Whilst Sgt Pepper
's military record doesn't reveal whether or not he actually did a stint of service in the old imperial colonies, the opening drone and shimmering sitar strum of "Within You Without You" which open Side Two of his musical record still never fail to sweep the listener straight up to the source of the Ganges on a cloud of incense smoke. Irrefutable evidence that George Harrison had not fully returned from his visit to 'the yogis of the Himalayas' and other parts of India.
A pattering tabla drum begins to mark a rhythm pattern.We were talking...
Whereas he'd been feeling tongue-tied and frustrated on "I Want To Tell You"
, and was just beginning to dip his toe into eastern music and ideology with "Love You To"
, George's immersion had been intense during the months following Revolver
, and here he was in full-flow.
All Indian classical musical is essentially 'sacred music': aspiring, in the course of its lengthy improvisations, to attune with the great universal vibration — ॐ
. The original cosmic jam sessions, you might say. With it having no manuscripted form, there are also no hang-ups about writing credits or copyright, so Ravi Shankar was happy enough about George lifting sections from one of his recordings as the basis for the song.
An Abbey Road Recital was arranged, with session players accompanying Messrs Harrison and Aspinall — on sitar and tambura respectively. As well as the ubiquitous tabla, we have the swarmandal zither and the bowed dilruba. One can only imagine engineers Emerick and Lush trying to work out how and where to set up the mikes between everyone sat round on the floor. 'A great swinging evening', observed John.
On every level, "Within You Without You" was an ambitious attempt to bring together East and West: philosophically, musically and technologically. 'He certainly gained my respect', observed George Martin. Three sections from two performances were subsequently spliced together to condense their peaks and pauses sufficiently to fit the five-minute pop song format (and, hey, five minutes was really pushing the format back then!) A nine-piece western strings section — GM arranged and conducted — was then overlaid. The resultant backing track, onto which the vocal was finally dubbed, is included on Anthology 2
Lyrically, GH eloquently summarises four-and-a-half thousand years of Hindu mysticism: a potted-guide to the key-teachings of generations of Gurus, simplified enough to be comprehended by western minds. Not a word is wasted: nothing is said that had not been meditated on a million times before. Every utterance is equally cosmic: loaded with clues and guidelines to start to make sense of the big questions. There's a repetition of the 'us or them' challenge of Rubber Soul
's "Think For Yourself"
— though the stakes are substantially higher: infinite, even. He handles the meticulously modulated vocal confidently, a spacious echo giving it an appropriately authoritative tone, somewhat lacking in Sonic Youth's cover version.
It fell to George Martin's son, Giles, to more effectively repackage it for later generations of musical pilgrims; blending
the message with the rhythms of "Tomorrow Never Knows"
for the Love
The increasing amounts of dope being smoked and acid being dropped in Europe and the States at the tail-end of the Sixties was getting a lot of people trying to look at the existence game from a different angle, and India seemed to offer many of the answers they were looking for. (For starters, they have a god called Shiva who spends most of his immortality smoking chillums!) Who can begin to count the number of VW Campers and Triumph bikes which began to trundle the 'Hippie Trail' from that summer onwards? Until all the borders got reclosed, or simply too dangerous to cross, that is — on account of a succession of invasions, wars and other barbarities: the very antithesis the caravan's ideals.With our love, we can save the world —
If they only knew...
Very few of his generation were as sincere in their quest as George Harrison, however — and fewer still as dedicated in its pursuit. A brief visit to The Haight's Hippie HQ at the height of 'the summer of love' was enough to show him that not all of the movement was interested in moving spiritually. All the same, he spent the rest of his life — well beyond Maharishi — quietly trying to live by his beliefs and to help, if not save, the world. When he passed from this dimension, his ashes were scattered into Shiva's Sacred River Ganges, his essence handed in for transcendental recycling.And the time will come
When you see we're all one,
And life flows on
Within you and without you...
"Nevertheless", he never sacrificed his sense of humour, did our Stig. The laughter at the close of the track was included at his request, so that the whole thing didn't come across as being too pretentious.