Within You Without You
|"Within You Without You"|
1971 Within You Without You Mexican EP cover
|Song by the Beatles from the album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band|
|Released||1 June 1967|
|Recorded||15, 22 March, 3 April 1967,
EMI Studios, London
|Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band track listing|
"Within You Without You" is a song written by George Harrison and released on the Beatles' 1967 album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The song was Harrison's second composition in the Indian classical style, after "Love You To" in 1966. The lyrics reflect his introduction to Hindu philosophy and the teachings of the Vedas, following Harrison's seven-week stay in India with his friend and sitar teacher Ravi Shankar. Recorded in London with musicians from the Asian Music Circle, the song marked a significant departure from the Beatles' sound. Harrison's embracing of Indian culture was further reflected in his choice of yogis such as Paramahansa Yogananda to appear on the Sgt. Pepper album cover.
With the worldwide success of the album, "Within You Without You" presented Indian classical music to a new audience in the West. Released during an era of changing social values, marked by the Summer of Love, it also influenced the musical and philosophical direction of many of Harrison's peers.
The song has traditionally received a varied response from music critics, some of whom find it boring and sanctimonious in tone, while others admire its musical authenticity and consider the message to be the most meaningful on Sgt. Pepper. Writing for Rolling Stone, David Fricke described the track as being "at once beautiful and severe, a magnetic sermon about materialism and communal responsibility in the middle of a record devoted to gentle Technicolor anarchy". Sonic Youth, Angels of Venice, Oasis, Patti Smith, Cheap Trick and the Flaming Lips are among the artists who have covered "Within You Without You".
- 1 Background and inspiration
- 2 Musical structure
- 3 Production
- 4 Release
- 5 Critical reception
- 6 Cultural influence and legacy
- 7 Love remix
- 8 Cover versions
- 9 Personnel
- 10 Notes
- 11 References
- 12 Sources
- 13 External links
Background and inspiration
George Harrison began writing "Within You Without You" one evening in early 1967 while at the house of long-time Beatles associate Klaus Voormann, in the north London suburb of Hampstead. The inspiration for the song came from a conversation they had shared over dinner, regarding the metaphysical space that exists between individuals and prevents people from recognising the oneness that unites the world. Following this discussion, Harrison worked out the melody on a harmonium and came up with the song's opening line: "We were talking about the space between us all".
It was the second Harrison composition to be explicitly influenced by Indian classical music, after "Love You To". Since recording the latter track, for the Beatles' 1966 album Revolver, Harrison had immersed himself in the study of the Indian sitar, partly under the tutelage of Ravi Shankar. He later said: "I was continually playing Indian [sitar exercises] called Sargam, which are the bases of the different Ragas. That's why around this time I couldn't help writing tunes like this which were based on unusual scales."
"Within You Without" was the first of many songs in which Harrison espouses concepts aligned to Hindu spirituality. Author Joshua Greene writes that when composing it at Voormann's house, Harrison "summoned up not a song but a universe". Aside from his new musical influences, Harrison had become fascinated by Hindu philosophy and spirituality, after he and his wife, Pattie Boyd, visited Shankar in India over September–October 1966. Intent on mastering the sitar, Harrison first joined other students of Shankar's in Bombay, until local fans and the press learned of his arrival.[nb 1] Harrison, Boyd, Shankar and the latter's partner, Kamala Chakravarty, then relocated to a houseboat on Dal Lake in Srinagar, Kashmir. There, Harrison received personal tuition from Shankar while absorbing religious texts such as Paramahansa Yogananda's Autobiography of a Yogi and Swami Vivekananda's Raja Yoga. This period coincided with his introduction to meditation, and during their visit to Vrindavan, he witnessed communal chanting for the first time.
The education he received in India, particularly regarding the illusory nature of the material world, resonated with Harrison following his experiences with the hallucinogenic drug LSD (commonly known as "acid"). Having considered leaving the Beatles after the completion of their third US tour, on 29 August 1966, he also gained a philosophical truth while he struggled with the effects of the band's international fame. He later attributed "Within You Without You" to his having "fallen under the spell of the country" after experiencing the "pure essence of India" through Shankar's guidance.
"Within You Without You" is mostly in Mixolydian mode, or rather Khamaj thaat, the equivalent in Indian music. The song, in the tonic (I) key of C (sped up to C# on the finished recording), is structured around an exotic Mixolydian melody over a constant C-G "root-fifth" drone that is neither obviously major nor minor. The structure of the composition reflects Harrison's advances in comprehending the genre since recording "Love You To". In his book Indian Music and the West, Gerry Farrell writes of "Within You Without You": "The overall effect is of several disparate strands of Indian music being woven together to create a new form. It is a quintessential fusion of pop and Indian music." Peter Lavezzoli, author of The Dawn of Indian Music in the West, describes the song as "a survey of Indian classical and semiclassical styles" in which "the diverse elements … are skillfully woven together into an interesting hybrid. If anything, the closest comparison that might be made is to the Hindu devotional song form known as bhajan."
The song opens with a very short alap played by the tamburas (0:00-0:04), then dilruba (from 0:04) while a swarmandal is gently stroked to announce the pentatonic portion of the scale. A tabla then begins (at 0:23) playing a 16-beat tintal in a Madhya laya (medium tempo) and the dilruba plaintively backs the opening line of the verse (Bandish) or gat: "We were talking about the space between us all." The opening words "We were talking" are sung to an E-F-G-B♭ melody tritone interval (E to B♭) that enhances the spiritual dissonance sought to be evoked. Soon an eleven-piece string section plays a series of unusual slides to match the Indian music idiom, where, Lavezzoli writes, the melody is often "played legato, rounded with microtones, rather than staccato as in most Western music".
The instrumental after the second verse and chorus involves the tabla switching from the 16-beat tintal to a 10-beat jhaptal cycle. As a pointed counterpoint to the verse echoes of ancient Vedantic philosophy ("wall of illusion" "When you've seen beyond yourself, then you may find peace of mind is waiting there") a sawal-jawab (musical dialogue) begins in 5/4 time between first the dilruba and Harrison's sitar, then between the full Western string section and Harrison's sitar, this tellingly resolving into a melody in unison and together stating the tihai that closes the middle segment. After this, the drone is again prominent and the swarmandal plays an ascending scale, followed by a lone cello in descending scale that leads to the final verse in 16-beat tintal ("And the time will come when you see we're all one, and life flows on within you and without you") ending with the notes of the dilruba left hanging, until the tonal and spiritual tension is relieved by a muted use of canned laughter.
Pollack considers that there two likely interpretations of the use of canned laughter. The first is that the presumably xenophobic Victorian/Edwardian-era audience implicit in the Sgt. Pepper band and concert concept "is letting off a little tension of this perceived confrontation with pagan elements". The second holds that the composer is engaging in "an endearingly sincere nanosecond of acknowledgement of the apparent existential absurdity of the son-of-a-Liverpudlian bus driver espousing such other-worldly beliefs and sentiments".
Harrison recorded "Within You Without You" for the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, an album based around Paul McCartney's vision of a fictitious band that would serve as the Beatles' alter egos, after their decision to quit touring. Harrison had little interest in McCartney's concept and admitted that, following his return from India, "my heart was still out there", and working with the Beatles again "felt like going backwards". After it was decided to omit "Only a Northern Song" from the album, the song became Harrison's sole writing contribution to Sgt. Pepper. Lavezzoli writes: "But if Harrison was only to be allotted one composition … he was going to produce something special."
The recording features musical contributions from only Harrison, Beatles aide Neil Aspinall, and a group of uncredited Indian musicians. As with his Indian accompanists on "Love You To", Harrison sourced these musicians through the Asian Music Circle in north London.[nb 2] According to author Alan Clayson, Harrison missed a Beatles recording session to attend one of Shankar's London concerts, an absence that served as "fieldwork" for "Within You Without You".
The basic track was recorded on 15 March 1967 at EMI's Abbey Road studio 2 in London. The participants sat on a carpet in the studio, which was decorated with Indian tapestries on the walls, with the lights turned low and incense burning. Harrison and Aspinall each played a tambura, while the Indian musicians contributed on tabla, dilruba, swarmandal and tambura. The session was also attended by John Lennon and John Barham, an English classical pianist and student of Shankar who shared Harrison's desire to promote Indian music to Western audiences. According to Barham, Harrison "had the entire structure of the song mapped out in his head" and sung the melody that he wanted the dilruba player to follow. The twin hand-drums of the tabla were close-miked by recording engineer Geoff Emerick, in order to capture what he later described as "the texture and the lovely low resonances" of the instrument.
Overdubbing and mixing
The first of two overdubbing sessions for "Within You Without You" took place at Abbey Road on 22 March. Two more dilruba parts were added that day, played by an outside musician, after which a reduction mix was carried out, to allow for further overdubs onto the four-track recording.
Producer George Martin then arranged the string orchestration, based on Harrison's instructions. Martin's score for eight violins and three cellos attempted to imitate the slides and bends of the dilrubas. The orchestral parts, performed by members of the London Symphony Orchestra, were added on 3 April. During the same session, Harrison recorded his vocal and a sitar part, the solo of which, in the description of music critic David Fricke, "sings and swings with the clarity and phrasing of his best rockabilly-fired guitar work".[nb 3] Harrison also overdubbed occasional interjections on acoustic guitar.
On 4 April, while preparing the final mixes of the song, in stereo and mono, Harrison added crowd laughter taken from a sound effects tape in the Abbey Road library. The completed recording was enhanced in the mixes through the liberal application of automatic double tracking. Before Harrison recorded his vocals the previous day, the track had been edited and sped up sufficiently to reduce it in length from an original 6:25. In the process, the song's key was raised a semitone, from C to C#.
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was released on 1 June 1967, with "Within You Without You" sequenced as the opening track on side two of the LP. At just over five minutes' duration, it was the album's longest track. Greene notes that for many listeners at the time, the song provided their "first meaningful contact with meditative sound". In his 1977 book The Beatles Forever, Nicholas Schaffner likened "Within You Without You" to Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha – an influential novel among the emerging counterculture, during the Summer of Love – in terms of the song's evocation of Hesse's "idealization of individuality" and "vision of a mysterious East".
Speaking later about Sgt. Pepper, Harrison described it as "a milestone and a millstone in music history", although he also said he liked the record's iconic cover. For this, he chose pictures of Indian yogis and religious leaders – including Yogananda, Mahavatar Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya and Sri Yukteswar – to feature beside images of the Beatles. Among the song's lyrics, printed on the back cover, the positioning of the words "Without You" behind McCartney's head served as a clue in the Paul Is Dead rumour, which grew in the United States partly as a result of the Beatles' failure to perform live after 1966.
In 1971 the song was issued as the title track of an EP release in Mexico, which also included the Harrison-written Beatles tracks "Love You To", "The Inner Light" and "I Want to Tell You". In 1978 "Within You Without You" appeared as the B-side to the "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"/"With a Little Help from My Friends" medley, on singles released in West Germany, France and Sweden. An instrumental version of the track, at the original speed and in the original key, appeared on the Beatles' 1996 outtakes compilation Anthology 2.
Recalling the song's release in his book The Beatles Diary, Barry Miles writes: "Some thought it a masterpiece, some a prime example of mock-philosophical babble. Either way, it was pure Harrison." David Griffiths of Record Mirror praised the album's musical and lyrical scope, which included "life-enhancing philosophy", and added: "George Harrison's 'Within You Without You' is a beautifully successful and adventurous statement in song of a Yoga truth." The Times of India 's music critic similarly admired the Beatles for "explor[ing] farther reaches in the musical firmament" and described Harrison's composition as a "memorable" track that "sounds quite Indian with sitar and tabla accompanying his philosophic thought". In his review for The New York Times, Richard Goldstein said the song was "remarkable" and a highlight of the album.
Writing in the NME, Allen Evans found the "deep, rich rhythm" of the tabla "most appealing", although he bemoaned that it was difficult to decipher the lyrics "because they merge with the sitar music so closely". In a review published five months after the release of Sgt. Pepper, in which they considered that the album had not endured as well as the Beatles' previous works, Hit Parader opined: "Harrison has produced a soothing, sinuous, exotic sound for 'Within You Without You'. But even though his repetitious recitation of elementary Far Eastern philosophy is probably intended to reflect the infinity of the universe, it soon becomes a bit monotonous. The laughter at the end seems to be deflating the pretentiousness of the lyrics."
The song has continued to invite widely diverse opinions. Writing in 1988, author and critic Tim Riley dismissed "Within You Without You" as dull and "directionless", adding that it was "the most dated piece on the record … [and] could easily have been left off with little to no effect" on the album. Ian Inglis – author of the Harrison title in Praeger's Singer-Songwriter series – disagrees with this last point, writing that the song's "presence is absolutely central to the form and content" of its parent album. Among other Beatles biographers, Ian MacDonald views "Within You Without You" as the "conscience" of Sgt. Pepper and "the necessary sermon that comes with the community singing", and Kenneth Womack terms it "quite arguably, the album's ethical soul".[nb 4]
Writing for Rough Guides, Chris Ingham admires the track as "beautifully put together" and describes it as both "some of the most exotic music released under The Beatles' name" and a "philosophical meditation on life and love beyond self … [that] is perhaps the most outré five minutes of the album but, once surrendered to, is a central part of the Pepper experience". Harrison and Lennon biographer Gary Tillery writes: "'Within You Without You' was one of the most original and distinctive songs the Beatles ever created, a gem in the album generally considered the pinnacle of their career. And only one Beatle could be given credit for it."
In his book The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Allan Moore considers that Harrison's "command of the quasi-Indian medium is of a very high order" and, with regard to the song's message, he states: "In its explicit, prescient call to the me-generation, perhaps 'Within You Without You' is a key track … expressing the deepest commitment to the counter-culture." Writing for PopMatters in November 2009, Ross Langager opined:
Sgt. Pepper is about Britain, and the Summer of Love was always about America. The only song on the album that approaches the ideology and rhetoric of the hippie counterculture was George Harrison's sole contribution, the lush sitar-washed "Within You Without You", and it follows that Harrison was the only Beatle to have visited Haight-Ashbury at the peak of the scene. Even then, Eastern philosophy informed the lyric more deeply than did acid culture, and it's still a dense and stunning composition no matter its ideology.
Among reviews of the 2009 remastered Beatles catalogue, Neil McCormick of The Daily Telegraph described "Within You Without You" as "dour, droning" and Consequence of Sound grouped it with the "major clunkers" on Sgt. Pepper; Sputnikmusic deemed it to be "vital to the album's diversity of instrumental material". AllMusic critic Richie Unterberger admires the "nice haunting melody", but he considers the track overlong and notes the potential for offence in what was "the first Beatles song where [Harrison's] Indian religious beliefs affected the lyrics with full force". Writing for Ultimate Classic Rock, Dave Swanson describes it as a "heady masterpiece of ethereal drone" that captures the "pure bliss of 1967 … in full bloom" while musically exploring "previously uncharted pop group waters". Following Harrison's death in November 2001, Ira Robbins described "Within You Without You" as "the song that most clearly articulated his devotion, both artistic and philosophical, to India", with a lyric that "pairs worldview and personality in lines that now seem prophetic". Robbins concluded: "Whether he was warning others or testing his own conviction, the admonition stands. 'The time will come when you see we're all one/And life flows on within you and without you.'"
Joe Bosso of MusicRadar wrote in 2011 that although Harrison had already introduced sitar, tabla and other Indian instrumentation to the Beatles sound, the song served as "his Indian music coming-out party", and he praised the recording as "a glorious, David Lean-like panorama". Writing for Rolling Stone, David Fricke includes the track on his list of the "25 Essential Harrison Performances". He describes it as, variously, Harrison's "purest excursion … into raga" while with the Beatles, and "at once beautiful and severe, a magnetic sermon about materialism and communal responsibility in the middle of a record devoted to gentle Technicolor anarchy".
Cultural influence and legacy
According to Mikal Gilmore, also writing for Rolling Stone, Harrison's interest in Indian culture "spread like wildfire" among his peers as well as their audience. Author Simon Leng writes that "['Within You Without You'], and Harrison's leadership of the Beatles into Vedic philosophy, sparked the entire fashion for Indian music and a million backpackers' pilgrimages to Kashmir …" Juan Mascaró, a professor in Sanskrit studies at Cambridge University, wrote to Harrison after the song's release, saying: "it is a moving song, and may it move the souls of millions. And there is more to come, as you are only beginning on the great journey."[nb 5]
In the opinion of New Yorker journalist Mark Hertsgaard, the lyrics to "Within You Without You" "contained the album's most overt expression of the Beatles' shared belief in spiritual awareness and social change". Harrison's espousal of Eastern philosophy dominated the band's extracurricular activities by mid 1967, such that, author Peter Doggett writes, with Harrison's "emerge[ence] as the champion of all things Indian … his power within the group increased". This in turn led to the Beatles' public endorsement of Transcendental Meditation and their attendance at Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's spiritual retreat in Rishikesh, India, early the following year.
Stephen Stills was so taken with the lyrics to "Within You Without You" that he had them carved on a stone monument in his yard. John Lennon also admired the track, saying of Harrison: "His mind and his music are clear. There is his innate talent, he brought that sound together."[nb 6] David Crosby – whom Harrison acknowledged as having introduced him to Shankar's music – described Harrison's fusion of ideas as "utterly brilliant", adding: "He did it beautifully and tastefully … He did it at absolutely the highest level that he could, and I was extremely proud of him for that." Music critic Ken Hunt describes the song as an "early landmark" in Harrison's championing of Shankar, and Indian classical music generally, which gained "real global attention" for the first time through the Beatle's commitment.[nb 7] Peter Lavezzoli also highlights the effect of Sgt. Pepper and its "spiritual centerpiece ['Within You Without You']" on Shankar's popularity, during a year that served as "the annus mirabilis" for Indian music and "a watershed moment in the West when the search for higher consciousness and an alternative world view had reached critical mass".
Gary Wright recalls listening to "Within You Without You" "over and over" in the summer of 1967 while touring Europe for the first time, and he says: "I was transported to another place of consciousness. I'd never heard such sound textures before." Writing in the "100 Rock Icons" issue of Classic Rock magazine, in 2006, singer Paul Rodgers cited the track to support Harrison's standing as the Beatles' "musical medicine man". Rodgers added: "He introduced me and a generation of people worldwide to the wisdom of the East. His thought-provoking 'Within You Without You' – with sitars, tablas and deep lyrics – was something completely different, even in a world full of unique music."
"Within You Without You" was included on the 2006 remix album Love, with Harrison's vocal mixed over the rhythm section from "Tomorrow Never Knows". The opening lyric, "Turn off your mind ... Relax and float downstream ... It is not dying ... it is not dying", comes from "Tomorrow Never Knows", as does the set of reversed sound effects utilised in the mashup. During part of the second verse of this version, the drums and bass are silenced, replaced by the tabla percussion of "Within You Without You". Harrison's vocals are heard in the song's intended key of C major. PopMatters' Zeth Lundy wrote in December 2006: "The 'Within You Without You'/'Tomorrow Never Knows' mash-up, perhaps the most thrilling and effective track on the entire disc, fuses two especially transcendental songs into one: … a union of two ambiguous, open-ended declarations of spiritual pursuit."
Big Jim Sullivan, a British session guitarist who became proficient on the sitar, included "Within You Without You" on his album of Indian music-style recordings, titled Sitar Beat and first released in 1967. In the same year, cover versions of the song were issued by Peter Knight and his Orchestra and the Soulful Strings.
In 1988 Sonic Youth recorded "Within You Without You" for the NME 's multi-artist tribute Sgt. Pepper Knew My Father. Big Daddy covered the song in 1992, on a tribute album that Moore recognises as "the most audacious" interpretation of the Beatles' 1967 release, on which "Within You Without You" was "the cleverest pastiche", performed in a free jazz style reminiscent of Ornette Coleman or Don Cherry. A version by Angels of Venice appeared on their self-titled album, released in 1999. Big Head Todd and the Monsters contributed a recording for Songs from the Material World: A Tribute to George Harrison in 2003. The following year, Thievery Corporation covered the track on their album The Outernational Sound. Patti Smith included it on her 2007 covers album Twelve, a version that, according to BBC music critic Chris Jones, "sounds like [the song] could have been written for her". Firefall, Glenn Mercer, R. Stevie Moore and Les Fradkin have also recorded the song.
Other acts who have covered "Within You Without You" for Sgt. Pepper tributes include Oasis, on a BBC Radio 2 project celebrating the album's 40th anniversary (2007); Easy Star All-Stars (featuring Matisyahu), on Easy Star's Lonely Hearts Dub Band (2009); and Cheap Trick, on their Sgt. Pepper Live DVD. In 2014, the Flaming Lips, with featured guests Birdflower and Morgan Delt, recorded it for their Sgt. Pepper tribute With a Little Help from My Fwends.
Dead Can Dance's 1996 album Spiritchaser included the track "Indus", the melody of which was found to be very similar to that of "Within You Without You". After the band then obtained Harrison's blessing, according to singer Lisa Gerrard, "the [record company] pushed it", with the result that they were forced to give the former Beatle a partial songwriting credit. In 1978, the Rutles parodied "Within You Without You" on the track "Nevertheless", performed by Rikki Fataar.
Personnel per Ian MacDonald.
- George Harrison – lead vocals, tambura, sitar, acoustic guitar
- Uncredited Indian musicians – dilrubas, tabla, swarmandal, tambura[nb 8]
- Neil Aspinall – tambura
- Erich Gruenberg, Alan Loveday, Julien Gaillard, Paul Scherman, Ralph Elman, David Wolfsthal, Jack Rothstein, Jack Greene – violins
- Reginald Kilbey, Allen Ford, Peter Halling – cellos
- In an attempt to disguise his identity, at Shankar's suggestion, Harrison had grown a moustache – a change of image that the other Beatles would follow by the end of 1966.
- According to Prema Music, dilruba player Amrit Gajjar played on the track.
- While discussing "Within You Without You" in a 1979 interview, Harrison reflected that the song "sounds a bit dopey now in retrospect" but expressed satisfaction with his sitar solo.
- While comparing the song with Lennon's "All You Need Is Love" – a "transcendental statement" from the 1967 Summer of Love that would similarly be misinterpreted in "the materialistic Eighties" – MacDonald opines: "Described by those with no grasp of the ethos of 1967 as a blot on a classic LP, 'Within You Without You' is central to the outlook that shaped Sgt. Pepper – a view justifiable then, as it is justifiable now."
- In the same letter, Mascaró enclosed a copy of his book Lamps of Fire and suggested that a passage he had translated from the Tao Te Ching might make a suitable subject for a song. Harrison duly used this passage in the lyrics to "The Inner Light", his third fully Indian-styled Beatles track.
- In a 1973 interview, Lennon said it was his favourite song of Harrison's. Similarly impressed, Ringo Starr said in 2000: "'Within You Without You' is brilliant. I love it."
- In his autobiography, Raga Mala, Shankar cites the media's discovery that he was teaching Harrison sitar in Bombay, in September 1966, as the cause for his elevated status to that of a "superstar", leading to his high-profile appearances at US rock music festivals such as Monterey (in June 1967) and Woodstock (August 1969).
- A Beatles fan website, Absolute Elsewhere, lists Amrit Pajjar, Natver Soni and P.D. Joshi as having played, respectively, dilruba, tabla and swarmandal. Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn does not give these nor any other names for the Indian contributors, however, and neither do MacDonald and Kenneth Womack in their respective line-up of musicians who played on the song. Peter Lavezzoli writes that the identity of the Indian musicians "remain[s] unknown, which is unfortunate, for the tabla and dilruba performances in particular deserve acknowledgement".
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