I Want to Tell You

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"I Want to Tell You"
Song by the Beatles from the album Revolver
Released 5 August 1966
Recorded 2 June 1966
EMI Studios
Genre Psychedelic rock
Length 2:29
Label Parlophone
Writer George Harrison
Producer George Martin

"I Want to Tell You" is a song by The Beatles written and sung by George Harrison. The song was issued on the 1966 album Revolver.[1] Working titles of the song were "Laxton's Superb" (a breed of apple, following on from "Granny Smith") and "I Don't Know".[2]

Musical structure[edit]

Guitar riff

"I Want to Tell You" is in the key of A major. It is driven by bass fours and a catchy, persistent piano discord: a short, distinctive guitar melody opens and closes the song and recurs between verses. Harrison's voice is supported by John Lennon and Paul McCartney in close harmony.

Like "Eight Days a Week", the song begins with a fade-in.[3] The vocals open (on "When I get near you" with a harmonious E-A-B-C#-E melody note progression against an A chord, but dissonance soon arises with a II7 (B7) chord pointedly mirroring the lyrics on "drag me down".[4] The dissonance is immediately further enhanced by the rare use of an E7♭9 chord (at 0.46-0.53 secs).[4] This chord has been termed "one of the most legendary in the entire Beatles catalogue".[4] When interviewed about the "weird, jarring chord at the end of every line that mirrors the disturbed feeling of the song", Harrison replied: "That's an E7th with an F on top played on the piano. I'm really proud of that as I literally invented that chord. The song was about the frustration we all feel about trying to communicate certain things with just words. I realised that the chords I knew at the time just didn't capture that feeling. I came up with this dissonant chord that really echoed that sense of frustration. John later borrowed it on I Want You (She's So Heavy) [at] "It's driving me mad."[5] Everett emphasises McCartney's "finger-tapping impatience" on the piano (at 0.25-0.32) which is countered by the lyric "I don't mind... I could wait forever. I've got time." [6] During the song's ending fadeout (a reprise of the song's guitar intro featuring a prominent group vocal harmony), McCartney makes notable use of melisma while chanting 'I've got time', revealing the song's subtle Indian influence.[3] The three singers form a cappella chorale, ululating on "I've got time".[7] Everett considers that the closing on "maybe you'll understand" pointedly involves a descent to a "perfect authentic cadence".[8] Neil Innes of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band (and later The Rutles) said the Bonzos' first studio experience was at Abbey Road Studios while The Beatles were recording "I Want to Tell You". Innes said he took a break in one of the studio's hallways and heard The Beatles playing back the song, blasting it at full volume. Innes recounted that he was in a state of immense awe over the song's beauty, and sheepishly returned to the Bonzo session, where they were recording the 1920s Vaudeville song "My Brother Makes the Noises for the Talkies".


The lyrics are, in Harrison's own words, "about the avalanche of thoughts that are so hard to write down or say or transmit".[9] The frustration in the lyrics is reinforced by the song's dissonant atmosphere, a product of numerous elements, including the continuous piano chord in the background and the contrast between Harrison's modest lead vocal and Lennon and McCartney's descant harmonies. Laing writes of the Song's "serene desperation" in its "attempt at real total contact in any interpersonal context" [10]

The bridge reveals some of Harrison's thinking at the time, reducing his internal difficulties to conflicts within his being:

But if I seem to act unkind
It's only me, it's not my mind
That is confusing things[11]

In his 1980 autobiography I, Me, Mine, Harrison suggested that, with hindsight, the second line should be reversed. "The mind is the thing that hops about telling us to do this and do that — when what we need is to lose (forget) the mind.".[9][12] In fact, he changed that line to "It's not me, it's just my mind" when the song was performed during his Japanese tour in December 1991.


The Beatles recorded the main track and several overdubs on 2 June 1966 and added more overdubs on 3 June.[2] McCartney's bass was overdubbed separately from the rhythm track, allowing careful composition and mixing, a method that became common during the Beatles' later recordings.[2][13] This technique also allowed McCartney's bass to better control the harmonic structure of the music by defining chords.[14]


Personnel per Ian MacDonald[15]

Other versions[edit]

  • Producer/Musician Chip Douglas has stated he transmuted the song's opening guitar riff into the guitar riff of the Monkees "Pleasant Valley Sunday"
  • An upbeat live version of the song opens Harrison's Live In Japan album, recorded and released in 1992. Harrison and bandmate Eric Clapton extend the song with a few guitar solos. Harrison uses the lyric reversal mentioned in his autobiography, singing the bridge "it isn't me, it's just the mind."
  • Jeff Lynne performed the song in 2002 at the Concert For George, using it to open the main set and again featuring Clapton as a sideman.
  • Ted Nugent covered the song on his 1979 album State of Shock (also released as a single), and also on Super Hits released in 1998.
  • The Smithereens covered the song on the 2005 deluxe edition of God Save The Smithereens.
  • The Jimi Hendrix Experience played the introduction to this song when recording a cover version of the Beatles' song Day Tripper.

The Grateful Dead did a version as well.

Also From A Various Artist Album called All You Need Is Covers by the Lambrettas 1981


  1. ^ Lewisohn 1988, pp. 200–201.
  2. ^ a b c Lewisohn 1988, pp. 81–82.
  3. ^ a b Pollack 1995.
  4. ^ a b c Pedler, Dominic (2003). The Songwriting Secrets of the Beatles. London: Omnibus Press. p. 400. ISBN 978-0-7119-8167-6. 
  5. ^ Vic Garbarini. 'When We Was Fab' Guitar World. January 2001. p 200.
  6. ^ Walter Everett. The Beatles as Musicians. Revolver Through the Anthology. Oxford University Press. NY 1999 ISBN 978-0-19-512941-0 p57-58
  7. ^ Jonathan Gould. Can't Buy Me Love. The Beatles, Britain and America, Piatkus 2007 p363
  8. ^ Walter Everett. The Beatles as Musicians. Revolver Through the Anthology. Oxford University Press. NY 1999 ISBN 978-0-19-512941-0 p58
  9. ^ a b Turner 2005, p. 115.
  10. ^ Dave Laing. 'Notes For A Study of the Beatles' Ch 9 in The Sound Of Our Time. Quadrangle Books. 1969. pp128-130
  11. ^ Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 39 - The Rubberization of Soul: The great pop music renaissance. [Part 5]" (audio). Pop Chronicles. Digital.library.unt.edu. 
  12. ^ Harrison 1980.
  13. ^ Morin 1998.
  14. ^ Ian Macdonald. Revolution in the Head. The Beatles' Records in the Sixties (3rd ed) Chicago Review Press, Chicago 2005 p208
  15. ^ MacDonald 2005, p. 207.