Think for Yourself - The Beatles

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"Think for Yourself" - The Beatles (1965)

When asked what were the origins of "Think For Yourself", George Harrison commented:

“I don’t quite recall who inspired that tune. Probably the government.”

Completed in just one take, the song is a warning against listening to lies.

McCartney played his bass through a distortion box to get a fuzz effect that dominates the track which produced a ragged edge of distortion to the notes fed through its primitive circuitry. Although intended to be used with an electric guitars when fed through the thick sounds of a bass- the sounds come out much more extreme. The distorted bass line is evidence of yet more improvisational playfulness and invention within the growing atmosphere of creative freedom that now seemed to follow the Beatles wherever they went.

The song’s bluesy melodic motifs and flat, folksy formal outline make it a curious stylistic hybrid. The melody is slightly odd, but typical of George, at the same time catchy, it was one of his first “unobtrusive sermons” which would characterize his songwriting.

“Think For Yourself” is not so much religious as purely ethical- as the lyric suggests: “try thinking more if just for your own sake”, but it is also honest and fun, and in this context, rather rocking. The track is more of an initial warning than a serious call to revolution. Yet the chorus makes its own demands- “do what you want to do” which sounds like “if you don’t, we’ll make you, even if we won’t be there with you really.”

Says Professor Ken Womack:

“Think for Yourself witnesses The Beatles’ lead guitarist in the act of cultivating the shrewdly, coldly analytical, and slightly misanthropic persona that will pilot many of his songs throughout George’s career. At its core, the composition is the inaugural entry in Harrison’s existential philosophy, later to be adumbrated by Eastern religion and thought, about the mind-numbingly automatic and insensate manner in which human beings under-take their lives in the workaday world—a vacuous place in which real life remains indelibly subservient to the accumulation of wealth and perfunctory consumerism.”

Beatle scholar Alan Pollack remarked that the song supports the notion that George’s oft-stated inner conflict between his own identity and that of his Beatles’ persona is nowhere more apparent than in his own music of this period.

He says that for all of the unmistakable Harrisonian fingerprints one finds imprinted all over this track- in particular the restless and pungent harmonies, the influence of Lennon and McCartney as seen in certain clichés of the arrangement-is equally hard to miss.

Pollack asserts:

“Ironically one might argue that whatever personal conflict may have been engendered by this stylistic cross-blend it is ultimately a source of aesthetic strength and success. The metaphorical vision comes to mind of George, ever the quiet one, observing from the sidelines his more prolific mates at work; biding his time, drinking their wine, in fact, and in the meanwhile, quite subtly and unavoidably making it his own in some measure just the same.”

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