Think for Yourself

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Cover versions and notes on The Beatles' song "Think for Yourself".

Written By: 
George Harrison
Primary Recording
The Beatles
Rubber Soul
Lead Vocal: 
George Harrison
Cover Versions
Amazon MP3: 
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Image of Think For Yourself
Manufacturer: RRO Entertainment
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Image of Think for Yourself
Manufacturer: Danny Colfax Mallon
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Alan W. Pollack's "Notes On"

Notes on "Think For Yourself" (TFY)

KEY     G Major/minor

METER   4/4

                 ------ 3X ------
FORM    Intro -> Verse -> Refrain -> Refrain ->
                Outro (Refrain + petit reprise w/complete ending)


Style and Form

- This song is extremely ambitious in its chord choices and progressions, as well as the rhythmic antiphonal counterpoint between its main vocal thread and supporting bassline.

- At the same time, its bluesy melodic motifs and flat, folksy formal outline make it a curious stylistic hybrid.

Melody and Harmony

- Though one can make a decent argument for the song's being ultimately in the key of G *Major* on the basis of predominant evidence, there is an exceeding amount of exposure given in it to the parallel minor mode of g. The latter is manifest in the frequent use of the bluesy bi-modal I chord (G with a B natural in an inner voice and B-flat in the melody) and a number of chords that properly belong only to g minor, *not* G Major; e.g. -- the minor v (d minor), flat-III (B-flat), and flat-VI (E-flat).

- Earlier we've seen both John and Paul play around with parallel Major/minor gambits for effect; most notably in "Things We Said Today" and "I'll Be Back". The game plan in both their cases, though, was to shift *between* the modes as a matter of contrast. George's usage here is to rather freely *blend* the Major and minor modes, creating a dissonant and unsettling (though not unpleasant) result that is neither quite really Major nor minor; an effect which, in retrospect, is uncannily resonant with the attitude and mood of the lyrics.

- Beyond mere chord choices the progressions here, as well, demand our attention, especially in the verse. In context of a pop/rock music genre in which the average song verse begins on I (or else begins on something like V and then moves quickly towards I), the opening progression of this song's verse is unusually indirect, and restlessly wandering. Again, while we've seen plenty of Lennon and McCartney songs with openings away from the I chord, George here carries the idea to a novel extreme.

- The melody is has a "Day Tripper"-like rhetorical rhythm about it, and is shot through with flat 3rds, flat 7ths, and appoggiaturas, all of which add a level of spice to the underlying harmonies. This full set of melodic characteristics is captured within the tag line of the refrain and refracted into a myriad of variations in the suncopated fills of the fuzztone:

   |think for    your-self   'cause|I won't be there with|you -----
   |G     B-flat G    B-flat  G    |F D     D  F     G   |B-flat  G


- The instrumental arrangement is most vivdly characterized by the sound of a so-called "fuzz tone bass" on the right stereo track (R) which, truth be told, does not carry the true bass part of the song, but rather selectively doubles the more conventional electric bass part one octave above.

- The subtle pattern of byplay between tambourine and maracas is modifed back and forth between verse and refrain in a way that by this point of their career was a veritable Beatles trademark if not cliche. If you take the effort focus in on this track in your listening you'll note an exquisite effect resulting from the way in which they go on their merry four-in-the-bar way in blissfully independent rhythmic dissonance against the slow triplets played out by the rest of the arrangement.

- George sings the lead vocal (automatically?) double-tracked throughout with each of the tracks isolated to one of the two respective stereo channels -- check this out! In the verses he's joined by Paul and John for three-part harmony in block chords on the even-numbered lines of the quatrain. In the refrain he gets to sing solo on only the first line, being joined by Paul (who is mixed very far back) singing rather free counterpoint for the remainder of the section.



- At first blush the intro seems like an almost inconsequential two measures worth of vamping on the I chord, but it does manage to quickly introduce a number of overall characteristics of the song: the fuzztone texture, the indeterminate Major/minor gender of the homekey (the fuzztone includes a B-flat in its riff but the underlying backing sounds Major), and the slow triplets:

beats:  |1      2       3       4       |1      2       3   4     1
bass:   |G      G       G       G       |G      G       G  G  G# |a
G:       I                               -

- The chromatic upshifting here from G to 'a' turns out retrospectively to anticipate what is the end of the refrain which loops always like a moebius strip into the next verse.

- Those slow triplets which more typically connote repetitive emphasis (think about the penultimate refrain in Buddy Holly's "That'll Be The Day" -- one of *the* UR slow triplets in all pop music) here tend to suggest a bit of emotionally overwraught stumbling; if not quite right off the bat in the intro, then certainly so by the time they recur in both verse and refrain.


- The verse is twelve measures long but unusually built out of two parallel phrases of six measures each:

G:      |a        |d         |B-flat    |C         |G         |-        |
         ii        v          flat-III   IV         I

        |a        |d         |B-flat    |C         |G         |a        |
         ii        v          flat-III   IV         V          ii

- The establishment of the homekey is delayed and roundabout. By the end of the first phrase that you finally do have a sense of arrival in G Major but until much before then it's a little like drifting (perhaps "thrashing" is more apropos) all over the map.

- The only harmonic difference in the second phrase happens in the last measure but it seriously erodes whatever harmonic "gratification" you may have experienced with the arrival on I this second time around.

- The juicy appoggiaturas in this verse are the 6-5 (B->A) over the d minor chord in measures 2 & 8, the 4-3 (C->B) on the G Major chord in measures 5 & 11, and the 9-8 (B->A) on the a minor chord in measure 12.

- Key your ears on the inter-relationship among the bassline, the chords and the tune. A favorite detail: the bassline's slow triplet in the second half of measure 2 comprises a downward scale fragment (E->D->C->B-flat) that uncannily resonantes with the similar downward scale fragment in the tune from measure 1. And a detail within a detail: the bassline in that same measure launches its scale fragment with a 9-8 appoggiatura just at the precise moment that the tune resolves its own 6-5 leaning tone, forcing the measure to continue its dissonant ways just as the tune would seem to have finally resolved itself:

                Words:  |word or two ...   |
                Tune:   |B     A A         |
                Chord:  |d minor           |
                Bass:   |D       E  D  C   |B-flat
                                 - triplet-


- The refrain is eight measures in length, and though it harmonically parses into two four-measure phrases, the tune parses it into three phrases all of which are roughly parallel (compare with the bridge of "Nowhere Man" where a similar melodic plan is more directly supported by the harmony):

        |"Do ... ... and|Go ...         |Think
        |Phrase #1 ---- |Phrase #2 ---- |Phrase #3 -------------------- |
        |C      |-      |G      |-      |E-flat |D      |G      |-      |
         IV              I               flat-VI V       I

- The formal "seam" at either end of this refrain is rather smoothed over by the way in which the music flows into and out of the section. More specifically, you'll note how the same game plan seen in the verses, of interjectory vocal phrases traded off against syncopated bass licks (many of which contain slow triplets), is continued right through here.

- A not unreasonable amount of bridge-like contrast still does manage to assert itself, partly in the arrangement, but even more so in the harmony. The harmonic rhythm of this section is noticeably slower here than in the verse, the minor mode is also more strongly felt here than earlier on. While I believe the backing parts are playing G Major chords underneath it all, the tune in this section gives unrelieved stress to B-flat. In fact I believe the G chords in this section should be labelled as Major/minor.

- The E-flat chord in measure 6 of this section is in the so-called second inversion ('aka' the 6/4 position); a rare occurrence in context of the Beatles output. Here, it shows up as an artifact of Paul's dramatic bassline flourish in measure 4 which starts on G, jumps up a third to B flat and then successively hops its way down a full octave below.


- The structure of this outro is an extended variation on the Beatles much favored gambit of using a three-time repeat to signal that It's Getting Very Near The End. In this case we have two iterations of the complete refrain followed by a petit-reprise of the last phrase in which the harmony is modified for the sake of making a better final cadence as well as to give to a fuzztone riff the very last word:

                |E-flat |D      |C      |G      ||
                 flat-VI V       IV      I

- Methinks Paul makes a bassline mistake right at the start of the second full iteration of the refrain; but I'll bet he figured if he kept going that no one would ever notice it :-)


- Talk about your preachy attitude ..., this song is surely the one in which Georgie really hits his stride. And it's uncanny that on the British (and theoretically canonical) lineup of _Rubber Soul_ it should follow on the heels of "Nowhere Man". I myself am somewhat divided in my feeling of whether such a sequencing actually helps or hurts our song. Your own mileage may vary, but think about how differently you react to this song when it follows "You Won't See Me".

- On a much more serious note, I wonder about the extent to which our song here supports the notion that George's oft-stated inner conflict between his own identity and that of his Beatles personna is nowhere more apprent than in his own music of this period. Indeed, for all of the unmistakable Harrisonian fingerprints one finds imprinted all over "Think For Yourself" (the restless and pungent harmonies in particular), the influence of Lennon and McCartney (as seen in certain cliches of the arrangement ) is equally hard to miss.

- Ironically one might argue that whatever personal conflict may have been engendered by this stylistic cross-blend it is ultimately a source of aesthetic strength and success. The metaphorical vision comes to mind of George, ever the quiet one, observing from the sidelines his more prolific mates at work; biding his time, drinking *their* wine, in fact, and in the meanwhile, quite subtly and unavoidably making it his *own* in some measure just the same.

Alan (

"You ought to stop being so scornful."                        042593#80

                Copyright (c) 1993 by Alan W. Pollack
                          All Rights Reserved

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