Notes on "Love You to" (LYT)
KEY c minor ("dorian" mode)
----- 2X ----
FORM Intro -> Verse/Refrain -> Sitar Solo ->
Verse/Refrain -> Outro (fadeout)
GENERAL POINTS OF INTEREST
Style and Form
- One of the most curious side-bars on the history of music in the
late 60s has to be the apparently sudden flashpoint of interest in, and
influence of, the so-called Classical Music of India. The Beatles,
George in particular, were prime catalysts of this faddish phenomenon,
and a song like our "Love You To" can hardly be talked about without
some consideration of the historical context.
- At the time it seemed like many people who, just the week before
had never seen a sitar or heard of Ravi Shankar, were running out,
overnight, to buy what we nowadays call "world music" recordings,
tickets to rug concerts, and even authentic instruments. Eventually
(if not in very short order) this was, alas, for most folks, an even
more short-lived fad and greater source of retrospective disappointment
than Nehru suits. But it was hot while it lasted.
- No one should have been surprised. Indian music, for a number of
reasons, is a not so easily-acquired taste for Western ears as it
may appear on the surface. Sure, the externals are pleasing and
psychadellically seductive enough and all that, but the lack of harmonic
movement can quickly bore, and the melodic focus on freely improvised
detail-within-a-subtle-framework calls for a trained ear.
- Hell, I did a year of graduate study of this music (back in '72-73)
and worked hard in order to learning how to appreciate it, but it
demanded both difficult cognitive "study" as well as an aesthetic
soulful "stretch". The music is not only built out of unfamiliar
techniques, but is also reflective of a different world outlook --
think about the extent to which harmony in Western music implies
"teliogical movement or progress", and, by contrast, the extent to
which detailed elaboration over a drone conjures a so-very-different
mood of quiet contemplation of the word without-and-within. It's
a chutzpah for the Westerner to expect to confront this stuff without
sincere and patient preparation.
- "Love You To" was so novel when it first appeared that it was "cool"
practically by default. After all, how many of us at the time even
had a clue what to make of it, or to what it could or should be
compared? The song's openly Indian flavor of goes far beyond the
superficialities of an added sitar and some static, droney harmony,
which, by the time _Revolver_ was released, had already been exploited
by not just the Beatles but other groups, as well; look, for example,
at the Stones' "Paint it Black."
- Here, in LYT, we find a genuinely Indian-stylied usage of mode, melody,
rhythm and instrumentation. Even the form, which otherwise maintains a
"neo-classical" boxy rock form preserves the Indian convention of an
out-of-tempo improvised slow intro.
Melody and Harmony
- The "ragas" from which the melodic material of Indian music is drawn
go concpetually beyond the simpler concept of scale or mode to include
characteristic riffs, and division of the scale into two regions. And
in the melodic department, this song proves to be quite authentic; the
mode is (to lapse into Western terminology) quite Dorian, the riffs
both recurrent and tending to appear in either one half of the scale
or the other.
- The harmony is simply a drone with ocassional implied oscillations toward
the flat-VII chord. The Major/minor modality of the home key is left
ambiguous by the open-fifth quality of the drone, in spite of the fact
that the sitar part features the minor 3rd quite prominently.
- Though there may be more involvement of the Beatles, "themselves",
on this track than, say, "Eleanor Rigby"
it hardly seems to matter,
though, does it? Yes, indeed, Ringo adds a tambourine in the
second verse, and it might actually be John or Paul adding that
fuzztone-like electronic embellishment of the flat-VII chord,
but that's about it. Paul supposedly contributed a backing vocal
but that was mixed out of the final track. The overall effect of
the arrangement is one of George having imported a group of real-thing
studio musicians directly from Bombay; pre-echoes of
"The Inner Light"
- Two comments about this song in Lewisohn's _Recording Session_ cry
out for rebuttal. In the first place, he blithely asserts, from
the fact that no studio sitar player appears credited on the
album, that it just might be George playing the ornate solo
part. I don't think so. Frankly, there is no way I can imagine
that George at the time of this recording could have had one
tenth of the chops required for this performance. Goodness,
Lewisohn himself recants this blooper in _Chronicles_.
- His other mistake has to do with his unchallenging quote of one of
the studio musicans as having been asked by George to play the rhythm
track in "Ravi Shankar style, 16 beats" (i.e. straight four in the bar).
Even if Lewisohn *did* hear this on the studio tape, he should have
sufficient musical awareness of what is actually played on the tape
to question this. Indeed, you only need to tap (or try to tap)
your foot along with this number to note just how tricky the
meter is; with ocassional 3-beat measures thrown in among the
otherwise, ahem, 4/4 texture.
- This intro features a slow, drawn-out exploration of the basic melodic
motifs of what is to follow that is stylistically geniune and effective.
Damn it, the opening scale glissandos, the tentative noodling, and that
lone F#, no matter how exotic an impression they may make, are unfortunately
out of place, but what can you do.
- Though performed in a manner that suggests completely free improvisation,
the intro is easily parsed into a number of subsections:
- two repeats of the eleven note downward C major scale; C -> G, an
- fragmentary attempts at establishing a tune; following that
C->F#->G red herring of a start, the lower half of the C-dorian
scale is exposed by way of a motif which goes: C->D->E flat->
D->C->B flat (slow slide)->C.
- The C-dorian motif evolves but shortly breaks off and segues into ...
- ... the 'a tempo' main song; of which, we'll chalk up two measures
of four-in-the-bar vamping to the end of this section.
- This section is ten measures long and breaks up into eight measures
of verse, proper, followed by a two-measure lead-in to the refrain.
The verse itself parses into an AAA' pattern which fills 2+2+4 bars.
However, two subtle details belie what would otherwise be a simple
enough structure for your mind to grok:
- The melody, which up through the first six measures almost
plods along in equal quarter note values, breaks into neatly
syncopated melissma (e.g. on the word "me") that temporarily
weakens your sense of where the downbeat is located. Unless
you tap it out carefully, you might never notice that the
melissma ends on the weak 4th beat of measure eight, literally,
one beat ahead of the sitar hook. Notice, too, how the
drop out of the drum part in measures 7 and 8 serves to
heighten the effect.
- The first of the two-measure lead-in to the refrain is
in 3/4 time! The identical hook phrase appears a couple
measures within the refrain where it fills a regular 4/4
bar, so you'd almost never notice this irregularity in
the lead in; by try counting in fours out loud and see
what happens :-)
- The tune has a nice melodic arch shape, though in relation to the
tonic note, it is centered on the high-center-of-gravity 5th degree of
- The refrain is six measures long and features a call-and-response
exchange between George and the sitarist.
- The fourth of the six measures is in 3/4 time, and just as in the
verse, this one-beat-short measure is filled by the same sitar hook.
- This is very much the high point of the song. The sitar solo is both
melodically *and* rhythmically ornate, as well as exotically "authentic."
- The meter feels even less predictable here than it does in the verse
or refrain. Part of me suspects that the solo section is "supposed to
be" modeled on the same metric pattern, or at least the same total
number of beats as the verse+refrain. Nevertheless, I find that even
after determinedly repeated listenings, I am unable to clearly discern
in this solo section the expected pattern of 4/4 measures punctuated
by the ocassional one in 3/4, heard earlier on. The total number of beats
don't match either. One's attempt to get to the bottom of this is made
still more difficult by the teasing way in which the sitar line is
rhythmically declaimed in "irrational" (e.g. 7-against-4) groupings
over the steady underlying beat.
- The outro sort of picks up where the solo section left off, with
a sense of growing rhythmic abandon that continues right into the
fadeout, suggesting that in the studio, this bit of jamming could
have gone on for quite a while.
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS
- It's a bit too easy for us at this distance of time to underestimate
just how much personal courage this coming out of the closet as an
impassioned devotee of Indian music required of George. Alas,
this fragile first offering is not entirely successful, and over the
long run, I dare imagine that George himself must have felt at some
point that he had steered himself into a cul-de-sac.
- IMHO, "Love You To" has two primary weaknesses which I cannot avoid
seeing no matter how much I honestly enjoy the song:
- the limited extent to which the East/West musical elements are
blended -- there's an oil-and-water kind of separate awkwardness
here borne of naivte and inexperience rather than craft. George
was smart enough to rely on well-trained studio help to lend an air
of authenticity to the procedings. Indeed, this song is never more
successful when it is at its most authentic, but the flip side of this
is that the value added by these outsiders rather upstages whatever it
is that George himself has to offer.
- the fatal negativity of the typically Harrisonian lyrics -- the classical
Indian tradition is lyrically drenched in Song-of-Song-like allegories
of religious yearning and ecstasy cast in imagery that is at once both
transcendentally mysterious and exquisitely sensual and erotic. George's
embittered pout over dead-old-men and people who'll screw you in the
ground smacks way too much of "Positively 4th Street" for the
- George would persist for another two years or so following this song
to offer both similarly "genuine" Indian efforts
(e.g. "Within You Without You" and
"The Inner Light") as well as attempts at Indian-
Western fusion (e.g. "Blue Jay Way" and
"It's All Too Much".) As
we eventually examine all those songs in this series, I predict a
remarkable paradox will emerge:
The genuinely Indian stuff is so pungently inflected that it's nigh
impossible for the Westerner to do it "right" without appearing
affected; yet at the other extreme, it's when the Westerner tries to be
most creatively original and fusionistic about it, that he comes across
at his most stilted.
- In this sense, it gives me a great sense of relief to know that
George could move on in the end to the likes of
"Here Comes the Sun. But don't get me
wrong -- George drove that car
as far as he could before abandoning it "somewhere out West," and for
that he deserves more than a patronizing token amount of credit.
"Ah, very good, that George." 081494#95
Copyright (c) 1994 by Alan W. Pollack
All Rights Reserved
This article may be reproduced, retransmitted, redistributed and
otherwise propagated at will, provided that this notice remains
intact and in place.