Day 112: “I Want to Tell You”

When was it recorded?  Jun. 2-3, 1966

When was it first released, and on which album?  Aug. 5, 1966 on “Revolver”

Who wrote it?  Harrison

Have I heard this song before?  Absolutely

What my research dug up:

“I Want to Tell You” is, according to George, “about the avalanche of thoughts that are so hard to write down or say or transmit” (Wikipeda). Quoth Alan Pollack, “This is very much a typical Hari-song; replete with a hard and high anxiety in the lyrics that is further manifested in the musical fabric by dissonance, both harmonic and rhythmic. We’re talking about serious illness of ease.” Beatles Bible commenter Michael also points out, “This is one of three George ‘I’ songs. It was almost as if he were trying to interject. Given the power of Lennon-McCartney, I suppose that’s exactly what he was doing?” Oh George.

Of lyrical note is the bridge of “I Want to Tell You” – “But if I seem to act unkind / it’s only me, it’s not my mind / that is confusing things.” Mostly, I draw attention to it since George later wished to change it. According to George, “The mind is the thing that hops about telling us to do this and do that — when what we need is to lose (forget) the mind.” We’ll come back to this thought.

Quoth Wikipedia, “The dissonance is… further enhanced by the rare use of an E7♭9 chord (at 0.46-0.53 secs). This chord has been termed ‘one of the most legendary in the entire Beatles catalogue.’” When asked about its use, George said, “The song was about the frustration we all feel about trying to communicate certain things with just words. I realized that the chords I knew at the time just didn’t capture that feeling. I came up with this dissonant chord that really echoed that sense of frustration.”

Musicologist Walter Everett was more amused by Paul’s “finger-tapping impatience” on the piano during the line, “I don’t mind… I could wait forever. I’ve got time.”

While George excelled at composing songs, composing titles for his songs was not his strongest suit. The band began recording this song Jun. 2, 1966, and Mark Lewisohn recorded this exchange before the first take.

Martin: What are you going to call it, George?

Harrison: I don’t know.

Lennon: Granny Smith Part Friggin’ Two! You’ve never had a title for any of your songs!

“Granny Smith” was the working title of “Love You To.” To play off the former song, engineer Geoff Emerick called this track “Laxton’s Superb” (another apple strain).

George Martin later asked George Harrison if he had a different title planned. Harrison’s response of “I don’t know” became the track’s second working title.

The Beatles recorded five takes of “I Want to Tell You” on Jun. 2 then added overdubs the next day.

“One really got the impression that George was being given a certain amount of time to do his tracks whereas the others could spend as long as they wanted. One felt under more pressure when doing one of George’s songs.” — Geoff Emerick (Mark Lewisohn, The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions)

Quoth Wikipedia, “An upbeat live version of the song opens Harrison’s ‘Live In Japan’ album, recorded and released in 1992. Harrison and bandmate Eric Clapton extend the song with a few guitar solos.” George also used the opportunity to switch the lyrics mentioned above during the bridge.  [Enjoy “Old Brown Shoe” while you’re at it, too.  It’ll be a while before I get to talk about that one.]




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