenting on the Let It Be film, which was released later in May, Nina Hibbin wrote in the Morning Star: "George Harrison, with his strong-boned face and shut-in expression, looks as if he could fit into any tough and isolated position – as a shepherd in Bulgaria or the manager of a suburban post office."
Among contemporary reviews of the album, Alan Smith of the NME derided the release as "a cheapskate epitaph" and a "sad and tatty end" to the band's career, but he admired the "Russian-flavoured 'I Me Mine'" as "a strong ballad with a frantic centre". In Melody Maker, Richard Williams wrote: "'I Me Mine' has a great organ/guitar intro, meditative verses and a tempo switch in and out of the rocking chorus, which has guitar riffs one step away from Chuck Berry. George put a lot of strength into this."[nb 1] Reviewing for Rolling Stone, John Mendelsohn ridiculed Spector's use of lush orchestration, particularly on McCartney's "The Long and Winding Road", adding: "'I Me Mine,' the waltz sections of which reminds one very definitely of something from one of The Al Jolson Story's more maudlin moments, almost benefits from such treatment … As [Spector has] left it, though, it, like 'Winding Road,' is funny enough to find cloying but not funny enough to enjoy laughing at."
Harrison titled his 1980 autobiography after the track. It was the first autobiography by a former Beatle and hand-bound in a leather cover in the style of Genesis Publications' Log of HMS Bounty. According to Harrison's foreword to the book, he titled it I, Me, Mine to acknowledge that it "could also be seen as 'a little ego detour'".[nb 2]
Beatles author Ian MacDonald wrote that, given the song's subject matter, it was a "poetic stroke of fate" that "I Me Mine" was the final track recorded by the Beatles. In 2002, David Fricke of Rolling Stone included the song in his list of the "25 Essential Harrison Performances" and said: "Harrison signed off in style; his angry, grinding guitar is the honest sound of exhaustion and hard-won freedom." Dave Lewis of Classic Rock ranked "I Me Mine" at number 6 in his 2016 list of the ten songs that "highlight George Harrison's profound contribution to The Beatles". He said that "it hinted at the egos at play within the group that would eventually signal their demise."
In a 2003 review for Mojo, John Harris wrote that "[Harrison's] vocal, frequently pitched just short of falsetto, is a delight" and admired the string arrangement for "manag[ing] to tease out the sense of camp" underlying the song." In MacDonald's description, the song "juxtaposes a self-pitying Gallic waltz (complete with Piaf wobble) against a clamorous blues shuffle – suggesting that selfishness, personal or collective, subtle or crude, is always the same." He describes Harrison's lyric as "typically thoughtful" but says that it "touches a nadir of worldly pessimism in the line 'Even those tears: I me mine'." Mark Hertsgaard includes "I Me Mine" among the "honorable mentions" that counter Let It Be's reputation as a substandard final album by the band. He comments that Spector's orchestral overdubs were less intrusive than on "The Long and Winding Road" and "Across the Universe" because "the Beatles' playing was already so compelling", and he highlights Harrison's guitar playing and the change in time signature as elements that lifted a potentially bleak theme and "gave the song real bite".
In an article for Billboard commemorating the album's 45th anniversary, Kenneth Partridge described Let It Be as "the sound of four grown men with shared histories and diverging futures trying to squeeze blood from stones". He added: "'I Me Mine' famously stands as the last new Beatles song recorded before the group's split. Funny that it's a Harrison tune – and a corker at that, an attack on egotism that turns from doomy 6/8 orch-pop ballad to scorching '50s-style rocker." In March 2015, the NME listed the track at number 94 in its list "100 Greatest Beatles Songs As Chosen By Music's A-Listers". One of the members of the indie rock band Gengahr commented: "When exploring music at a young age I remember this song's weird change of time signatures and rhythm between sections confusing me as to how it was able to exist as one song, but it just does. The sound of the drums and the rhythm reminds me of an early hip hop sound, I'm surprised I haven't heard it sampled yet."
Marc Ford recorded a version of "I Me Mine" for the album Songs from the Material World: A Tribute to George Harrison, released in February 2003 to coincide with what would have been Harrison's 60th birthday. Beth Orton recorded the song as a medley with "Dig It" for the Let It Be Revisited CD, included with the October 2010 issue of Mojo magazine. At the George Fest tribute to Harrison in 2014, "I Me Mine" was performed by Britt Daniel of the band Spoon, who said that it was his favourite song by Harrison. Elliott Smith and Laibach have each covered the song.
- George Harrison – lead and harmony vocals, acoustic guitars, lead guitars
- Paul McCartney – harmony vocal, bass guitar, Hammond organ, electric piano
- Ringo Starr – drums
- Uncredited – 18 violins, four violas, four cellos, harp, three trumpets, three trombones
- Richard Hewson – brass and string arrangements
- In his January 1971 review of Harrison's first post-Beatles solo album, All Things Must Pass, Williams commented: "Harrison's light has been hidden under the egos of McCartney and Lennon. From time to time there have been hints on several of their albums that he was more than he was being allowed to be."
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