What You're Doing
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|"What You're Doing"|
|Song by the Beatles from the album Beatles for Sale|
|Released||4 December 1964 (mono and stereo)|
|Recorded||29–30 September and 26 October 1964
Abbey Road Studios
"What You're Doing" is a song by the Beatles written by Paul McCartney (credited to Lennon–McCartney). One of eight originals of fourteen songs on the 1964 album Beatles for Sale, it also appeared on the 1965 U.S album Beatles VI.
The song begins, uncommonly for the band, with a drum intro. It is followed by a guitar sequence used throughout the song as an ostinato figure after each verse. The atmosphere of the song is heavily syncopated.
According to Richie Unterberger, the performance includes a "chiming 12-string guitar that sounds uncannily like the kind of sounds that became identified with the Byrds' Roger McGuinn, although 'What You're Doing' was recorded in late 1964, about six months before the Byrds became famous with 'Mr. Tambourine Man.'"
The song lacks a chorus, so the verses become the melodic focus of the song. In the first half of the verse, the ostinato figure continues to play and the first word of each line is punctuated by exclamatory background vocals. The second half of each verse is harmonized with "oohs", and the ostinato figure begins before the last line finishes. The overlapping of the ostinato figure contributes to the slightly disordered feel of the song. Each verse ends with a repetition of the phrase:
- Would it be too much to ask of you
- What you're doing to me
There is a bridge that occurs twice to provide a reprieve from the more anxious verses and an instrumental breakdown with a double-tracked guitar solo and a tumbling piano keeping rhythm underneath.
The lyrics are generally believed to concern McCartney's relationship with Jane Asher. Between McCartney and Lennon, McCartney had typically been the more optimistic of the two when it came to songwriting. However, with this song he is expressing feelings of loneliness and doubt in his relationship, a theme he would be forced to develop more over time as his relationship soured, with songs like I'm Looking Through You and You Won't See Me from Rubber Soul, and For No One from Revolver.
Throughout the song, McCartney adds to the rhyme scheme by combining a single, two-syllable word with two one-syllable words (i.e. "Look what you're doing, I'm feeling blue and lonely...You got me runnin', and there's no fun in it..."), a technique he also used on She's a Woman which was also recorded during the Beatles For Sale sessions.
- Paul McCartney – double-tracked vocal, bass
- John Lennon – harmony vocal, rhythm guitar
- George Harrison – harmony vocal, twelve-string lead guitar
- Ringo Starr – drums
- George Martin – piano
The song was covered by 1960s Pittsburgh garage band The Fantastic Dee Jays.
This song is sampled as part of a medley of "Drive My Car" / "The Word" / "What You're Doing" on the November 2006 remix album Love. "What You're Doing" shares a number of characteristics with (the also predominantly McCartney-written) "Drive My Car", particularly the home key (D major), meter (4/4), and chord progression (alternating between B minor and G major).