Beatles – Within You Without You

As Van Morrison would say…Into The Mystic… this song off of Sgt Pepper was a George Harrison song…and he was the only Beatle on it… This is about as sixties as you can get with the sitar and philosophical lyrics.

This was a brilliant addition to Sgt Pepper to show yet another side to the Beatles.

It’s hard to overestimate how profound of an effect that the introduction to Eastern religion had on George Harrison. Under the name of Sam Wells, George, along with his wife Pattie, vacationed in Bombay, India for six weeks, beginning on September 20th, 1966. At the suggestion of Ravi Shankar, from whom he was going to take sitar lessons while there, he grew a mustache as a subtle disguise so as to ward off any Indian “Beatlemaniacs” that may have been around in the area.

The book Autobiography Of A Yogi really changed his life and mind. It influenced his writing of songs like Within You Without You’ and many others. George started to write this song on a pedal harmonium at friend Klaus Voormann’s home.

During the recording, George was there with Indian musicians and they had a carpet on the floor and there was incense burning.

At George Harrison’s request, they added a small bit of laughter at the end of the song as it faded out to lighten the mood a bit.

John Lennon: “I think that is one of George’s best songs, one of my favorites of his. I like the arrangement, the sound and the words. He is clear on that song. You can hear his mind is clear and his music is clear. It’s his innate talent that comes through on that song, that brought that song together. George is responsible for Indian music getting over here. That song is a good example.”


From Songfacts

Although this song is billed as being recorded by the Beatles, George Harrison was the only Beatle to play on the track. There is no guitar or bass, but there are some hand-drums.

Harrison spent weeks looking for musicians to play the Indian instruments used on this. It was especially difficult because Indian musicians could not read Western music.

This is based on a piece by Indian musician Ravi Shankar, who helped teach Harrison the sitar. Harrison wrote his own lyrics and shortened it considerably.

Harrison wrote this as a 30-minute piece. He trimmed it down into a mini-version for the album.

This was the only song Harrison wrote that made it onto the album. He also contributed “Only A Northern Song” (recorded in February of 1967 as verified by the Anthology 2 album), but it was left off the album at the last minute. It was initially intended to go on the first side of Sgt. Pepper between “She’s Leaving Home” and “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite.” >>

This was one of Harrison’s first songs to explore Eastern religion, which would become a lifelong quest. He believed in reincarnation, which helped him accept death in 2001, when he lost his life to cancer.

Oasis covered this for the BBC to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

This is the second Indian classical-influenced song that George Harrison wrote for the Beatles, the first being “Love You To.”

“Now “Within You/Without You” was not a commercial song by any means. But it was very interesting. [George Harrison] had a way of communicating music by the Indian system of kind of a separate language… the rhythms decided by the tabla player.” –Sir George Martin, from the documentary The Material World.

Within You Without You

We were talking
About the space between us all
And the people
Who hide themselves behind a wall of illusion
Never glimpse the truth
Then 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 see we’re all one
And life flows on within you and without you



Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

18 thoughts on “Beatles – Within You Without You”

  1. I admit this was my least favorite “Pepper” tune when I first got the album- mainly I guess because I was fifteen and this song was so different from what I was used to- but I grew to love it quickly. And the laughter at the end -perfect.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It had to grow on me also. It’s not one you can just start whistling right away after you hear it. It’s one of those I have to be in the mood for…yes the laughter did it’s job.
      George did really well with the lyrics for this one.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Great song…that album was so eclectic but so good, start to finish (well save for the 8 seconds or so at the very end!). Didn’ t know George was only 1 of them on it…that was something!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Didn’t like the play out groove Dave? lol… I do like that they tried to do something different for the fans but it does get annoying.


    1. I really like that one also. It’s a shame that The Inner Light wasn’t on an original album…That is some of his best lyrics.


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