Love You To

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"Love You To"
Song by the Beatles from the album Revolver
Released 5 August 1966
Recorded 11 April 1966,
EMI Studios, London
Genre Indian music[1]
Length 3:01
Label Parlophone
Writer George Harrison
Producer George Martin
Revolver track listing

"Love You To" is a song by the Beatles from their 1966 album Revolver. It is sung and written by George Harrison and features Indian classical instrumentation: tabla,[2] a pair of hand-drums, sitar and a tambura providing a drone. "Love You To" was the first Beatles song to fully reflect the influence of Indian classical music, following Harrison's sitar playing on "Norwegian Wood" in 1965. The recording has been hailed as groundbreaking in its presentation of a non-Western musical form to rock audiences, with regard to authenticity and avoidance of parody. As such, it introduced Western pop music fans to the Indian music that Harrison would promote for the rest of his career.

Background and composition[edit]

After playing sitar on the Beatles' song "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" in October 1965,[3] George Harrison wrote "Love You To" in order to specifically showcase the instrument.[4] Harrison had been receiving sitar tutoring in London since recording "Norwegian Wood", from an Indian musician recommended by the Asian Music Circle in north London.[5] After meeting Indian classical musician Ravi Shankar in June 1966, he would become a student of Shankar's.[6] As he seldom had titles for his songs, Harrison's working title for the new composition was "Granny Smith".[7] The song was partly inspired by Harrison's experimentation with the hallucinogenic drug LSD.[8][9]

Musical structure[edit]

"Love You To" is in the key of C Dorian and emulates North Indian Khyal music.[1] Harrison begins by twice stroking his sitar's resonating strings (a common technique before the opening alap segment of a raga).[1] In the alap section (lasting 35 seconds) the melody is previewed, before the tabla, tambura and percussion commence a Madhya laya (medium tempo) Bandish or gat.[1] Beatles biographer Jonathan Gould views this opening "filled with croaking drones, pregnant pauses and softly elasticized notes" as "one of the most brazenly exotic acts of stylistic experimentation ever heard on a popular LP".[10]

Some critics consider that the lack of a clearly measured tempo in this overture "sets musical and, in this particular context, spiritual time adrift" – until the tune kicks into gear and Harrison observes that "Each day just goes so fast."[11] During the gat section, which constitutes the majority of the song, "Love You To" conforms to a basic I-flatVII sparse chord structure with 8-bar verse A sections and 12-bar B sections in an ABAB pattern.[12] The composition follows the pitches of Kafi That, the Indian equivalent of the Dorian mode.[13] The "meditative harmonic coloring" provided by the tamboura drone complements the cynical worldview expressed in the lyric, which is answered differently by the sitar in each verse.[11][13] Mark Hertsgaard writes of Harrison's message in the song: "The response to the fleetingness of time was to affirm and celebrate life: 'make love all day long / make love singing songs.'"[8] The final section of the composition – the drut (fast tempo) gat – begins shortly before the recording starts to fade out, following the line "I'll make love to you, if you want me to."[14]


According to Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn, the first basic tracks for the song were taped in Abbey Road's Studio Two on 11 April 1966, in sessions between 2.30pm-7pm and 8pm-12.45am.[15] They initially involved Harrison singing to his own acoustic guitar accompaniment, with Paul McCartney supplying backing vocals. The sitar came in at take 3 and again as an overdub onto take 6, along with a tabla, bass and fuzz guitar.[15] Producer Tony Visconti has marvelled at the guitar sounds that the Beatles introduced on their Revolver album, particularly Harrison's part on "Love You To", saying: "It sounds like a chainsaw cutting down a tree in Vermont."[16]

Credit for the main sitar part on "Love You To" has traditionally been the subject of some debate among commentators.[5] While Ian MacDonald makes an unreferenced claim that, rather than Harrison, there was an "uncredited sitarist" on the track,[17] Robert Rodriguez writes that "others point to [Harrison's] single-minded diligence in mastering the instrument".[5] Lewisohn specifically states: "George played the sitar but an outside musician, Anil Bhagwat, was recruited to play the tabla."[15] Musicologist Walter Everett also identifies Harrison as the sitar player on the recording,[18] as does Peter Lavezzoli, author of The Dawn of Indian Music in the West,[1] and Harrison biographer Simon Leng. The latter comments that, as on "Norwegian Wood", Harrison "is still playing the sitar like a guitar player [on the recording], using blues and rock 'n' roll bends rather than the intensely intricate Indian equivalents".[19]

Bhagwat was recruited after Harrison had consulted Patricia Angadi, co-founder of the Asian Music Circle.[20] Bhagwat later recalled of his involvement: "It was only when a Rolls Royce came to pick me up that I realised I'd be playing on a Beatles session. When I arrived at Abbey Road there were girls everywhere with Thermos flasks, cakes, sandwiches, waiting for the Beatles to come out. George told me what he wanted and I tuned the tabla with him. He suggested I play something in the Ravi Shankar style, 16-beats, though he agreed that I should improvise. Indian music is all improvisation."[15][1]

Ringo Starr is the only other Beatle who plays on the song, contributing tambourine. McCartney originally recorded backing vocals for the song but these were left out of the final mix.[7]

Release and reception[edit]

"Love You To" was issued as the fourth track on the Beatles' Revolver in August 1966. Writing in the recently launched Crawdaddy!, Paul Williams "heaped praise" on "Love You To", according to Rodriguez,[21] while critic Lester Bangs termed it "the first injection of ersatz Eastern wisdom into rock".[22] In a joint album review with Peter Jones for Record Mirror, Richard Green enthused about the song, saying: "Starts like a classical Indian recital … This is great. So different. Play it again! Best [track] so far."[23] KRLA Beat‍ '​s reviewer wrote that Harrison had "created a new extension of the music form which he introduced in Rubber Soul", and described "Love You To" as "Well done and musically valid. Also musically unrecognized."[24]

Among commentators recalling the song's release, Barry Miles describes "Love You To" as having "sounded astonishing next to the electrifying pop of the Revolver album".[22] Mark Hertsgaard writes: "what caught most people's interest was the exotic rhythm track. The opening descent of shimmering harplike notes beckoned even those who resisted Indian music, while the lyrics melded the mysticism of the East … with the pragmatism of the West, and the hedonism of youth culture."[8] In his 1977 book The Beatles Forever, Nicholas Schaffner wrote that, next to the dominant Lennon–McCartney songwriting partnership, Harrison's three compositions on Revolver "offered ample indication that there were now three prolific songwriting Beatles".[25] Schaffner also commented that, through his championing of the sitar and Shankar's music, Harrison came to be seen as "the maharaja of raga-rock", as other Western musicians began adopting Indian musical stylings.[26] In the Beatles' 1968 animated film Yellow Submarine, a brief portion of the song is used to introduce Harrison's character,[27] as a guru-like figure,[28] standing on a hill.[29][30]


Writing in the journal Asian Music, ethnomusicologist David Reck has cited "Love You To" as being revolutionary in Western culture, adding: "One cannot emphasise how absolutely unprecedented this piece is in the history of popular music. For the first time an Asian music was not parodied utilising familiar stereotypes and misconceptions, but rather transferred in toto into a new environment with sympathy and rare understanding."[31][19] Peter Lavezzoli describes the song as "the first conscious attempt in pop to emulate a non-Western form of music in structure and instrumentation".[1] Lavezzoli says of the sitar part: "[Harrison's] playing throughout the song is an astonishing improvement over 'Norwegian Wood'. In fact, 'Love You To' remains the most accomplished performance on sitar by any rock musician."[1]

Reviewing Harrison's musical career in a 2002 issue of Goldmine magazine, Dave Thompson wrote that the song "opened creative doors through which Harrison's bandmates may not – and [George] Martin certainly would not – have ever dreamed of passing".[32] Rolling Stone contributor Greg Kot pairs "Love You To" with "Taxman" as two "major contributions" that saw Harrison "[come] into his own as a songwriter" on Revolver. Kot describes "Love You To" as "a boldly experimental track that Harrison records without his band mates as he makes the first full-scale incorporation of Eastern instruments on a Beatles album".[33]

AllMusic editor Stephen Thomas Erlewine describes "Love You To" as Harrison's "first and best foray into Indian music",[34] while Bruce Eder, also writing for AllMusic, views it as "exquisite".[35] Although he finds the melody "sourly repetitious in its author's usual saturnine vein", Ian MacDonald writes that the track is "distinguished by the authenticity of its Hindustani classical instrumentation and techniques", and admires Harrison's understanding of the genre.[17] In a 2009 review, for Paste magazine, Mark Kemp described Revolver as the album on which the Beatles "completed their transformation from the mop tops of three years earlier into bold, groundbreaking experimental rockers", and added: "Harrison's 'Love You To' is pure Indian raga – sitar and tablas punctuated by the occasional luminous guitar riff jolting through the song's paranoid, drug-fueled lyrics like a blinding ray of sun into a dark forest."[36]


According to Walter Everett:[37]

Cover versions[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Lavezzoli 2006, p. 175.
  2. ^ The Beatles interviewed on the Pop Chronicles (1969)
  3. ^ MacDonald 1998, pp. 144, 146.
  4. ^ Harrison 2002, p. 102.
  5. ^ a b c Rodriguez 2012, p. 114.
  6. ^ Tillery 2011, pp. 55–56.
  7. ^ a b Lewisohn 1988, pp. 72–73.
  8. ^ a b c Hertsgaard 1996, p. 184.
  9. ^ Rodriguez 2012, p. 66.
  10. ^ Gould 2007, p. 353.
  11. ^ a b Russell Reising & Jim LeBlanc, "Magical mystery tours, and other trips: Yellow submarines, newspaper taxis, and the Beatles' psychedelic years", in Womack 2009, p. 96.
  12. ^ Pedler 2003, p. 731.
  13. ^ a b Everett 1999, p. 41.
  14. ^ Lavezzoli 2006, pp. 175–76.
  15. ^ a b c d Lewisohn 1988, p. 72.
  16. ^ Julian Marszalek, "Prophets, Seers & Sages: Tony Visconti's Favourite Albums", The Quietus, 31 October 2012 (retrieved 4 August 2014).
  17. ^ a b MacDonald 1998, p. 172.
  18. ^ Everett 1999, p. 40.
  19. ^ a b Leng 2006, p. 22.
  20. ^ Lavezzoli 2006, p. 176.
  21. ^ Rodriguez 2012, p. 175.
  22. ^ a b Miles 2001, p. 238.
  23. ^ Green, Richard; Jones, Peter (30 July 1966). "The Beatles: Revolver (Parlophone)". Record Mirror.  Available at Rock's Backpages (subscription required).
  24. ^ Uncredited writer (10 September 1966). "The Beatles: Revolver (Capitol)". KRLA Beat. pp. 2–3.  Available at Rock's Backpages (subscription required).
  25. ^ Schaffner 1978, p. 63.
  26. ^ Schaffner 1978, pp. 63, 65–66.
  27. ^ Womack 2014, p. 584.
  28. ^ Clayson 2003, p. 230.
  29. ^ Newman 2006, p. 32.
  30. ^ Collis, Clark (October 1999). "Fantastic Voyage". Mojo. p. 53. 
  31. ^ Reck, D.B. (1985). "Beatles Orientalis: Influences from Asia in a Popular Song Form". Asian Music XVI: 83–150. 
  32. ^ Thompson, Dave (25 January 2002). "The Music of George Harrison: An album-by-album guide". Goldmine. p. 15. 
  33. ^ The Editors of Rolling Stone 2002, p. 185.
  34. ^ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, "The Beatles Revolver", AllMusic (retrieved 4 August 2014).
  35. ^ Bruce Eder, "George Harrison", AllMusic (retrieved 4 August 2014).
  36. ^ Kemp, Kemp (8 September 2009). "The Beatles: The Long and Winding Repertoire". Paste. Retrieved 19 March 2015. 
  37. ^ Everett 1999, pp. 38–41.


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External links[edit]