When was it recorded? Sept. 29-30 and Oct. 26, 1964
When was it first released, and on which album? Dec. 4, 1964 on “Beatles for Sale”
Who wrote it? McCartney
Have I heard this song before? No
What my research dug up:
Quoth Richie Unterberger, “While ‘What You’re Doing’ is one of the Beatles’ more obscure mid-1960s songs, in later years it would come to be appreciated by some as one of their more musically interesting early recordings.”
Typical for the period, Paul wrote “What You’re Doing” during a rift with Jane Asher. Lyrically, he played with internal rhyming schemes on this song. Frequently Paul rhymes “a single, two-syllable word with two one-syllable words (i.e. “Look what you’re doing, I’m feeling blue and lonely…You got me runnin’, and there’s no fun in it…”)” (Wikipedia), like another “Beatles for Sale” track, “She’s a Woman.”
More curiosities alluded to Unterberger include the solo drum pattern used to open and close the track and the distorted guitar solo. According to the Beatles Bible, the saloon-esque piano part plus the “bass break before the ending also showed The Beatles testing out ideas and establishing recording techniques which they would later use to dazzling effect.”
The Fab Four began recorded “What You’re Doing” on Sept. 29, 1964. They taped seven rhythm track takes that day and five the next day. According to the Beatles Bible, “At this stage the instrumental break was an octave higher, and there was a brief pause before the coda.”
The band came back to the song a month later, recording seven takes (with only three complete takes). The final take was used for the album. “What You’re Doing” was the last song to be recorded for “Beatles for Sale” and only one of eight original songs on the album.
I adored this song! What a gem, especially in the context of “Beatles for Sale.” I usually joke about a song I’ve listened to not making my list of new favorites, but this one does.