What You're Doing - Lennon/McCartney

Reviewed by Ian MacDonald, in Revolution in the Head:

Mainly by McCartney, this simple three-chord number caused the group unexpected problems, being started after I DON'T WANT TO SPOIL THE PARTY, continued the following evening, and then abandoned and remade a month later. Mark Lewisohn's description of the state of the track by the end of the second day [1] suggests that this may have been because the song was evolved in the studio. Getting Starr and Harrison to play the song the way its author wanted may have caused resentment and taken up time, as it often did during the group's later career. The drum-pattern that begins and ends the track sounds like a McCartney part, as do the overdriven riff and guitar solo which anticipate the treble distortion effects used on HELP! (McCartney learned to play drums on his brother Mike's kit as a teenager.) With its 'drop in' barrelhouse piano and resonant bass end (faded to a rumble for the verse/choruses) this is something of an experimental recording, though whether this was the first time The Beatles played tricks with the mixing desk and with orthodox ideas of arrangement and texture can only be determined by comparing the first version with the remake (taped a week after I FEEL FINE, usually cited as the group's first sound experiment); unfortunately, the first version of WHAT YOU'RE DOING was omitted from Anthology 1 [2]. With its indignant tone and angry emphases, this song is ostensibly untypical of McCartney, although at one with other stormy songs inspired by his relationship with Jane Asher (e.g., THINGS WE SAID TODAY and I'M LOOKING THROUGH YOU).


Notes:
[1] See Sessions, p. 49
[2] More interested in production than the others, McCartney developed a taste for 'defeating' the desk by deliberate over-recording, the only way unusual sounds could be obtained at that stage of technology.