The Paul McCartney Project

What You're Doing

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Album This song officially appears on the Beatles For Sale (Mono) Official album.
Timeline This song has been officially released in 1964
Sessions This song has been recorded during the following sessions

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Song facts

From Wikipedia:

What You’re Doing” is a song by the Beatles written by Paul McCartney (credited to Lennon–McCartney). One of eight originals of fourteen songs on the 1964 album Beatles for Sale, it also appeared on the 1965 U.S album Beatles VI.

Music

The song begins, uncommonly for the band, with a drum intro. It is followed by a guitar sequence used throughout the song as an ostinato figure after each verse. The atmosphere of the song is heavily syncopated.

According to Richie Unterberger, the performance includes a “chiming 12-string guitar that sounds uncannily like the kind of sounds that became identified with the Byrds’ Roger McGuinn, although ‘What You’re Doing’ was recorded in late 1964, about six months before the Byrds became famous with ‘Mr. Tambourine Man.’

The song lacks a chorus, so the verses become the melodic focus of the song. In the first half of the verse, the ostinato figure continues to play and the first word of each line is punctuated by exclamatory background vocals. The second half of each verse is harmonized with “oohs“, and the ostinato figure begins before the last line finishes. The overlapping of the ostinato figure contributes to the slightly disordered feel of the song. Each verse ends with a repetition of the phrase:

There is a bridge that occurs twice to provide a reprieve from the more anxious verses and an instrumental breakdown with a double-tracked guitar solo and a tumbling piano keeping rhythm underneath.

Lyrics

The lyrics are generally believed to concern McCartney’s relationship with Jane Asher. Between McCartney and Lennon, McCartney had typically been the more optimistic of the two when it came to songwriting. However, with this song he is expressing feelings of loneliness and doubt in his relationship, a theme he would be forced to develop more over time as his relationship soured, with songs like I’m Looking Through You and You Won’t See Me from Rubber Soul, and For No One from Revolver.

Throughout the song, McCartney adds to the rhyme scheme by combining a single, two-syllable word with two one-syllable words (i.e. “Look what you’re doing, I’m feeling blue and lonely…You got me runnin’, and there’s no fun in it…“), a technique he also used on She’s a Woman which was also recorded during the Beatles For Sale sessions. […]

Sampling

This song is sampled as part of a medley of “Drive My Car” / “The Word” / “What You’re Doing” on the November 2006 remix album Love. “What You’re Doing” shares a number of characteristics with (the also predominantly McCartney-written) “Drive My Car”, particularly the home key (D major), meter (4/4), and chord progression (alternating between B minor and G major).

Paul McCartney, in Many Years From Now, by Barry Miles:

What You’re Doing was a bit of a filler. I think it was a little more mine than John’s, but I don’t have a very clear recollection so to be on the safe side I’d put it as 50-50. It doesn’t sound like an idea that I remember John offering, so it sounds like a way to get a song started, some of them are just that. ‘Hey, what’cha doing?’ You sometimes start a song and hope the best bit will arrive by the time you get to the chorus… but sometimes that’s all you get, and I suspect this was one of them. Maybe it’s a better recording than it is a song, some of them are. Sometimes a good recording would enhance the song.

From The Usenet Guide to Beatles Recording Variations:

  • [a] mono [27 Oct 1964 – Edit]
    UK: Parlophone PMC 1240 For Sale 1964.
    US: Capitol T 2358 Beatles VI 1965.
    CD: EMI CDP 7 46438 2 For Sale 1987.
  • [b] stereo [27 Oct 1964 – Edit]
    UK: Parlophone PCS 3062 For Sale 1964.
    US: Capitol ST 2358 Beatles VI 1965.

[b] has a handclap in the intro missing in [a], and the drum and rhythm track is mixed softer.

Last updated on March 12, 2016

Lyrics

Look what you're doing
I'm feeling blue and lonely
Would it be too much to ask of you
What you're doing to me?

You got me running
And there's no fun in it
Why should it be so much to ask of you
What you're doing to me?

I've been waiting here for you
Wondering what you're gonna do
And should you need a love that's true
It's me

Please, stop your lying
You've got me crying, girl
Why should it be so much to ask of you
What you're doing to me?

I've been waiting here for you
Wondering what you're gonna do
And should you need a love that's true
It's me

Please, stop your lying
You've got me crying, girl
Why should it be so much to ask of you
What you're doing to me?

What you're doing to me
What you're doing to me

Officially appears on


Beatles For Sale (Mono)

Official album • Released in 1964

2:30 • Studio versionA • Mono

Paul McCartney:
Bass, Vocals
Ringo Starr:
Drums
John Lennon:
Acoustic rhythm guitar, Harmony vocals
George Harrison:
Harmony vocals, Lead guitar
George Martin:
Piano, Producer
Norman Smith:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Sep 29, 1964
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Recording:
Sep 30, 1964
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Recording:
Oct 26, 1964
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Oct 27, 1964
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


Beatles For Sale (Stereo)

Official album • Released in 1964

2:30 • Studio versionB • Stereo

Paul McCartney:
Bass, Vocals
Ringo Starr:
Drums
John Lennon:
Acoustic rhythm guitar, Harmony vocals
George Harrison:
Harmony vocals, Lead guitar
George Martin:
Piano, Producer
Norman Smith:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Sep 29, 1964
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Recording:
Sep 30, 1964
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Recording:
Oct 26, 1964
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Oct 27, 1964
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


Beatles VI (Mono)

Official album • Released in 1965

2:30 • Studio versionA • Mono

Paul McCartney:
Bass, Vocals
Ringo Starr:
Drums
John Lennon:
Acoustic rhythm guitar, Harmony vocals
George Harrison:
Harmony vocals, Lead guitar
George Martin:
Piano, Producer
Norman Smith:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Sep 29, 1964
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Recording:
Sep 30, 1964
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Recording:
Oct 26, 1964
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Oct 27, 1964
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


Beatles VI (Stereo)

Official album • Released in 1965

2:30 • Studio versionB • Stereo

Paul McCartney:
Bass, Vocals
Ringo Starr:
Drums
John Lennon:
Acoustic rhythm guitar, Harmony vocals
George Harrison:
Harmony vocals, Lead guitar
George Martin:
Piano, Producer
Norman Smith:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Sep 29, 1964
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Recording:
Sep 30, 1964
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Recording:
Oct 26, 1964
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Oct 27, 1964
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


Love

Official album • Released in 2006

0:00 • Studio version • As reported, the medley features the guitar solo from "Taxman" and the horns section from "Savoy Truffle".

George Martin:
Producer
Giles Martin:
Producer
Paul Hicks:
Remix engineer
Sam Okell:
Remix engineer assistant
Chris Bolster:
Remix engineer assistant
Mirek Stiles:
Remix engineer assistant

Session Mixing:
Circa 2004-2006
Studio:
EMI Studios, Abbey Road

Bootlegs


Beatles For Sale - Studio Sessions - Back To Basics

Unofficial album • Released in 2011

2:13 • Alternate take • Stereo • Take 11

Session Recording:
Sep 30, 1964
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


Beatles For Sale - Studio Sessions - Back To Basics

Unofficial album • Released in 2011

0:21 • Alternate take • unknown Take Stereo

Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


Beatles For Sale - Studio Sessions - Back To Basics

Unofficial album • Released in 2011

0:21 • Alternate take • unknown Take - clean VHS mix Mono

Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Live performances

Paul McCartney has never played this song in concert.


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