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*2.12-LOVE YOU TO (Beatles)

George Harrison
George Harrison

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[Intro]

Each day just goes so fast
I turn around - it's past.
You don't get time to hang a sign on me.

        Love me while you can
        Before I'm a dead old man.

A lifetime is so short.
A new one can't be bought
But what you've got means such a lot to me.

        Make love all day long.
        Make love singing songs.

[Break]

        [Chorus]

There's people standing round
Who'll screw you in the ground.
They'll fill you in with all their sins you'll see.

        I'll make love to you
        If you want me to.

[Coda]


RevolverThe U.S. received three tracks from the Revolver project (the aforementioned Dr. Robert, And Your Bird Can Sing and I’m Only Sleeping) before its official issuance, as these tracks were included on the album Yesterday and Today. All three of these tracks could be considered as participating in the psychedelic aesthetic and their exclusion from the U.S. Revolver release made the album have a different feel. Though it probably has as much psychedelic music as its contemporary albums, the Yardbirds’ Over Under Sideways Down (or Roger the Engineer), and the Byrds’ Fifth Dimension, the Beatles album also is not, as a whole, any more a psychedelic than those two albums. The Yardbirds mixed psychedelic cuts with blues and boogie woogie songs; the Byrds mixed their psychedelia with folk rock. The Beatles mixed the psychedelic cuts of Revolver with pop (Good Day Sunshine; Got To Get You Into My Life) and pop art (Eleanor Rigby). The psychedelic aesthetic was as yet too young to have it dominate an entire album, or more than half an album.

Love You To is the first of a three songs written and recorded by George Harrison that respected the Indian musical forms that accompanied the use of the sitar. The other two are the Sgt. Pepper track titled Within You and Without You, and the flip side of Lady Madonna, titled Inner Light. Few rock musicians attempted the instrument, and none in the psychedelic period, outside the Incredible String Band, truly submitted to the tradition and introduced it in such a manner as to attract the ears of Western popular music fans. (However, Harrison reflects the discipline needed to play the instrument, while the Incredible String Band proceeded as "noble savages", rendering something interesting out of the instrument by their very innocence.) Most serious sitar music of the period, including that promoted by Yehudi Menuhin and Ravi Shankar, remained within the classical tradition rather than in pop culture.

Despite Harrison's seriousness of purpose, sitar music has its critics. Jon Borgzinner wrote in How a shy pandit became a pop hero, Life 63 (August 18, 1967), pp. 36-37: “The rock ‘n rollers, when they took to the sitar sound, were not headed toward meditation. The sitar simply gave them a new sound—farther out than any they knew, something that was literally out of their world. The exotic beauty seemed to touch them. And in the short-circuit world of electrically amplified rock, a smash hit is practically guaranteed when people cannot tell just how a sound is made.” In remembrance of the period, everything about Indian music was dwarfed beside its association with drugs. The two became linked into what is usually referred to as “the Indian music fad.” As one journalist assessed the situation [Gene Lees, Rock, raga and the cop-out, Hi Fi / Musical America 17 (July 1967), p. 82-83]: “The raga fad is in fact closely linked with the psychedelic sadness—so much so that the self-made chemical madman Timothy Leary is a frequent source of liner notes these days." However, I believe George Harrison's work with sitar music is of a higher quality than any other in the pop music of the psychedelic period. Most sitar music was actually another electric instrument altered to sound like a sitar, from the raga tunings of the Byrds to the “electric sitar” –a guitar with its sound processed to approximate the sound of a sitar, as featured by the Box Tops in The Letter. With few exceptions, raga and the sitar did not coexist in pop music outside George Harrison. Donovan would find successful use of it for his Sunshine Superman album backing Eastern influenced gypsy forms; the Hollies did a wonderful song called Maker that seemed an expert use of sitar. But usually the sitar was used merely for "color", as Brian Jones used it in Paint It Black, or Eric Burdon would dub it in for Monterey.

Harrison took lessons from the Indian master Ravi Shankar, and practiced several hours a day between 1965 and 1968. The Indian sitar is an extremely demanding instrument to master, and by the time Love You To was recorded in 1966, Harrison was still a beginner. He therefore hired musicians from North London Asian Music Centre to help out on the recording. Unfortunately, these musicians were not credited on the record, with the exception of tabla player Anil Bhagwat. Outside of an electric rhythm guitar and tambourine, there are no other Western instruments in Love You To but a fuzztone electric guitar that Harrison used to punctuate every other bar of the chorus with a bass drone reminiscent of the croaking sounds made by Tibetan monks in prayer. The other Beatles were only minimally involved with the recording, if at all.

Though Harrison lyrics, influenced by Eastern poetic traditions, sound a bit stuffy to Western ears, the philosophical atmosphere of his sitar works, rare in popular music, is to be admired. The lyrics reflect a young man persuading his listeners to enjoy their erotic nature while they can. It's difficult to believe in this day and age, but "make love all day long" was once considered rather risqué, and "they'll screw you in the ground" was flirting with censorship in 1966. Such a statement struck the listener at the time as more blasphemous given the spiritual nature of the song. Harrison's first take on use of the sitar seemed to be for lovers, devotees of the Kama Sutra. He seems to have found in Hindu philosophy freedom from Western evaluations of sex as sin. The phrase "love you to" [do what?] is not actually in the song for which it bears the title, but exists in the lyric as "love to you". "Love to you" of course is a direct emotion, but "love you to" seeks to persuade the listener toward some sort of action.

Both the lyrical verses and the musical interludes (beginning, middle and coda) are strictly classical in their development and display an extraordinary sense of artistic balance. The choral verse is only repeated twice (on either side of the midsection instrumental) while other choruses have unique lyrics. The lyrics of Love You To seem to lag a bit in comparison to the song’s musical realization, but Harrison would improve in his latter two sitar compositions with lyrics true to the nature of Eastern mysticism, in which the words themselves are essential to the musical development of the song. Still, Love You To is a great leap forward from Norwegian Wood, which is as far as most rock musicians ever wanted to take the sitar, as accompanying exotic color to a Western musical genre.

It is worth noting that Love You To was the first of the recordings of the Revolver album to be completed, on April 11, 1966. However, it was not the first song the Beatles recorded for Revolver. Work began on Tomorrow Never Knows on April 6th, but the song required quite a bit of engineering work and wasn't completed in the studio until April 22nd after three recording sessions. Love You To was recorded all in one day. George Harrison was ready.

Sitar music, the basis of several of George Harrison's psychedelic compositions, is indeed unique to the psychedelic period due to the fact that no other pop music has developed it any further, and also for the reason that sitar music offered at the time an alternative to the perspective of "Western Civilization", an escape from the received history of European culture. Harrison's compositions were respectful adaptations of Indian sacred and folk music. Unlike most use of sitar by other artists, Harrison's technique with the sitar goes deeper than the surface with some understanding of the structure and purpose of Indian music.

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