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notes on ...

Notes on "Love You To"

 





Notes on ... Series #95 (LYT)
  by Alan W. Pollack
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       Key: c minor ("Dorian" mode)
     Meter: 4/4
                   ------ 2X -------
      Form: Intro | Verse / Refrain | Sitar Solo |
                  | Verse / Refrain | Outro (fade-out)
        CD: "Revolver", Track 4 (Parlophone CDP7 46441-2)
        CD: "Yellow Submarine Songtrack", Track 4 (EMI 5 21481-2)
  Recorded: 11th April 1966, Abbey Road 2;
            13th April 1966, Abbey Road 3
UK-release: 5th August 1966 (LP "Revolver")
US-release: 8th August 1966 (LP "Revolver")
 
1

General Points of Interest

 

Style and Form

  Next note One of the most curious side-bars on the history of music in the late sixties has to be the apparently sudden flash point 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.
  Next note 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.
  Next note 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 psychedelically 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.
  Next note Hell, I did a year of graduate study of this music (back in 1972-1973) 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 "teleological 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 world without-and-within. It's a chutzpah for the Westerner to expect to confront this stuff without sincere and patient preparation.
  Next note "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 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".
  Next note Here, in "Love You To", we find a genuinely Indian-styled 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

  Next note The "ragas" from which the melodic material of Indian music is drawn go conceptually 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.
  Next note The harmony is simply a drone with occasional 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 third quite prominently.
 

Arrangement

  Next note 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".
  Next note 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 musicians as having been asked by George to play the rhythm track in "Ravi Shankar style, sixteen 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 occasional three-beat measures thrown in among the otherwise, ahem, 4/4 texture.
2

Section-by-Section Walkthrough

 

Intro

  Next note This intro features a slow, drawn-out exploration of the basic melodic motifs of what is to follow that is stylistically genuine 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.
  Next note 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 octave and half below.
  • 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.
 

Verse

  Next note 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:
  Next note The melody, which up through the first six measures almost plods along in equal quarter note values, breaks into neatly syncopated melisma (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 melisma ends on the weak fourth 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.
  Next note 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; but try counting in fours out loud and see what happens :-)
  Next note The tune has a nice melodic arch shape, though in relation to the tonic note, it is centered on the high-center-of-gravity fifth degree of the scale.
 

Refrain

  Next note The refrain is six measures long and features a call-and-response exchange between George and the sitarist.
  Next note 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.
 

Sitar Solo

  Next note This is very much the high point of the song. The sitar solo is both melodically and rhythmically ornate, as well as exotically "authentic".
  Next note 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 occasional 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. seven-against-four) groupings over the steady underlying beat.
 

Outro

  Next note The outro sort of picks up where the solo section left off, with a sense of growing rhythmic abandon that continues right into the fade-out, suggesting that in the studio, this bit of jamming could have gone on for quite a while.
3

Some Final Thoughts

  Next note 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.
  Next note In my humble opinion, "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 naïveté and inexperience rather than craft. George was smart enough to rely on well-trained studio help to lend an air of authenticity to the proceedings. 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 cross-cultural context.
  Next note 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.
  Next note 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 "Something" and "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.
  Regards,
  Alan (081494#95)
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Copyright © 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.