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George Harrison with sitar, 1966
“LOVE YOU TO”
When the song “Norwegian Wood” made its appearance in December of 1965 on the album “Rubber Soul,” it made quite a stir. It soon spread that the exotic sounding instrument playing the lead lines was an Indian instrument called a sitar. The song itself was beautifully written and brilliantly performed, but the sound of the sitar was the immediate attention getter. What most viewed as a gimmick spread to many popular artists of that time so that within a number of months, pop radio was teeming with that incredible sounding instrument.
On May 2nd, 1966, radio celebrity Brian Matthew interviewed the group for the 400th edition of the BBC radio show Saturday Club. Attention was drawn to the recording of their latest album “Revolver,” which had been underway for nearly a month at that time.
Brian Matthew: “Can you disclose any secrets about this LP? Have you introduced any unusual musical instruments this time?”
Brian: “You can’t use a sitar again because everybody’s using it.”
John: “Yes we can.”
Ringo: “Well, it’s like saying you can’t use a guitar because everyone’s using it.”
George: “Yeah, I play sitar on another track, but I don’t care if everyone’s using ‘em, you know. I just play it because I like it.”
The track George Harrison mentioned was the unusual titled “Love You To” which not only included the sitar but also infused the traditional songwriting and sound of India onto a Beatles album. This proved once and for all that the sitar was not just a gimmick but was, in fact, an infatuation with Eastern culture as well.
While it has been admitted that the use of the sitar on “Norwegian Wood” was a last minute decision made while recording the song in the studio, the appearance of Indian instrumentation on this new George Harrison composition was very intentional. “’Love You To’ was one of the first tunes I wrote for sitar,” George explains. “’Norwegian Wood’ was an accident as far as the sitar part was concerned…I wrote ‘Love You To’ on the sitar, because the sitar sounded so nice and my interest was getting deeper all the time. I wanted to write a tune that was specifically for the sitar.”
George's interest in the sitar was perpetuated by first being introduced to that style of playing by David Crosby of The Byrds at a Benedict Canyon vacation spot The Beatles rented during their 1965 U.S. tour. Sometime between August 23rd and 28th, 1965, Crosby and fellow bandmate Roger McGuinn, among others, were present as guests. "We were on the floor exchanging guitar licks," recalls McGuinn, explaining that Crosby showed George "some Ravi Shankar stuff that he'd just been into, because Dick Bock at World Pacific (the studio where The Byrds made early demos in 1964) had been producing Ravi Shankar."
Paul explained more of the genesis of their interest in the sitar in 1966: “The Indian sounds are definitley mainly George. We started off just hearing Indian music and listening to things, and we liked the drone idea because we’d done a bit of that kind of thing in songs before. (See “Ticket To Ride” as an example.) But George got very interested in it, and went to a couple of Ravi Shankar concerts, and then he met Ravi and said, ‘I was knocked out by him! – just as a person. He’s an incredible fellow. He’s one of the greatest.’ So the two of them were having a great time!”
“And that’s how we brought Indian sounds on,” Paul continues. “It’s nice to start bridging the two kinds of music, because we’ve just started off in a very simple way, and then this album’s got a bit better. It’s a little bit more like Indian music. And it helps people to understand it too – because it’s very hard to understand. But once you get into it, it’s the greatest.”
George added at that time: “To me it is the only really great music now, and it makes Western three-or-four-beat type stuff seem somehow dead. You can get so much more out of it if you are prepared really to concentrate and listen. I hope more people will try to dig it.”
Although John didn’t contribute to the song at all in the studio, he also was vocal about his admiration for these sounds. “It’s amazing, this – so cool. Don’t the Indians appear cool to you? This music is thousands of years old; it makes me laugh, the British going over there and telling them what to do. Quite amazing.”
An exact time frame or location for the writing of “Love You To” was never mentioned in interview, nor was the inspiration for the lyrics. It has been supposed, however, that his early indoctrination into eastern beliefs can be deciphered here, such as in the lines “a lifetime is so short, a new one can't be bought.” It may also be concluded that his new wife Pattie Boyd is thrown in the mix as well with lines like “I’ll make love to you, if you want me to.”
Brian Epstein, George Martin and Geoff Emerick in EMI Studios Control Room
“Most people don’t realize that making a record is much like shooting a film,” recalls engineer Geoff Emerick. He continues, “There are long periods of boredom and waiting around while technical details are attended to and parts worked out, interspersed with moments of creative spark. Naturally enough, my memories of the making of ‘Revolver’ consist largely of those moments. One example was the time that George Hariison brought in some local Indian musicians from the Asian Society to play on his song ‘Love You To.’”
The day that Geoff was remembering was April 11th, 1966, which was only the fourth day of recording for what became the “Revolver” album. George had written three songs for inclusion on the album but this was the first to be premiered in the studio, so therefore we can assume that he was most anxious to get this recorded than the others. The group entered EMI Studio Two at 2:30 pm on this day, the first point of business being adding a guitar overdub to their previously recorded song “Got To Get You Into My Life.” By approximately 3:30 pm, work started on “Love You To.”
This is not to say that the song was “Love You To” at this point. Geoff Emerick continues: “’Love You To’ – which I originally named ‘Granny Smith’ on the tape box, after my favorite kind of apple, only because George never had titles for his songs.” Throughout all of the sessions for the song, it continued to be referred to as “Granny Smith.”
The next three-and-a-half hours were spent figuring out an arrangement for the song and then recording three takes of the rhythm track. It appears that the musicians from the Asian Society weren’t to arrive until the second session of the day began at 8 pm. Therefore, some of the “technical details” mentioned in the above recollection of Geoff Emerick must be concerning this later session. However, the “boredom” in waiting for arrangements to be “worked out” may very well be referring to this first session.
The first take consisted only of George singing and playing acoustic guitar with Paul supplying backing vocals. By take three, the first sitar was added, presumably played by George. Since he is quoted in 1966 as saying “yeah, I play sitar,” we can assume that the free-form uncomplicated introduction to the song was George. With this complete, they took an hour break (from 7 till 8 pm) until the second session began.
This next session, with the entry of the Asian Society musicians, was for all sakes and purposes considered the real rhythm track of the song, nearly drowning out George’s acoustic guitar from take one. As George stated, “I consciously tried to use sitar and tabla on the basic track. I overdubbed the vocals and guitars later.”
One of the Indian musicians, Anil Bhagwat, was recruited to play the tabla on the song. “The session came out of the blue,” Anil remembers. “A chap called Angardi called me and asked if I was free that evening to work with George. I didn’t know who he meant – he didn’t say it was Harrison. It was only when a Rolls-Royce came to pick me up that I realized 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. I was very lucky, they put my name on the record sleeve. I’m really proud of that, they were the greatest ever and my name is on the sleeve. It was one of the most exciting times of my life.”
This is where the “technical details” came in. Geoff Emerick continues: “I had never miked Indian instruments before, but I was especially impressed by the huge sound coming from the tabla (percussion instruments somewhat similar to bongos). I decided to close-mic them, placing a sensitive ribbon mic just a few inches away, and then I heavily compressed the signal. No one had ever recorded tabla like that – they’d always been miked from a distance. My idea resulted in a fabulous sound, right in your face, and both Harrison and the Indian musicians commented afterward about it.”
Takes four through six were all that were needed to get a suitable rhythm track for the song. Overdubbed onto this final take was a bass from Paul (which is nearly indecipherable on the final product) and a "fuzz guitar" presumably played by George which creates a drone-like accompaniment throughout the song. The 'fuzz'" was undoubtedly achieved by using "The Tone Bender," the device used on Paul's bass on the previous years' "Think For Yourself." A further overdubbed distorted sound, possibly from this "fuzz guitar," is heard four times in each refrain of the song to simulate a chord change in this otherwise “raga” style single-chord composition. A similar effect is interjected into the other single-chord “raga” song of the album, namely “Tomorrow Never Knows.”
The identity of the musician that plays the sitar throughout the remainder of the song has never been identified, nor has the tambura player, which can also be heard on the track. Anil Bhagwat is the only outside musician stipulated to have appeared on the track. Possibly to give the impression that it was entirely George playing the sitar, this additional sitar player remains nameless. Viewing any known videos of George playing the instrument, anyone can plainly see that he couldn’t have mastered such a complicated instrument in that amount of time to perform what we hear during the bulk of “Love You To.” He could have, however, played the short introduction, so this assumption should be sufficient to allow George to save face.
With all four tracks of the tape filled, the session ended at 12:45 the next morning. The EMI staff, consisting of George Martin, Geoff Emerick and 2nd engineer Phil McDonald, spent the next fifteen minutes of the early morning creating the first mono mix of the song, which was dutifully taken away by George Harrison for reference.
Two days later, on April 13th, 1966, the group reconvened at EMI Studios (this time in Studio Three) from 2:30 to 6:30 pm to complete the song. Take six from the previous session was transferred to another tape to create a “reduction mix,” this being done to open up more tracks for additional overdubs. This being done, George double-tracked his vocals, Ringo added a tambourine, and Paul added an additional high harmony to the line “they’ll fill you in with all their sins, you’ll see.” This final harmony overdub was deemed unnecessary and was therefore left off of the final mixes.
This completed all of the recording for the song, the next job being the creation of the mono mix that would be used for the final product. Three mono mixes were made in the control room of EMI Studio Three on this day by Martin, Emerick and 2nd engineer Richard Lush. The purpose of three mixes was in order to edit them together to create the final mono mix. Two of the mixes had ADT (“Artificial Double Tracking”) applied to them and one didn’t. It appears that ADT was applied to the lead sitar playing throughout the track but it isn’t detected in the instrumental section of the song – therefore, a separate mix without ADT would be necessary for this section. The finished mix faded down the extended instrumental ending to clock the song in at 3:08.
This mono mix was copied three times over on May 16th, 1966 in the control room of EMI Studio Two (by Martin, Emerick and McDonald) for the sole purpose of assembling a master reel of some of the best complete mixes for the upcoming album. Since this wasn’t standard practice during previous albums, it indicates their pride at what they were accomplishing on this album.
It wasn’t until June 21st, 1966, that the stereo mix of the song (still titled “Granny Smith” even at this point) was created. This was done in the control room of EMI Studio Three by the usual team of George Martin, Geoff Emerick and Phil McDonald with the same procedure as had been done with the mono mix, namely that three stereo mixes were first made (two with ADT, one without) and then were edited together. The stereo mix has every element mixed near the center while they decide to fade the song eight seconds earlier than the mono mix, making a tidy three minute song.
Sometime in 1998 or 1999, a further stereo mix was made of the song for its inclusion on the album “Yellow Submarine Songtrack” released on September 13th, 1999. An engineering team, including Peter Cobbin, Paul Hicks, Mirek Stiles and Allan Rouse, created this mix in EMI Studios (now “Abbey Road Studios”) accessing the original master tapes to create a vibrant re-mastered stereo mix for this release. The separation is more apparent with the Indian instruments appearing predominantly in the left channel and the fuzz guitar more discernable in the right channel, while the length of the fadeout is even a little shorter than three minutes this time around. Sadly, this excellent mix has not been used on the re-mastered releases of 2009 due to wanting to keep to the original George Martin 1966 mixes.
Song Structure and Style
While the structure of classical Indian compositions make great use of improvisation and thereby differ dramatically from Western pop music of the 60’s, this East-meets-West effort by The Beatles combines a format that was much more familiar with their audience with an indoctrination of sorts to this style of music for their fans to grab hold of as they had. In the process, a more common ‘verse/ refrain/ verse/ refrain/ verse (solo)/ refrain/ verse/ refrain’ structure is presented (or ababcbab). Eastern improvisation appears in the introduction, the solo and the conclusion of the track.
We first start out with a free-form-style introduction which showcase (presumably) the degree of mastery that George had of the sitar by that time. No meter or number of measures can or were intended to be set – the intention being to create an air of surprise and anticipation, and in the process, set the exotic mood. After two glissandos, he begins his impressive ‘noodling around’ and, with another glissando thrown in, the tempo is set with the first appearance of the main “riff” (if we dare to call it that).
The first verse, introducing the entire spectrum of musical instruments used in the song, jolts us right into the heart of India with images of the marketplace, belly-dancers and snake charmers. (If this city boy is being too stereotypical, I apologize. :-) ) Two measures of vamping introduce what turns out to be a ten-measure verse, the following eight measures being the usual standard in pop music at the time. George’s double-tracked vocals kick in by the third measure, his melody line not straying from a simple five-note range throughout the entire song. He reaches his highest point in the ninth measure as the instrumentation stops for a brief a cappella ending to the verse on the word “me.” This high note is held (presumably by Paul) while George cascades down the five-note scale to conclude the verse.
The refrain next appears which consists of six measures, although it is anything but usual in typical Beatles compositions to that point. The sitar “riff” is repeated to bring the instrumentation back in, but the measure that comprises this riff is only three beats long instead of four as we’ve heard so far in the song. We then go back into four beats per measure when the band reappears, the second measure of the refrain being a simple vamp to get the ball rolling again. The third measure introduces George’s melody line with the lyrics “love me while you can,” this melody line partially mimicking the sitar riff of the song, which is played underneath his vocals. The full sitar riff appears directly afterward, the pattern continuing with George’s next line “before I’m a dead old man.”
The sixth measure, which contains the final sitar riff of the refrain, is also reduced to three beats to make the riff fit squarely into the setting. Interestingly, the jarring distorted sound mentioned in the preceding subheading, presumably from the “fuzz guitar,” is heard in the first half of measures three through six to simulate a chord change.
We are then positioned back to four-beats-per-measure for the next verse and refrain which, for all sakes and purposes, are identical in structure to the ones preceding it. This is followed by another ten-measure verse which this time does not end with two measures of a cappella singing from George and Paul. This verse is instead used for improvisational vamping from the sitar player which, at times, meanders unpredictably, causing the listener to not be able to predict when the next section will appear. All part of the plan, I imagine.
Unpredictably, seemingly out of nowhere (unless you happened to be counting out exactly ten measures), the next refrain jumps into the picture. Since there is no a cappella ending to the preceding instrumental verse, there is no need for the three-measure “riff” to get things going, thereby reducing this refrain to only four measures. The fourth measure, however, is three-beats long to accommodate the “riff” that appears therein, ending this shortened refrain as all the others.
A final verse/refrain set is then heard which is identical in structure, the refrain propelling us into a rushed tempo as a setting for sitar improvisation to finish off the song. The tempo even slightly increases more as the track fades out, which is more apparent in the mono mix because of its extended length.
This is George’s “baby” all the way, his pride showing through all three minutes of its duration. His hypnotic and banal vocals could never be more suited than in this context, the double-tracking helping to play the part as well. To whatever degree he played the sitar, it’s quite impressive, especially coming from a young Englishman in his early 20’s who was just introduced to the instrument about a year before. His acoustic and electric guitar work, while not too distinguishable on the track, show that he was quite involved in its recording.
I leave it up to your Sherlock Holmes magnifying glasses to detect Paul’s bass playing on this recording, the lower tones appearing to come only from the tabla. I suspect the bass guitar was omitted from the mix or recorded over at some point, but since credible sources say it’s there, then I suppose it is. He did well in holding out the high notes at the end of each verse though…or maybe that was done by George during the double-tracking. At any rate, good job, Paul, whatever you did. Same goes for you, Ringo, on the tambourine.
Kudos to the Indian musicians on the track, especially the unnamed sitar virtuoso that graces most of the recording (most sources suspect). Anil Bhagwat on tabla and the mysery tambura player are also worthy of recognition for their outstanding efforts in bringing this beautiful music to the ears of the rest of the world.
George’s lyric message may touch slightly on Eastern beliefs, but primarily is perceived as depicting the futility of a fast moving existence. “Each day just goes so fast,” he bemoans, “I turn around, it’s passed.” His next line, “You don’t get time to hang a sign on me,” may remind us of a 1965 interview with Larry Kane as included in his book “Ticket To Ride.” Speaking about their first US visit, George stated: “When we first came over here they didn’t know us all that well. People, like, hang tags on you. Ringo was the cuddly one or something. Paul was the lovely one, and I was the quiet one, and John was the shouting one. I’ve been the same all along. I talk when I feel like it. I shut up when I don’t feel like talking.”
Apparently directing his attention to new wife Pattie Boyd, George continues: “Love me while you can, before I’m a dead old man.” This theme about love making continues in the remaining refrains of the song, namely: “Make love all day long” and “I’ll make love to you, if you want me to.” This second phrase influenced the opinion of many that the title of the song was actually a typo, “love you to” being a juxtaposition of “love to you.” This seems not to be the case since the label and jacket both contain the same wording for the title of this track, the reason for the word choice never being mentioned by its’ writer.
Also never mentioned is the identity of the people who are “standing ‘round who’ll screw you in the ground.” The mention made next of “their sins” leads one to possibly believe that the “taxman” may be the culprit, the time proximity of composition for that previous “Revolver” track being the same as this one.
One final curiosity is concerning the love life shared between George and Pattie. While one can imagine newlyweds making love “all day long,” should we really believe that they would “make love singing songs”?
August 8th, 1966 was the release date for the album “Revolver” in the US. The omission of three John Lennon penned tracks from the British album meant that two out of the first three tracks on the American version of the album were written by George Harrison, which was an unprecedented achievement. The diverse jump from the fully orchestrated “Eleanor Rigby” to the Eastern cultural sounds of “Love You To” was also a stunning display for US record buyers. As Chris Ingham states in “The Rough Guide To The Beatles,” their mainstream audience must have been scratching their heads exclaiming, “What’s Going On?” This American version of the "Revolver" album got a compact disc release on January 21st, 2014, with both the mono and stereo versions contained on a single CD.
Sometime in 1967, Capitol released Beatles music on a brand new but short-lived format called "Playtapes." These tape cartidges did not have the capability to include entire albums, so two truncated four-song versions of "Revolver" were released in this portable format, "Love You To" being on one of these. These "Playtapes" are highly collectable today.
The full fourteen track British “Revolver” album then got its US release on compact disc for the first time on April 30th, 1987. This was then re-mastered and re-released on September 9th, 2009.
On September 13th, 1999, the song got another release on the “Yellow Submarine Songtrack” album which came out in conjunction with the re-released film on video and DVD. This vibrantly re-mastered version made its way onto this compilation because of the brief appearance of the introduction of the song in the movie.
September 9th, 2009 also marked the date that the original 1966 mono mix appeared on compact disc for the first time, this being included in the box set “The Beatles In Mono.” This re-mastered version includes the extra eight seconds as originally heard on the mono copies of the vinyl album.
An early positioning on side one of “Revolver,” coupled with the exotic instrumentation and Eastern structure, show this song as intended only as a showpiece of the album with no aspirations for their stage act. And although George did resurrect many Beatles “Harrisongs” for his Japan concerts in December of 1991, this unfortunately was not one of them.
George’s forays into strict Eastern musicianship within The Beatles cannon amounted to three songs, this being his brave first move. While the lyrical content of this first attempt doesn’t veer much passed Western thought, the following two indulgences show him playing the role of sage, attempting to offer his newly acquired insights of consciousness to the public en masse. His philosophical musings from 1967’s “Within You Without You” and his Tao Te Ching recitation in 1968’s “The Inner Light” do much better in depicting George as “The Mystic Beatle” – as pictured on hilltop with the wind blowing through his hair during his introductory appearance in the movie “Yellow Submarine.”
At any rate, this new transcendental role did quite a lot for George’s credibility within the band. He may not have proven himself the tunesmith that John and Paul had up to this point, but everyone knew that it was George that took the music of The Beatles down this Eastern path and, as a result, made it “cool” to reach for a higher awareness.
“Love You To”
Written by: George Harrison
Song Written: March - April, 1966
Song Recorded: April 11 & 13, 1966
First US Release Date: August 8, 1966
First US Album Release: Capitol #ST-2576 “Revolver”
US Single Release: n/a
Highest Chart Position: n/a
British Album Release: Parlophone #PCS 7009 “Revolver”
Length: 3:08 (mono) 3:00 (stereo)
Key: C minor
Producer: George Martin
Engineers: Geoff Emerick, Phil McDonald, Richard Lush
Instrumentation (most likely):
George Harrison – Lead Vocals, Sitar, Rhythm Guitars (1962 Gibson J-160E, 1961 Sonic Blue Fender Stratocaster), Sitar
Paul McCartney - Harmony Vocals, Bass Guitar (1964 Rickenbacker 4001S)
Ringo Starr – tambourine
Anil Bhagwat - Tabla
Unknown - Sitar
Unknown - Tambura
Written and compiled by Dave Rybaczewski
The Beatles with the Maharishi, circa 1967