Think For yourself - Reviews

Quoted from The Beatles As Musicians - The Quarry Men through Rubber Soul: p.330

As he did for Help!, Harrison contributed two songs to Rubber Soul and he would write three for the following LP. In "Think for Yourself," he returns from the light pop sound of "I Need You", "You Like Me Too Much" and "If I Needed Someone" to the nasty, cynical world of "Don't Bother Me".

As in numerous other songs from Rubber Soul, vocal tracks are split between the two channels. On the left are heard bass, drums, and Harrison's rhythm part for Strat from the basic track (at which point the song was still called "Won't Be There with You") and a vocal track with all three singers, Harrison leading. (The three-part minor-mode vocals remind this listener of an early-l 965 British nonhit, "Lonely Room" by Mal Ryder & the Spirits.) On the right is heard Lennon's organ from the basic track, plus an overdub track of three more vocals with tambourine, maraca, and Paul's fuzz bass. McCartney simply doubles his bass line on the "fuzz bass", which part is played on the Casino plugged into a distortion box that overloads the signal with an intermediate amplifier rigged by the AIR engineers so that irregular resonances in the circuit are highly amplified as strong formants approaching a square wave; the long-sustaining dirty timbre suggests all of the lyric's bitter qualities [1].

Although primitive in comparison, the relatively ornate bass line added to George's song here predicts an important factor in what will make "Something" so elegant in 1969. Despite all of the apparent work, no tape-to-tape reduction (bouncing down the tracks in a second generation to make way for additional parts) would have been necessary; the second of the two overdubbed vocal tracks simply wiped a guide vocal that had originally taken that place. The original four-track working tape of "Think for Yourself" was copied and digitally scrubbed in 1999 for a pristine hearing on Yellow Submarine song track.

Recalling the modal quality as well as the acerbic tone of "Don't Bother Me" - "Think for Yourself" has an ambiguous tonal coloring. All of the total chromatic, except for C#, is a chord member: the G major scale is commonly ornamented with chromatic passing tone G# (A-1 [0:03]); Bb and F appear by virtue of both Dorian mixture (as in A+2-3 [0:06-0:09]) and the pentatonic minor (as in B+1-4 [0:26-0:33], and in every Vi, which takes on the #9 quality); and Eb is borrowed from the harmonic minor (B+5 [0:33-0:34], creating a bVI - V progression that has already been heard in "Michelle" and in applied situations in "Run for Your Life", "Day Tripper" and "We Can Work It Out"). As in "Day Tripper", every I to the last includes b7. Harrison's pentatonic melody in the chorus (B, the first four bars of which emulate the second phrase of a twelve-bar blues, more "rubber soul"), the source of McCartney's triplet bass run (B+4 [0:31-0:33]), is accompanied first by an [025] trichord in perfect fifths above (B+3-4 [0:29-0:33]) and then by McCartney's descant from the minor (B+5-6 [0:33-0:36]) before cadencing in G major.

The mixture of scales is so strange that the three-part vocals had to be rehearsed and recorded phrase by phrase, three or four bars at a time, for each verse; chord quality - particularly the major quality of the G chord at B-2 - was the main issue of chat between vocal takes [2]. Even the tonal center is called into question by the unexpected move to A minor at B-1 (0:24-0:25), sounding momentarily as if it resolves the preceding G7 as its bVII. The tonal capriccio is well suited to the notion of the questioning and hesitation that accompany being forced to think about one's identity, the song's basic concept. In this respect, Harrison's composition informs his "I Want to Tell You" (1966) and more significant later work by Lennon.


  1. The use of fuzz bass was likely encouraged by the Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" (June 1965), wherein Brian Jones's fuzzed guitar duplicates Bill Wyman's bass line in fifths and fourths above. Originally tied to gritty R&B, the fuzz sound was gradually taken over throughout the pop realm, notably by Paul Burlison and Link Wray in the 1950s, Jeff Beck, Dave Davies, Jimi Hendrix (early user of the Maestro fuzz box), Eric Clapton, and Jimmy Page. One unlikely source is Ann Margret's 1961 record "I Just Don't Understand", full of heavy lead-guitar distortion that is ignored in the Beatles' cover.
  2. Actually, although this song was George's, the main issue of chat between takes was truly the comical holding-forth of John and Paul. During the intervals while a tape operator would locate passages to cue playbacks for overdubbing, these two joked about John's body odor and several recent television events. John recalled one song from the Beatles' first LP by singing "Do you want to hold a penis. doowah-ooh" and extemporized another line. "Lukewarm baby got a custard face." At one point, Lennon shouted that Martin was a fool for not sending the guide vocal along with the rhythm tracks to their studio monitor speaker; Harrison taunted, "I wonder if Ron Richards is free tomorrow." whereupon Martin sent an immediate jolt of loud feedback screaming through Studio Two. A 15'32" tape of practicing and chat from this session is heard on the Beatles' Unsurpassed Masters, vol. 7 (1962-69) (Yellow Dog 013 (Lux.))and is continued for another 3' 5 5" on the Beatles' Miscellaneous Tracks (disc 3 of The Ultimate Collection, box 1 (Yellow Dog 103 (Hung.)). The chat is all that is left on the tape after the individual phrases have been removed for editing of the master. (But see also what Lewisohn has to say about these recordings!)

Posted: 2 aug 2015