George Harrison and Ravi Shankar
George Harrison & Ravi Shankar



We were talking
about the space between us all
and the people
who hide themselves behind a wall
of illusion
and a glimpse the truth
when it's far too late
when they pass away.

We were talking
about the love we all could share,
when we find it
to try our best to hold it there.
With our love, with our love
we could save the world.
If they only knew!

         Try to realize it's all within yourself
         no one else can make you change.
         And to see you're really only very small,
         and life flows on within you and without you.


We were talking
about the love that's gone so cold
and the people
who gain the world and lose their soul.
They don't know.
They can't see.
Are you one of them?

         When you've seen beyond yourself
         then you may find peace of mind is waiting there.
         And the time will come when you’ll see we’re all one
         and life flows on within you and without you.

Within You and Without You was the last song to be recorded for Sgt. Pepper, and the only song that George Harrison wrote that was accepted for the album. (Harrison’s sarcastic Only a Northern Song was rejected for the project, but included in the Yellow Submarine soundtrack album.) Though John Lennon & George Harrison were closer to each other in psychedelic and spiritual temperament than either of them to McCartney‘s version of psychedelia, and Harrison’s tambura was included in two other songs on the album (Lucy and Getting Better), Harrison seems to be less involved in this project than he had been in Revolver, or would be in subsequent Beatles albums. For Revolver, Harrison had been the first to record a cut for the album, and it was his Indian tune Love You To. He contributed two other songs to the project as well. Now, for whatever reason, Harrison’s song is last up in the project. The only side he shows of himself in Sgt. Pepper is his seriousness of purpose in writing raga-based music, and here, he seems so skilled and understanding of traditional Indian musical forms that he now sounds more in league with the later art works of Philip Glass with Ravi Shankar than with popular song. Within You and Without You is written in a sacred mode unlikely to appear on a rock album.

It is perhaps for this reason that Within You and Without You was much maligned, even when it was first released. People who were partying to Sgt. Pepper's fanciful flights didn’t want to be preached to, and the Hindu sacred texts alluded to in Within You and Without You take a tone unfamiliar to Christian audiences: the desire for enlightenment in this song replaces the desire to be forgiven for our weaknesses. It is a big picture song suggesting a superior man who is able to see the truth from a great height, and Harrison turns the audience’s attention away for the ego and its personal narrative to an overview--revealed by LSD and sacred scripture--where one’s own importance is “very small”. Harrison perhaps realized he needed to “lighten up” for Sgt. Pepper’s costume party, and brought Within You and Without You to a close with loud guffaws and yucks. However he needn’t have been apologetic. This was the message of the psychedelic era, or at least one of the most important ones: that we needed to shed our egos if we wanted peace in the world.

The composition of Within You and Without You is exquisitely detailed, with a lengthy melodic line and a trio performance of strings (arranged by George Martin). Harrison is featured on sitar and Neil Aspinall on tamboura. Uncredited Indian musicians provide swarmandal, dilruba, tabla, and tambura. The lengthy instrumental break maintains interest through the development of theme and variety of texture. It is a pity that the work has not assumed greater stature in pop music history, because it is the best of all examples of raga in the psychedelic period. It may not be raga rock, but there’s nothing like it in its professional, respectful and complex presentation of the Indian tradition. Within You and Without You was also the best of Harrison’s own recorded explorations of the Indian raga form. He would release just one other raga, Inner Light, as the B side of the Beatles’ Lady Madonna. With Inner Light Harrison paired a more secular sound to a Hindu wisdom text, and scaled down the ashram-like spirituality that Within and Without You had evoked.