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
For the next six months, with Beth feeding me, I went into deep inner struggle, trying to understand who I am and what I should do. This song represents that period. One day around 20 years ago I became curious about the scale Harrison had used to compose this song. I discovered that it was the mixolydian (with one small occasional variation), which is used in a lot of mountain and bluegrass type songs, as well as other types of music. “Within You, Without You” is not the kind of song you can just pull your guitar out and play, though, and I thought it would be amusing to apply some typically folk/mountain music chords to the melody. I liked the idea of a hillbilly singing a song about cosmic consciousness. It was a little difficult in that the song has some funny time shifts here and there.
The basic track has me playing the chords on acoustic guitar. Then we added Matthew Lacques on mandolin and his brother Peter Lacques on harmonica. My sister, Beth Lyons, has been performing around the Seattle area, and is being well-received. I decided to fly her down and have the song be a duet, sort of in the Johnny Cash/June Carter mold. Sometimes we traded lines, sometimes we sang in unison, and sometimes in harmony. We treated the song seriously. Although it’s in a folk/country/bluegrass format, we sang it straight and respectfully. No twang or funny voices. Beth and I sang together some when we were young, but I hadn’t heard her in decades. I took her word for it that she was singing well, and she exceeded my expectations.
After Beth returned home, Bruce Kaphan added a part on the Weissenborn, a Hawaiian guitar that’s much like a dobro. Then, for percussion, he added body slaps. Finally Paul Olguin added his bass and the song was done. The song turned out very well. It’s propulsive and genre appropriate without sounding imitative or mocking. After we’d finished recording, I realized how appropriate it was that Beth sang on this one, given that she’d supported me during the period this track is supposed to represent.
Judy Irving made a video for the song, which makes its debut here. It was shot almost entirely in the Telegraph Hill/North Beach area in San Francisco.