Within You, Without You
Writer: George Harrison
Mark Bittner: vocal, acoustic rhythm guitar
Beth Lyons: vocal
Bruce Kaphan: Weissenborn, percussion
Matthew Lacques: mandolin
Peter Lacques: harmonica
Paul Olguin: bass
Sri Raagini: electric tamboura
I seldom put it this way because it demands a lot of explanation (a detailed explanation is in the preface to the book): Street Song is about my personal experience of a spiritual high tide. These tides, which bring about immense changes, are recurrent and timeless. “Within You Without You” expresses the fundamental truth that animates these tides. Sometimes, when listening to Sgt. Pepper, I would skip over the song. Now I see it as one of the greatest songs of the 20th Century. It might not appeal to people who demand a steady diet of loud guitars and drums, but it is a brilliant song. George Harrison was familiar with the rules of Indian music and made an intelligent translation of them.
One day, around 15 years before I started these recordings, I wondered what scale Harrison had used for the melody. I found out that, in Western musical terms, it was the Mixolydian scale. The Mixolydian is used a lot in country, mountain, and bluegrass music, and I thought it would be amusing to give the song a chord structure that was typical of those types of music. (The original recording has no chords, but is played off of a drone note.)
Bruce Kaphan has a machine called the Raagini, which manufactures the tone of the Indian drone instrument, the tanpura. I liked the idea of starting with a tanpura drone while a hillbilly band gradually comes in from underneath. Bruce ran with the idea and created something much more sophisticated than I could have dreamed up. We recorded my acoustic guitar part and then Matthew Lacques’ mandolin. After that, we added Matthew’s brother Peter playing harmonica. Bruce added a Weissenborn, a Hawaiian instrument similar to a dobro, and percussion. Finally, we recorded Paul Olguin on bass.
With a Johnny Cash/June Carter kind of country music duet in mind, I flew my sister Beth down from Seattle to sing with me. I hadn’t heard her sing in decades, but she’d been telling me that she was singing around the Seattle area and going over very well. I took her word for it. I love the way this track came out.