Love You To
|"Love You To"|
Cover of the Northern Songs sheet music
|Song by the Beatles from the album Revolver|
|Released||5 August 1966|
|Recorded||11 and 13 April 1966,
EMI Studios, London
|Genre||Indian music, raga rock|
|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, 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. Ronnie Montrose, Bongwater, Jim James and Cornershop are among the artists who have covered "Love You To".
Background and inspiration
Having added sitar accompaniment to the Beatles' "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" in October 1965, George Harrison wrote "Love You To" as a way to showcase the instrument. He said that the composition was also designed to feature the tabla, a pair of Indian hand drums, for the first time. Music critic Richie Unterberger describes the song as the Beatles' "first all-out excursion" in raga rock, a genre that author Nicholas Schaffner says was "launched" by Harrison's use of sitar on "Norwegian Wood".
Harrison wrote the song in early 1966, while the Beatles were enjoying an unusually long period free of professional commitments, due to their inability to find a suitable film project. He used the available time to further explore his interest in Indian classical music and the sitar, which, journalist Maureen Cleave noted in a contemporary article on Harrison, "has given new meaning to [his] life". Harrison's activities included receiving sitar tuition from an Indian musician at the Asian Music Circle (AMC) in north London, where he also attended music recitals, and seeing Indian sitarist Ravi Shankar perform at the Royal Festival Hall. As reflected in "Love You To", Harrison continued to immerse himself in recordings by Shankar, who, when the pair met at the AMC's headquarters in June 1966, would agree to take Harrison as his student.
As he seldom had titles for his songs, the working title for the new composition was "Granny Smith".[nb 1] The song was partly inspired by Harrison's experimentation with the hallucinogenic drug LSD. Author Ian MacDonald views the lyrics as "part philosophical" and "part love-song" to Pattie Boyd, the English model whom Harrison married in January 1966.
"Love You To" is in the key of C Dorian and emulates North Indian Khyal music. Harrison begins by twice stroking his sitar's resonating strings (a common technique before the opening alap segment of a raga). 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.
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." 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. The composition follows the pitches of Kafi That, the Indian equivalent of the Dorian mode. The instrumental passage before the final verse features sitar and tabla playing in cycles of seven, five and then three beats. The "meditative harmonic coloring" provided by the tambura drone complements the worldview expressed in the lyric, which is answered differently by the sitar in each verse. 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."
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.'" According to author Ian Inglis, the lyrics "remind us that in a world of material dissatisfaction and moral disharmony, there is always the solace of sexual pleasure".
"Love You To" was the third track the Beatles recorded for their 1966 album Revolver, after "Tomorrow Never Knows" and "Got to Get You Into My Life". The basic track was taped in London at EMI's Abbey Road Studios on 11 April 1966. According to Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn, Harrison initially sang and played acoustic guitar, accompanied by Paul McCartney on backing vocals. By the end of the first session that day, three takes of the song had been made, with Harrison introducing his sitar on the last of these takes. Work resumed at 8 pm, with the participation of some Indian musicians that Harrison had sourced through Patricia Angadi, the co-founder of the Asian Music Circle. These outside contributors included tabla player Anil Bhagwat and uncredited musicians on tambura and sitar.
Bhagwat later recalled of his involvement: "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."
With take 6 selected as the best performance, a reduction mix was carried out on 13 April, freeing up space for more overdubs onto the four-track tape. Harrison added another vocal part onto what was now referred to as take 7, and Ringo Starr played tambourine. McCartney contributed a high harmony vocal over the words "They'll fill you in with all the sins you see", but this part was omitted from the final mix. Harrison also overdubbed fuzz-tone electric guitar, controlling the output via a volume pedal. Producer Tony Visconti has marvelled at the guitar sounds the Beatles introduced on Revolver, particularly Harrison's part on "Love You To", which he says "sounds like a chainsaw cutting down a tree in Vermont".
Credit for the main sitar part on "Love You To" has traditionally been the subject of some debate among commentators. While MacDonald makes an unreferenced claim that, rather than Harrison, it was the sitarist from the AMC who played this part, Robert Rodriguez writes that "others point to [Harrison's] single-minded diligence in mastering the instrument, as well as his study through private lessons, proximity to accomplished musicians, and close listening to pertinent records." In his official history of the Beatles' recording career, The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Lewisohn states: "George played the sitar but an outside musician, Anil Bhagwat, was recruited to play the tabla." Musicologist Walter Everett also identifies Harrison as the sitar player on the recording, as does Peter Lavezzoli, author of The Dawn of Indian Music in the West, 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".[nb 2]
Final mixing for the song took place on 21 June as the Beatles rushed to complete Revolver before beginning the first leg of their 1966 world tour. Harrison discussed "Love You To" with Shankar when the two musicians met that month, at a social event hosted by the Angadi family. Although he was unaware of the band's popularity and had yet to hear "Norwegian Wood", Shankar was impressed with Harrison's humility as the guitarist downplayed his sitar recordings with the Beatles as "experiments".[nb 3] Soon after this meeting, Shankar gave Harrison his first sitar lesson at Kinfauns, his and Boyd's home in Surrey, and later, with tablist Alla Rakha, performed a private recital there for Harrison, Starr and John Lennon.
Release and reception
Revolver was released on 5 August 1966, with "Love You To" sequenced as the fourth track. Bhagwat's name appeared on the LP's back cover, one of the few times that an outside musician received an official credit on a Beatles album.[nb 4]
Writing in the recently launched Crawdaddy!, Paul Williams "heaped praise" on "Love You To", according to Rodriguez, while critic Lester Bangs termed it "the first injection of ersatz Eastern wisdom into rock". 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." 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." In the NME, Allen Evans lauded Harrison's sitar playing as "stunning" and "tremendous" before concluding: "Fascinating mixture of minor melody with Indian accompaniment. One of the most striking tracks."
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". 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." Jonathan Gould views the song's alap section, "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".
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". 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. Schaffner considered "Love You To" to be "sprawling and listless", however, in comparison to other examples of "Beatle raga-rock" – namely, "Norwegian Wood" and Harrison's later compositions "Within You Without You" and "The Inner Light". In the Beatles' 1968 animated film Yellow Submarine, a brief portion of the song is used to introduce Harrison's character, as a guru-like figure, standing on a hill.
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." Reck views it as the first in "a series of finely crafted Indian-based songs" by Harrison and admires the range of authentic Hindustani musical elements, saying: "All of this in a three-minute song!" Peter Lavezzoli describes "Love You To" as "the first conscious attempt in pop to emulate a non-Western form of music in structure and instrumentation". 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."
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". 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".
AllMusic editor Stephen Thomas Erlewine considers "Love You To" to be Harrison's "first and best foray into Indian music", while Bruce Eder, also writing for AllMusic, views it as "exquisite". In his song review for the same website, Richie Unterberger is unimpressed with the track; while acknowledging that "Love You To" was "Undoubtedly … another indication of the group's rapidly broadening barriers", he cites a lead vocal that "drone[s] on in a rather lugubrious way", Harrison's slightly "disheveled" sitar playing, and lyrics that constitute "a rather muddled mix of free love advocacy, meditations on the transience of life on Earth, and chip-on-the-shoulder wariness of people out to exploit him". 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. 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."
The Trypes, an offshoot of the Feelies, covered "Love You To" on their 1984 EP The Explorers Hold. A version by Ronnie Montrose, titled "Love to You", appeared on his album Territory in 1986. The song was covered by experimental rock band Bongwater in 1988 on their debut album Double Bummer.
My Morning Jacket singer Jim James included "Love You To" on his 2009 EP Tribute To, a collection of Harrison songs that James recorded shortly after the former Beatle's death in November 2001. In 2011, Solid Gold covered the song on the Minnesota Beatle Project, Vol. 3 compilation. The following year, Cornershop recorded it for Yellow Submarine Resurfaces, a multi-artist compilation issued by Mojo magazine.
- George Harrison – lead and backing vocals, acoustic guitar, sitar, fuzz-tone electric guitar
- Paul McCartney – backing vocal
- Ringo Starr – tambourine
- Anil Bhagwat – tabla
- Unnamed musicians from the Asian Music Circle – sitar, tambura
- Named as such by Geoff Emerick, the Beatles' recording engineer, this makeshift title remained in place until the completion of the band's Revolver album, on 22 June 1966.
- In Everett's estimation, the part on "Love You To" "would have required knowledge of no ragas and only an elementary understanding of Hindustani formal patterns, easily attainable by a good guitarist within a few weeks".
- Shankar was later dismissive of the link made during the 1960s between Indian music and the prevailing liberal attitude towards sex and drugs. After "Love You To", according to Lavezzoli, Harrison "took greater care" when writing the lyrics to his next Indian-stlyle song, "Within You Without You", which was influenced by his introduction to Vedic philosophy while in India with Shankar over September–October 1966.
- He later said: "I'm really proud of that … It was one of the most exciting times of my life."
- Consistent with his querying the extent of Harrison's sitar playing on the track, MacDonald includes a question mark after the sitar credit he gives Harrison, as he does for McCartney's vocal credit. In his list of personnel, Womack adds bass guitar to Harrison's sitar and guitar contributions.
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