The Paul McCartney Project

The Inner Light

Written by George Harrison

Album This song officially appears on the Lady Madonna / The Inner Light 7" Single.
Timeline This song has been officially released in 1968
Sessions This song has been recorded during the following sessions

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Song facts

From Wikipedia:

The Inner Light” is a song by the English rock group the Beatles, written by George Harrison. It was released on a non-album single in March 1968, as the B-side to “Lady Madonna“. The song was the first Harrison composition to be featured on a Beatles single and reflects the band’s embrace of Transcendental Meditation and his continued interest in Indian classical music. It is the last of three Indian-style tracks he wrote for the Beatles, after “Love You To” and “Within You Without You“. The lyrics are a rendering of a poem from the Taoist Tao Te Ching, which Harrison set to music on the recommendation of Juan Mascaró, a Sanskrit scholar who had translated the passage in his 1958 book Lamps of Fire. The song became a comparative rarity among the Beatles’ recordings in the decade following its release; it has subsequently appeared on compilation albums such as Rarities, Past Masters, Volume Two and Mono Masters.

Harrison recorded the instrumental track for “The Inner Light” in India in January 1968, during the sessions for his Wonderwall Music soundtrack album. The only Beatles studio recording to be made outside Europe, the song introduced instruments such as sarod, shehnai and pakhavaj to the band’s sound and features contributions from Indian classical musicians including Aashish Khan, Hanuman Jadev and Hariprasad Chaurasia. Aside from Harrison’s lead vocal, recorded in London, the Beatles’ only contribution came in the form of group backing vocals at the end of the song.

Among music critics, “The Inner Light” has received praise for its melodic qualities and for its evocation of the meditation experience. Jeff Lynne and Anoushka Shankar performed the song at the Concert for George tribute in November 2002, a year after Harrison’s death. An alternative take of the 1968 instrumental track was released in 2014 on the remastered Wonderwall Music CD. […]

Recording

Bombay

Having used London-based Indian musicians from the Asian Music Circle on “Love You To” and “Within You Without You“, Harrison recorded “The Inner Light” in India with some of the country’s foremost contemporary classical players. In early January 1968, he travelled to HMV Studios in Bombay to record part of the score for Wonderwall, much of which would appear on his debut solo album, Wonderwall Music. The day after completing the soundtrack recordings, on 13 January, Harrison taped additional pieces for possible later use, one of which was the instrumental track for “The Inner Light“. Five takes of the song were recorded on a two-track recorder.

The musicians on the track were Aashish Khan (sarod), Mahapurush Misra (pakhavaj), Hanuman Jadev (shehnai), Hariprasad Chaurasia (bansuri) and Rijram Desad (harmonium). In Lavezzoli’s estimation, although these instruments are more commonly associated with the Hindustani discipline, the performers play them in a South Indian style, which adds to the Carnatic identity of the song. The recording features tabla tarang over the quiet, vocal interludes. Author Simon Leng refutes the presence of the oboe-like shehnai, however, saying that this part was played on an esraj, a bow-played string instrument. As with the Wonderwall selections recorded at HMV, Harrison directed the musicians but did not perform on the instrumental track.

London

Harrison completed the song in London during sessions for a new Beatles single, which was intended to cover their absence while the group were in Rishikesh, India, with the Maharishi. Once the Bombay recording had been transferred to four-track tape, Harrison recorded his vocal part for “The Inner Light” on 6 February, at EMI’s Abbey Road Studios. Lacking confidence in his ability to sing in so high a register, he had to be coaxed by Lennon and Paul McCartney into delivering the requisite performance. Two days later, McCartney and Lennon overdubbed backing vocals at the very end of the song, over the words “Do all without doing“.

The Inner Light” was held in high regard by Harrison’s bandmates, particularly McCartney, and was selected as the B-side for the forthcoming single. It was the first Harrison composition to appear on a Beatles single, in addition to being the only Beatles studio recording made outside Europe. Everett writes that Lennon’s admiration for the track was evident from his subsequent creation of the song “Julia” through “a very parallel process” – in that instance, by adapting a work by Kahlil Gibran. Although Harrison had served as the producer at the Bombay session, only George Martin received a production credit for “The Inner Light“. […]

From The Usenet Guide to Beatles Recording Variations:

  • [a] mono 8 Feb 1968.
    UK: Parlophone R5675 single 1968, Parlophone PSLP 261 and PCM 1001 Rarities 1978-79.
    US: Capitol 2138 single 1968, Capitol SHAL-12060 Rarities 1980.
    CD: EMI single 1989.
  • [b] stereo 27 Jan 1970.
    UK: Parlophone SGE 1 (EP) 1981.
    CD: EMI CDP 7 90044 2 Past Masters 2 1988.

The stereo mix sat unused for a long time!

During the opening instrumental section, a mystery instrument that may be a shehnai is different and better in mono [a]: in its first section, it is stronger, lasts longer, and rises at the end, where in stereo [b] it is less complex and trails off. If the mono version is using some sort of edit piece or overdub, which seems likely, they missed it when doing the stereo mix two years later.

Last updated on December 1, 2016

Lyrics

Without going out of my door
I can know all things of earth
Without looking out of my window
I could know the ways of heaven
The farther one travels
The less one knows
The less one really knows

Without going out of your door
You can know all things on earth
Without looking out of your window
You could know the ways of heaven
The farther one travels
The less one knows
The less one really knows

Arrive without traveling
See all without looking
Do all without doing

Officially appears on


Lady Madonna / The Inner Light

7" Single • Released in 1968

2:35 • Studio versionA

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals
John Lennon:
Backing vocals
George Harrison:
Vocals
George Martin:
Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer
Hanuman Jadev:
Shehnai
Hariprasad Chaurasia:
Flute
Mahapurush Misra:
Pakavaj, Tabla
Sharad Ghosh:
Shehnai
SR Kenkare:
Flute
Ashish Khan:
Sarod
Rij Ram Desad:
Harmonium
JP Sen:
Engineer
SN Gupta:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Jan 12, 1968
Studio:
EMI Recording Studio, Bombay, India

Session Overdubs:
Feb 06, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio One, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Feb 06, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio One, Abbey Road


The Beatles

EP • Released in 1981

2:39 • Studio versionB

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals
John Lennon:
Backing vocals
George Harrison:
Vocals
George Martin:
Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer
Hanuman Jadev:
Shehnai
Hariprasad Chaurasia:
Flute
Mahapurush Misra:
Pakavaj, Tabla
Sharad Ghosh:
Shehnai
SR Kenkare:
Flute
Ashish Khan:
Sarod
Rij Ram Desad:
Harmonium
JP Sen:
Engineer
SN Gupta:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Jan 12, 1968
Studio:
EMI Recording Studio, Bombay, India

Session Overdubs:
Feb 06, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio One, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Jan 27, 1970
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


Past Masters

Official album • Released in 1988

2:36 • Studio versionB

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals
John Lennon:
Backing vocals
George Harrison:
Vocals
George Martin:
Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer
Hanuman Jadev:
Shehnai
Hariprasad Chaurasia:
Flute
Mahapurush Misra:
Pakavaj, Tabla
Sharad Ghosh:
Shehnai
SR Kenkare:
Flute
Ashish Khan:
Sarod
Rij Ram Desad:
Harmonium
JP Sen:
Engineer
SN Gupta:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Jan 12, 1968
Studio:
EMI Recording Studio, Bombay, India

Session Overdubs:
Feb 06, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio One, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Jan 27, 1970
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


The Beatles (2018)

Official album • Released in 2018

Outtake • Take 6 – Instrumental backing track

Bootlegs


White Album Sessions Volume 2

Unofficial album

1:34 • Studio version • Takes 2 & 3, 5 & 8 Mono


White Album Sessions Volume 2

Unofficial album

2:38 • Studio version • Take 5 Stereo


White Album Sessions Volume 2

Unofficial album

1:19 • Studio version • RS From Take 5 Stereo


A/B Road Complete Get Back Sessions - Jan 28th, 1969 - 1 & 2

Unofficial album • Released in 2004

0:35 • Rehearsal • Jan.28 - D2-10 - The Inner Light 28.16

Session Recording:
Jan 28, 1969
Studio:
Apple Studios, 3 Savile Row, London

Live performances

Paul McCartney has never played this song in concert.


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