Within You Without You

Album: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
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  • George Harrison wrote this song and was the only Beatle to perform on it. The song is about how the answers are inside us, so we have to look within to find them. We can go to the mountaintop searching to find our truths, but that won't do any good if we're not searching within.

    It's also a reminder of our mortality and our place in the Universe, summarized in the last line: "Life flows on within you and without you."
  • An outlier on the Sgt. Pepper album, this song features Indian instruments played by Harrison and members of the Asian Music Circle, a collective in England that helped Harrison learn about Indian music. Harrison took an interest in Indian music when he was exposed to it on set in a restaurant scene from the 1965 Beatles move Help!. He bought a sitar that he played on the 1965 Rubber Soul track "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)," and then came under the tutelage of Ravi Shankar. Harrison used a sitar to write the 1966 Beatles song "Love You To," which was influenced by Indian music but also incorporated guitars and Western forms. "Within You Without You" was his first song to fully embrace Indian music and also to explore Eastern religion, which became a lifelong quest. Harrison believed in reincarnation, which helped him accept death in 2001 when he lost his life to cancer.
  • Harrison wrote this as a 30-minute piece that he trimmed down for the album. Speaking with Timothy White in 1992, he explained how he put the song together: "That was quite a complicated one at the time because it was done in three sections, and then I edited the three sections together. It had a solo instrumental in a 5/4 kind of tempo, which was very unusual. I suppose Dave Brubeck was the only person who ever played out of 4/4 or 3/4. See, this is the thing: In Western music, basically the tempo goes 4/4 or 3/4, and that's it. In Indian music they have 108 rhythm cycles, and they can even play in things like 7½. [Laughs.] It's quite complex, but I did learn this little piece, one of my exercises that I used to practice, that was in a 5/4 timing. So I did the solo in 'Within You Without You' into a 5/4, just to show how clever I was."
  • Harrison based this song on a piece by Ravi Shankar, who helped teach him the sitar. Harrison wrote his own lyrics and shortened it considerably.
  • The laughter at the end was Harrison's idea to lighten the mood and follow the theme of the album. Some people thought it indicated that the song was included on Sgt. Pepper as a joke.
  • This was the only song Harrison wrote that made it onto the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album. He also contributed "Only A Northern Song" (recorded in February of 1967 as verified by the Anthology 2 album), but it was left off the album at the last minute. It was initially intended to go on the first side of Sgt. Pepper between "She's Leaving Home" and "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Adrian - Wilmington, DE
  • Harrison would sometimes quote this song when talking about friends who died, as he believed they were still with us, just not physically. On the TV show Aspel & Company in 1988, he said this about John Lennon:

    "I think it's unfortunate the way he went out, but it doesn't really matter. He's okay, and life flows on within you and without you."

    In 1989, he said this when speaking to MTV news about Roy Orbison, his bandmate in the Traveling Wilburys who had recently passed on:

    "We love Roy, and we still do, and he's out there really, his spirit. Life flows on within you and without you, and he's around in his astral body."
  • In 2007, Oasis covered this for the BBC to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Other artists to cover the song include Sonic Youth and Patti Smith.
  • In the 2011 documentary The Material World, Sir George Martin says: "'Within You Without You' was not a commercial song by any means. But it was very interesting. [George Harrison] had a way of communicating music by the Indian system of kind of a separate language... the rhythms decided by the tabla player."

Comments: 59

  • Mark Dettra from United States Of AmericaIs there a recording of George's 30 minute rendition of this ?
  • Jeffrey Bickel from Allentown, PaDon't know if this has been covered but at 3:46 timestamp of the song you can hear one ah one, two.
  • Jerome from PhoenixWithin you Without you is clearly a toss-off to Harrison and his fascination with eastern religion. It certainly doesn't fit in with the overall pop orchestral nature of the album. It doesn't fit and should not have been included.
  • Ken from San Mateo, Cain memory of Ravi Shankar and his peaceful contributions to peace.
  • Julia from Milton, Pathe 7th one down made me so very sad.
  • Nicholas from Muskegon, United KingdomThis song is the first psychedelic song i heard and it is very good and also this with tomorrow never knows is Very Very good
  • Brian from Boston, MaThis is one F ed up song. It is just really to far out. I love Sgt. Peppers the CD was released for the first time in 1987 to commemorate the 20th anniversary.The newspapers and tv. had done stories on its' release praising the importance of the album in music history. I was 17 years old at the time and had very limited knowlege of the Beatles. I had not yet owned a cd player but was planning on buying one.The next day I borrowed the sgt peppers cassett tape from a friend. I went home smoked a small amount of marijuana and listened to it. I had never heard anything like it. Some of the songs were vaguely fimiliar but songs such as within you and without you Lucy in the sky and A day in the life were mind blowing. From that point on I was full fledged Beatles fan.I do not however care all that much for within you and without you. When i first heard it I was Intrigued but it is really just too far out to enjoy. Sgt. peppers is what made me a Beatles fan. I then got into the stones the who etc. What an album what a band
  • Maureen from Rochester, NyI always thought the laughing at the end was crying...that's what it sounds like to me.
  • Hebusjebus from America, GaThis song is a metaphor much like the idea of reincarnation and karma. The world turns without regard or patience for what lives within her. She much like us is alive and has many things to do. The only destiny is the one we create here in life. Reincarnation and Karma are canonized as death because that's the only way to get peoples attention. Both concepts actually are detailed maps of conscious to subconscious transformation to help ease the suffering of the world.
    Be the change you want to see in the world.
    -some guy named ghandi
  • Vishal from Kansas City, MoI think since George Harrison believed in reincarnation, he refers to soul as life in this song. Soul is alive inside your body (within you) and after you die (without you). Through this song,
    he wants us look at the big picture in life.
    This is such a deep meaningful song. I liked it a lot the first time I heard it.
  • David from Lawren, MaA True Work of Art!
  • Giovanni from Lynhurst, NjWithin You Without You", One of George Harrison full excursions to Classical Indian music with it's fusing of pop music and psychedelic rock. The textures are a mix between Indian instruments and western strings . It's in three three large section and is in 5/4 time.
  • K from Nowhere, OnSomewhere between the middle and the end of the song (sorry, I can't help any more, I'm listening to Lovely Rita now) in the pause, you can hear "one, two-" before George starts singing again.
  • Breanna from Henderson, NvI love this song! It's brillant just like the artist.
  • Kara from Philadelphia, Pathis is a truly beautiful song and it gives me the chills each time i listen to it. it wasn't a waste, jeff...it added george's character to the album and i'm sorry you're not open minded enough to accept that. amazing with or without drugs, however you like :) it also sounded really great dubbed in with "tomorrow never knows" on the LOVE album...both mind blowing songs that really make you think
  • Ryan from Boston, MaThought this was interesting as I was reading for a class and one particular phrase in the passage struck me and reminded me of this song:

    "As a man in the arms of his beloved is not aware of what is without and what is within, so a person in union with the Self[in Hinduism, the force the unifies everything] is not aware of what is without and what is within, for in that unitive state all desires find their perfect fulfillment. There is no other desire that needs to be fulfilled, and no one goes beyond sorrow" (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, from The Upanishads, tr. Eknath Easwasran (Nilgiri Press, 1987) p. 45)

    This text, the Upanishads, are widely studied in Hinduism and are one of the sacred texts of the religion, and this passage could have been the inspiration for the title, since the passage and its context is strikingly similar to the topic of the song and Harrison was a believer in reincarnation, a very Eastern idea coming from Hinduism.
  • Kdrpnd from Mumbai, Indiathe hand drums that are being referred are actually called TABLAS..
    If u want to listen more, search youtube....Ustad Zakir Hussain is one of the greatest players of it these days.....
  • Blair from Nowhere, NhWhat a masterpiece of songwriting.
  • Ryan from Portage, InWhen I focus on this song it gives me these realizations (stated only in my opinion):

    1) Life is a continuous rythym that flows through you like streams of music. If and when you become out of sync, your life is thrown away, but nobody is there to notice.

    2)We are fragile creations, but at the same time strong-willed. We open our minds to let the waters of life flow in, but too much water can overflow our head with nonsense, so we must continually put a hold on self-realization.

    3)Nobody, NOBODY, can change beliefs but you, and your creator.
  • Nady from Adelaide, AustraliaThis song is art. It's absolutley gorgeous, timless. BEAUTIFUL. George was beautiful.
  • Ken from Louisville, KyNone of the other Beatles are on this track, but Neil Aspinal joined in as one of the tambura players.
  • Sean from Milford, Pahey, george was a great song wirter as well, just not as pronounced. he wrote here comes the sun, whcih is a masterpiece. and i happen to think this is one of the best spngs on this album
  • Caleb from Burton, United StatesJohn and paul were the real great song writers, but george had his moments. i really like " while my guitar gently weeps"
  • Jeff from Austin, TxA waste of 3 minutes on one of the greatest albums ever recorded.
  • Julia from Nelsonville, OhI ABSOLUTELY LOVE♥ THIS SONG!!!...i have seen a video on youtube of Ravi Shankar teaching George how to play the sitar...its an amazing instument, and i wish i could learn how to play it.
  • Andrew from Bartlett, TnWithin You Without You is a great song by The Beatles. George Harrison is one of the greatest songwriter. One of my favorites on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
  • Ken from Louisville, KyOn a television special about Sergeant Pepper hosted by George Martin in the 1990's, George said in an interview that this was more of an "indulgence" than a Beatles song.

  • Peter Griffin from Quahog, RiPoor George, he got laughed at for his music...
  • Dirk from Nashville, TnThat was Dirk from Frederick, Maryland. Not to be confused with Dirk from Nashville... who would never condone the use of mind altering chemicals. Shame on you, Dirk from Frederick, Md. My young namesake, you may be interested to learn that when George Harrison heard of the San Fransisco hippie scene of the Summer of Love in 1967, he couldn't wait to go see it with his own eyes. Sgt. Pepper had just been released. Magical Mystery Tour was in the works. And the Beatles were the coolest and hippest creatures on Planet Earth. So that summer, George and his very young wife Patty and good friend Derek flew from England to San Fransisco to "make the scene," as we used to say. They dropped acid and went out to walk in the park among the young flower children of San Fran. But George was so appalled by what he saw and experienced--filthy kids and rude drunken behavior, that he couldn't wait to get out of there, and subsequently swore off LSD forever.
  • Dirk from Frederick, MdThis is the best song to trip to with a psychedelic substance. Very earthly and natural sound with deep lyrics. The hand drums feel like they peirce right to the brain...and the opening of the song about blows my mind
  • Joey R from Boston, MaI can't understand how people can not see the true beauty and genius in this song. Although I like If I needed Someone, and Taxman, this was Clearly George's first CLASSIC song. I think it's the best thing he's ever written.
  • David from Youngstown, OhGeorge Harrison contributed some of the Beatles' best material - Here Comes the Sun, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Piggies, Something, It's All Too Much, Love You To, Taxman. This song is not even close to being on that lengthy list. Long, hard to make out the lyrics and just not good.
  • Siddharth from Bangalore, Indiawell said, dirk. brilliant, really
  • Krista from Elyria, OhGeorge does it again! OMG He's so cute!
  • Buzz from Towntown, MiYou know what I find you tedious and out of place buddy, if you don't realize how great this song is then you're a fool.
  • Jim from Philadelphia, PaI always felt the lyrics were deep, but it was so hard getting through this song. But now it grew on me. Definitely not my favorite off the album, but I'm not dreading the end of "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite". Damn you Beatles. Even your songs that I thought I hate grow on me.
  • Joe from Montvale, NjThe song has great lyrics and it has that unique fusion of classical Indian music with a string arrangement. The song is one of the many Mixolydian mode songs the Beatles did and it also mixes meters at times.
  • Vickie from Sydney, AustraliaHas anyone heard the version of this song on the new Beatles Love album? It's the same lyrics and music but also added is the backing music from "Tomorrow Never Knows". George Martin arranged them this way as they were two Beatles song that were individually on the same key. It totally rocks. Love it !
  • Guillermo from Miami, Flgreat lyrics,music sucks ,should have never been a pepper song
  • Akshay from Allahabad, IndiaI am indian and i dont like indian classical music .But i like this ,haunting melody,beautiful song.
  • Fyodor from Denver, CoI previously thought that the laughter was meant to depict people having fun in a superficial, outter way (ie, living in the material world) and thus not paying attention to the inner issues discussed in the song. In other words, gaining the world and losing their souls. I hope the description here of Harrison's intent is wrong, but I think I've read it elsewhere.
  • Julian from Anaheim, CaIn my opinion, George's best song as a Beatle!
  • Lee from Clearwater, FlI know that MIke, I wrote it without thinking. Are you any kin to Adrian?
  • Mike from Germantown, MdThis is Indian Music, not Middle Eastern!
  • Sylvia from London, England Heck yes. Love ya, Georgie!!! He totally flippin' rocks.
  • Ydur from Knoxville, TnIf you have the LP of Sgt. Peppers, the words in the title (in bold letters) "WITHOUT YOU" spring from "Paul"'s head. "Paul" is backwards on the back cover, as Paul couldn't be there because of his rigor mortis. The quotations around "Paul" in this blurb are meant to distinguish him from the look alike imposter which replaced him... "JUST KIDDING"!
  • Pete from Oak Park, Ilthis song is about hinduism. I remember my world history played it for us when we were studying hinduism. I don't fully remember, but I'm pretty sure "within you without out you" is referring to everything spiritual all being part of one big aura. I really like this song, its my favorite on Sgt. Peppers, but that's not saying very much cuz i like a lot of the songs on this album
  • Dirk from Nashville, TnThe interesting thing about this song to me is how alien to our Western ears it is, and yet how unlike traditional Indian music it is. If you listen to an Indian raga, they are whispy and float in different directions. Very beautiful, but sort of like the musical equivalent of a conversation you might have with a friend. But George's song is really, really just like a Beatle song, despite being dressed up in saris and orange silk. With the strong violins, there's no mystery about where the melody is going or should go. It just goes there. Kind of like "If I Needed Someone."
  • Maureen from London, EnglandI really like this song. It's a good song , the music is great, the vocals are fabulous, and the lyrics are brilliant.
  • Rick from San Juan, United StatesThe laughter heard at the end of "Within You Without You" was interpreted as the audience laughing at George in disapproval of his strange music.
  • Ashleigh from Hammond, InI agree with RJ. I hated this song at first, but after listening to it a couple of times, it really grows on you. I think it completely fits with Pepper, simply because Pepper is really just a bunch of random tracks thrown together, but in the end, it's brilliant. If you want to talk about something that doesn't belong on Pepper, point to that Good Morning Good Morning BS. Now that's a crappy song.
  • Warn from Kulgroos, CanadaI really find this song tedious, long, and WAY out of place on a lighthearted album like Sgt. Pepper.
  • Brett from Watertown, SdGreat song by a great man, one of the most under-credited musicians of all time. The lost beatle if u will
  • Rj from Rockville Centre, NyOne of my top 3 songs on Sgt. Pepper's. "Within You Without You" features some of the most introspective lyrics any of the Beatles ever wrote...hats off to Harrison for this one. I didn't like this song at first, but it really grew on me after listening to Sgt. Pepper's a few more times.
  • Joe from West Creek, NjI love George's Indian influence in the band, and this is his absolute masterpiece. George Martin also deserves a lot of credit for his gorgeously brilliant string arrangement too. Probably my favorite on Sgt Pepper besides John's master works like "Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite".
  • Marc from Philadelphia, PaSteven Stills had the lyrics to this song carved on a stone monument outside his home
  • Dan from Pittsburgh, PaThis song doesn't get enough credit, the heavy philosophical lyrics are excellent.
  • Jason Lee from New York, NyDefinetely my favorite song on the album.
  • Randy from Beaumont, TxCredit the genius sir George Martin for bridging the gap arranging strins (cellos) to fit with the context of indian music... a great merge of western and eastern music, not an easy task
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