When was it recorded? Mar. 15 & 22 and Apr. 3-4, 1967
When was it first released, and on which album? Jun. 1, 1967 on “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”
Who wrote it? Harrison
Have I heard this song before? Yes
What my research dug up:
“One of George’s best songs. One of my favorites of his, too. He’s clear on that song. His mind and his music are clear. There is his innate talent; he brought that sound together.” — John Lennon (David Sheff, All We Are Saying)
Quoth Alan Pollack, “Along with ‘Love You To’ and ‘The Inner Light,’ [‘Within You Without You’} represents George’s most unabashed, full-blown, and unadulterated embrace of the Indian musical style.” It’s also George’s only composition on the “Sgt. Pepper” album.
George reportedly composed “Within You Without You” on the harmonium of German artist Klaus Voormann (who designed the album cover for “Revolver”) following a dinner party at his home. The Beatles Bible points out, “Clear references to the counterculture (‘Are you one of them?’) and the LSD-related ego death (‘And to see you’re really only very small and life flows on within you and without you’) can be found amid the more other-worldly exploration of spiritual philosophy and religious teachings.”
“‘Within You Without You’ came about after I had spent a bit of time in India and fallen under the spell of the country and its music. I had brought back a lot of instruments. It was written at Klaus Voormann’s house in Hampstead after dinner one night. The song came to me when I was playing a pedal harmonium. I’d also spent a lot of time with Ravi Shankar, trying to figure out how to sit and hold the sitar, and how to play it. ‘Within You Without You’ was a song that I wrote based upon a piece of music of Ravi’s that he’d recorded for All-India Radio. It was a very long piece — maybe 30 or 40 minutes — and was written in different parts, with a progression in each. I wrote a mini version of it, using sounds similar to those I’d discovered in his piece. I recorded in three segments and spliced them together later.” — George Harrison
George also said the laughter at the end of the song was “meant to lighten the mood after five minutes of sad, almost mournful, music” (Beatles Bible).
Also According to the Beatles Bible, “George Harrison was the only Beatle present during the recording of ‘Within You Without You.’ He and Neil Aspinall played tamburas while Indian musicians performed traditional instruments.” The Beatles Bible also notes, “The Indian musicians’ names are not known, but they were recruited from the Asian Music Circle in Finchley, north London.”
Originally recorded under the title “Untitled,” George and his musicians started recording “Within You Without You” on Mar. 15, 1967. They completed only one take this day, but it was good enough to use. Two dilrubas were overdubbed Mar. 22.
On Apr. 3, George Martin’s string part score was added and George Harrison recorded his lead vocals, a sitar part, and an acoustic guitar part.
Kind of like “When I’m Sixty-Four,” “Within You Without You” was recorded in the key of C and sped up enough to raise the key into C#. An instrumental version of the song in the original key at the original speed appeared on 1995’s “Anthology 2.”
And so, the album version goes…