What You're Doing - The Beatles

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"What You're Doing" - The Beatles (1965)

“What You’re Doing” is generally believed to be about McCartney's relationship with Jane Asher. The track expresses the songwriters’ feelings of loneliness and doubt in his relationship. It’s a theme he would develop more over time as this relationship soured over the course of the next few years on songs such as “I'm Looking Through You,” “You Won't See Me,” and “For No One.”

In his autobiography, McCartney said the song was “a bit of a filler” and that he wrote it 50:50 with Lennon, adding:

“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.”

“What You’re Doing” is a very strangely constructed composition. It is one of the few Beatle songs to open with an unusual drum intro- actually a four-bar rolling solo drum pattern which introduces and also closes the song. The track is heavily syncopated whereas a variety of rhythms are used to create an off-beat tune. It actually has no chorus which means that the verses become the focus of the melody.

Of particular interest is George’s chiming twelve-string lead guitar which laid the foundations for the “folk-rock” style that he would bring to center stage in the recording studio over the next twelve months. Music critic Richie Unterberger points out that that George literarily, created “folk-rock guitar sound”  at least six months before The Byrds released “Mr. Tambourine Man” which went on to define the new genre.

Unterberger writes that “What Your’re Doing” is characterized by the upbeat and cheering in melody, harmonized singing, and overall utopian glow.

“The instrumental break has a sly raised-eyebrow quality, the guitar joined by almost jazzy, saloonish piano. To ride the song out, that unaccompanied rolling drum pattern is repeated, with a dramatic low descending bass run introducing the instrumental fadeout, where the guitar-piano combination takes the lead again."
 

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