Within You Without You

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"Within You Without You"
Song by the Beatles from the album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Released 1 June 1967
Recorded 15 and 22 March and 3 April 1967,
EMI Studios, London
Length 5:05
Label Parlophone
Writer George Harrison
Producer George Martin
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band track listing
Music sample

"Within You Without You" is a song written by George Harrison, released on the Beatles' 1967 album, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Background and inspiration[edit]

Harrison began writing "Within You Without You" on a harmonium at the house of long-time Beatles associate Klaus Voormann.[1][2] It was the second of his songs 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.[3][4] 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."[5]

In addition to his new musical influences, Harrison had travelled to India in September 1966[6] and become fascinated by Hindu philosophy and spirituality.[7][8] In his autobiography, I, Me, Mine, he comments that the period coincided with his introduction to meditation.[9]

Musical structure[edit]

I had spent a bit of time in India and fallen under the spell of the country and its music … "Within You Without You" was a song that I wrote based upon a piece of music of Ravi [Shankar]'s that he'd recorded for All-India Radio. It was a very long piece – maybe thirty or forty minutes … I wrote a mini version of it, using sounds similar to those I'd discovered on his piece.[10]

George Harrison discussing the composition in 2000

"Within You Without You" is mostly in Mixolydian mode, or rather Khamaj thaat, the equivalent in Indian music.[5] 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.[11]

It opens with a very short alap played by the tambouras (0:00-0:04), then dilruba (from 0:04) while a swarmandal is gently stroked to announce the pentatonic portion of the scale.[5][12] 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."[5][12] 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.[13] Soon an 11-piece string section plays a series of unusual slides to match the Indian music idiom where the melody is often "played legato rounded in microtones, rather than staccato as in Western music".[12]

"Within You Without You" was heavily influenced by Harrison's interest in Indian music and Vedanta philosophy.

The instrumental after the second verse and chorus involves the tabla switching from the 16 beat tintal to a 10 beat jhaptal cycle.[14] 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.[14] Gould describes the strings as here making "their way through the bustle and drone of the Indian instruments with the slightly shaky dignity of a procession of sahibs in sedan chairs".[15] 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.[14]

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".[16] Two slightly different laugh tracks were used for the mono and stereo mixes. The laughter is slightly quieter than the instrumental track in the stereo version. However, it comes in more sudden and louder in the mono version.


George has done a great Indian one. We came along one night and he had about 400 Indian fellas playing there, and it was a great swinging evening, as they say.[10]

John Lennon recalling the recording of "Within You Without You", 1967

The basic track for "Within You Without You" featured only Harrison and a group of uncredited Indian musicians.[17] As with his Indian accompanists on "Love You To", Harrison sourced these musicians through the Asian Music Circle in north London.[18] According to Prema Music, dilruba player Amrit Gajjar played on the track.[19] Hunter Davies wrote that Harrison "trained himself to write down his song in Indian script so that the Indian musicians [could] play them".[20] With "Within You Without You", he became the second Beatle to record a song credited to the Beatles but featuring no other members of the group, Paul McCartney having done so with "Yesterday" in 1965. The song is Harrison's only composition on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, after "Only a Northern Song" was omitted from the album.[21][22] 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".[23]

The basic track was recorded on 15 March 1967 at Abbey Road studio 2,[12] with the musicians sitting on a carpet with lights low and incense burning.[5] 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.[24]

Following this session, producer George Martin arranged the string orchestration for the song,[17] which was added on 3 April,[12] and Harrison and Beatles aide Neil Aspinall overdubbed the tambura. Martin's score for eight violins and three cellos attempted to imitate the slides and bends of the dilrubas.[5] On 4 April, Harrison added crowd laughter taken from a sound effects tape in the Abbey Road library.[25] The recording released on the album was sped up enough to raise the key from C to C#. An instrumental version of the song at the original speed and in the original key appears on the Anthology 2 album.[26]

Release and reception[edit]

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was released on 1 June 1967,[27] with "Within You Without You" sequenced as the opening track on side two of the LP.[28] At just over five minutes' duration, it was the album's longest track.[29] 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."[21]

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."[30] 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".[31] In his review for The New York Times, Richard Goldstein said the song was "remarkable" and a highlight of the album.[32]

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".[33][34] 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."[35]

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.[36] 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.[37] 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",[17] while Kenneth Womack terms it "quite arguably, the album's ethical soul".[38]

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 enduring 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."[39] 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.[40]

The song has continued to invite widely diverse opinions.[32] Among reviews of the 2009 remastered Beatles catalogue, Neil McCormick of The Daily Telegraph described "Within You Without You" as "dour, droning"[41] and Consequence of Sound grouped it with the "major clunkers" on Sgt. Pepper;[42] Sputnikmusic deemed it to be "vital to the album's diversity of instrumental material".[43] 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".[44] 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".[45] 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.'"[46]

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".[47] Rolling Stone critic David Fricke includes the track on his list of the "25 Essential Harrison Performances" and describes it as "at once beautiful and severe, a magnetic sermon about materialism and communal responsibility in the middle of a record devoted to gentle Technicolor anarchy".[48]

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.[29] 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.[49] 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."[10] In a 1973 interview, Lennon said it was his favourite song of Harrison's.[50] Similarly impressed, Ringo Starr said in 2000: "'Within You Without You' is brilliant. I love it."[10] 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."[51]

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."[52] 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."[53]

Love remix[edit]

"Within You Without You" was included on the 2006 remix album Love. For this album, George Harrison's vocal and sitar parts were mixed over McCartney's bass and Ringo's drum parts from "Tomorrow Never Knows", although the opening lyric, "Turn off your mind ... Relax and float downstream ... It is not dying ... it is not dying", come from "Tomorrow Never Knows",[54] 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 of "Tomorrow Never Knows" are silenced, replaced by the tabla percussion parts of "Within You Without You". Also, Harrison's vocals are heard in the song's intended key of C major. The blending of these two songs is considered the most effective form of mashup on the album.[55]

All of the music for Love was remixed and remastered by George Martin and his son Giles. The Love remix is one of the songs in The Beatles: Rock Band.[56]


Personnel per Ian MacDonald.[57]

Cover versions[edit]

Year Artist Release Notes
1967 Peter Knight and his Orchestra (single) Orchestral version
1968 Soulful Strings (single) Instrumental version
1988 Sonic Youth Sgt. Pepper Knew My Father[58] Originally released on a various artist's tribute album; re-released in 2007 on the deluxe edition of Daydream Nation
1999 Angels of Venice Angels of Venice Instrumental version
2003 Big Head Todd and the Monsters Songs from the Material World: A Tribute to George Harrison[59] Various artists tribute album
2004 Thievery Corporation The Outernational Sound Instrumental version
2007 Oasis Sgt. Pepper's 40th Anniversary Tribute[60] Originally aired for BBC Radio 2 on 2 June 2007
2007 Glenn Mercer Wheels in Motion
2007 Les Fradkin Guitar Revolution Instrumental version
2007 Patti Smith Twelve
2009 Cheap Trick Sgt. Pepper Live
2009 Easy Star All-Stars Easy Star's Lonely Hearts Dub Band Featuring Matisyahu

In 1996, Dead Can Dance released Spiritchaser that includes "Indus", a song with a melody very similar to "Within You Without You". After the similarity was discovered, they obtained Harrison's permission to use it and gave him partial songwriting credit after pressure from the record company.[61]


  1. ^ Everett, p. 111.
  2. ^ The Editors of Rolling Stone, p. 174.
  3. ^ Leng, pp. 27–28.
  4. ^ Lavezzoli, pp. 175, 176.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Everett, p. 112.
  6. ^ Leng, p. 24.
  7. ^ Clayson, pp. 206–08.
  8. ^ Tillery, pp. 56–58.
  9. ^ Harrison, p. 112.
  10. ^ a b c d The Beatles, p. 243.
  11. ^ Pedler, p. 262.
  12. ^ a b c d e Lavezzoli, p. 178.
  13. ^ Pedler, p. 523.
  14. ^ a b c Lavezzoli, p. 179.
  15. ^ Gould, p. 406.
  16. ^ Pollack, Alan W. (1998). "Notes on 'Within You, Without You'". recmusicbeatles.com. Retrieved 5 January 2012. 
  17. ^ a b c MacDonald, p. 215.
  18. ^ Lavezzoli, pp. 176, 178.
  19. ^ "Aina: Reflections". Prema Music. 2010. Retrieved 7 January 2010. 
  20. ^ Gilliland 1969, show 45, track 4.
  21. ^ a b Miles, p. 268.
  22. ^ MacDonald, pp. 209, 215.
  23. ^ Clayson, p. 213.
  24. ^ Leng, pp. 26–27, 31.
  25. ^ The Editors of Rolling Stone, p. 175.
  26. ^ MacDonald, p. 216fn.
  27. ^ Miles, p. 266.
  28. ^ Castleman & Podrazik, p. 62.
  29. ^ a b The Editors of Rolling Stone, p. 36.
  30. ^ Griffiths, David (6 January 1968). "Records of the Year: The Beatles, The Beach Boys". Record Mirror.  Available at Rock's Backpages (subscription required).
  31. ^ Staff writer (14 October 1967). "The Times Of India and Sgt. Pepper". Record Mirror.  Available at Rock's Backpages (subscription required).
  32. ^ a b Moore, p. 45.
  33. ^ Evans, Allen (20 May 1967). "Something Different to Get the Brain Working". NME. p. 4. 
  34. ^ Sutherland, Steve (ed.) (2003). NME Originals: Lennon. London: IPC Ignite!. p. 48. 
  35. ^ Staff writer (November 1967). "The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band". Hit Parader.  Available at Rock's Backpages (subscription required).
  36. ^ Riley, pp. 220–21.
  37. ^ Inglis, p. 8.
  38. ^ Womack 2007, p. 176.
  39. ^ Moore, pp. 45, 61.
  40. ^ Langager, Ross (23 November 2009). "'With Our Love, We Can Save the World': The Beatles Within and Without the Late '60s Zeitgeist (Part 2: 'Sgt. Pepper' and the Sociology of Imperial Nostalgia)". PopMatters. Retrieved 1 August 2015. 
  41. ^ McCormick, Neil (7 September 2009). "The Beatles – Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, review". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2 August 2015. 
  42. ^ Young, Alex (22 September 2009). "The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band [Remastered]". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved 2 August 2015. 
  43. ^ Ponton, Jared (8 August 2010). "The Beatles Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band". Sputnikmusic. Retrieved 2 August 2015. 
  44. ^ Unterberger, Richie. "The Beatles 'Within You Without You'". AllMusic. Retrieved 2 August 2015. 
  45. ^ Swanson, Dave (30 March 2013). "Top 10 Beatles Psychedelic Songs". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved 2 August 2015. 
  46. ^ Robbins, Ira (3 December 2001). "George Harrison: And Life Flows On". Salon.  Available at Rock's Backpages (subscription required).
  47. ^ Bosso, Joe (29 November 2011). "George Harrison's 10 greatest Beatles songs". MusicRadar. Retrieved 30 July 2015. 
  48. ^ The Editors of Rolling Stone, pp. 175, 200.
  49. ^ Tillery, p. 59.
  50. ^ Hunt, Chris (ed.) (2005). NME Originals: Beatles – The Solo Years 1970–1980. London: IPC Ignite!. p. 73.
  51. ^ Lavezzoli, p. 165.
  52. ^ Wright, p. 43.
  53. ^ Rowley, Scott (ed.) (December 2006). "100 Icons of Rock – As Chosen by the Stars". Classic Rock. p. 64. 
  54. ^ "The Beatles/Cirque du Soleil 'Within You Without You/Tomorrow Never Knows'". AllMusic. Retrieved 14 June 2015. 
  55. ^ "The Beatles: Love – PopMatters Music Review". PopMatters. 15 December 2006. Retrieved 27 December 2006. 
  56. ^ Frushtick, Russ (21 July 2009). "'The Beatles: Rock Band' Expands Its Song List". MTV. Retrieved 14 June 2015. 
  57. ^ MacDonald, p. 214.
  58. ^ Mills, Ted. "Various Artists Sgt. Pepper Knew My Father". AllMusic. Retrieved 14 June 2015. 
  59. ^ Loftus, Johnny. "Various Artists Songs From The Material World: A Tribute To George Harrison". AllMusic. Retrieved 14 June 2015. 
  60. ^ Womack 2014, p. 1011.
  61. ^ Morse, Steve (12 July 1996). "Global Spirits: Dead Can Dance Make World Music Mystical". The Boston Globe. 


External links[edit]