Apparently none of the other Beatles bothered to turn up today to work on George’s new song, as yet untitled but eventually to become “Within You Without You.” Or maybe they weren’t invited. Instead George collaborated with members of a group called the Asian Music Circle and Beatles aide-de-camp Neil Aspinall to record a bunch of Indian instruments including the aforementioned tambura, tablas, the dilruba (a bowed string instrument), and a type of harp that I’ve seen variously rendered as svarmandal, swarmandal, swaramandal and swordmandel. Strings scored by George Martin would later be added, making for an interesting East/West crossover.

Even the most casual listener is likely to notice that “Within You Without You” exists in a different musical universe from the rest of Sgt. Pepper, and it appears that George was on a very different wavelength from the rest of the band at this point. The combination of whatever drugs he was taking and heavy doses of Eastern philosophy seem to have blown his mind a bit, leading him to make statements like the following:

We’re all one. The realization of human love reciprocated is such a gas. It’s a good vibration which makes you feel good. These vibrations that you get through yoga, cosmic chants, and things like that. I mean it’s such a buzz…. It buzzes you right into the astral plane.

And, you know, more power to him. I think it came from a sincere place and that he genuinely wanted to share the wonderful things he’d discovered with the world. At this remove, though, the lyrics to “Within You Without You” come off just a little bit smug.

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?

Translation: “My groovy friends and I really pity all you poor bastards who are not as spiritual and turned-on as us.” But in actually listening to the song it’s fairly easy to put all that aside and just enjoy the pleasant wash of sound (there’s an instrumental version on Anthology 2 that makes it even easier). Certainly “Within You Without You” introduced many Western listeners to an entirely new and different kind of music, and for that George deserves a lot of credit. At least one of his bandmates liked it too.

One of George’s best songs. One of my favourites 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

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