“Within You Without You” by The Beatles
Perhaps the best way to describe “Within You Without You” is as it being the Beatles’ version of a religious song. Some members of the crew famously had issues with the dominant religion of their homeland, that being Christianity. And during the era in which “Within You Without You” came out, the song writer’s, George Harrison, had become sort of the spiritual guru of the group. And with that being noted, this song is basically an expression of the related transformation of his worldview which he was experiencing at the time.
A Hindu Inspired Song
The lyrics and even sound of this track were heavily influenced by traditional Hindu belief. And this was because Harrison was a staunch adherent of the religion from around the time “Within You Without You” came out even until, to varying degrees, his dying days.
As such, the song proved to be a type which the Beatles did not normally record. And considering that they were the most-famous band in the world at the time, it also proved to be a revolutionary experience for many of their fans.
But in the present day, some 50 years later, such ideas – due partially to the efforts of this very tune – have become more mainstream in the West. That is to say that the concepts Mr. Harrison is espousing would not sound so alien to a modern-day listener. And whereas the philosophy he is putting forth may have its own unique name(s) in Hinduism, what it all basically boils down to is three main ideas.
Three Key Ideas in “Within You Without You”
First of all, he is stating that people need to love each other more. Such notions were especially popular in the 1960s and even more so during the summer of 1967 – with “Within You Without You” being released in June of that year – i.e. the Summer of Love.
Secondly, he is putting forth an idea like the answer to life’s problems can be found within the individual him or herself. You see, Harrison wrote this song after spending a good six weeks meditating. And said practice is meant to lead to an important concept in Hinduism, that being the realization of self-knowledge. So more to the point, it is the concept of self-knowledge which the band is speaking to.
Then lastly we can say, in true religious fashion, that the singer is criticizing materialism. Indeed in doing so he even loosely quotes Jesus himself. But that particular aspect of the song’s philosophy is the least expounded on. Rather the overall implication is that in order for a person to freely love and realize self-knowledge, he/she must become less attached to the things of the world which will deter him from reaching such a state.
Meaning of Title (“Within You Without You”)
And as for the title of the track, it is apparently speaking to that selfsame concept. Or stated otherwise, George is encouraging the listener to go “within” themself. And at the same time, in order to successfully do so he would have to be “without” themself. And to be “without” themself involves casting aside one’s normal worldly concerns, which is one of the well-recognized keys to effectively meditating.
So conclusively, we can see that there’s a lot of deep stuff going on in this song. And as the years progressed, it is not entirely uncommon for a pop artist to drop tunes featuring similar messages of all-encompassing love and conscientious introspection in the name of reaching a heightened spiritual state. But in a lot of ways “Within You Without You”, even though it was not well-received by all of the Beatles fans, can be said to be the origin of that trend in modern Western music.
Facts about “Within You Without You”
This song was released, via Parlophone Records, on the 1st of June 1967. And it is part of what many people believe to be the Beatles’ greatest album (if not the greatest album of all time), “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. FYI, the classic album in question also came out that year.
The writer of “Within You Without You” is the Beatles’ own George Harrison (1943-2001). This is the only song on the album which he wrote.
Moreover he did not actually record the song with his bandmates. Instead he provided the vocals himself and utilized the talents of a London-based collective known as the Asian Music Circle. And they were buttressed – under the direction of George Martin, the producer of the track – by the London Symphony Orchestra.
Additionally, “Within You Without You” is unique in that it features a sound influenced by Indian traditional music, complete with instruments indigenous to that part of the world such as the tabla, dilruba and sitar. And in doing so, he created something drastically different from the Beatles’ usual sound. Moreover during the recording session, he and the participants actually redesigned the studio like a Hindu temple.
The laughter at the end of the track was inserted by George Harrison himself and was recorded at the Abbey Road library.
A number of artists have covered this song throughout the years. Perhaps most notably Oasis during the BBC’s 40th anniversary celebration of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” in 2007.