- Published in 1966
- Author: Harrison
- Track 12 on “Revolver“
GEORGE 1980: “…about the avalanche of thoughts that are so hard to write down or say or transmit.”
About “I Want To Tell You”
“I Want To Tell You” was written and sung by George Harrison and it was his third composition for Revolver, following “Taxman” and “Love You To“. It was his first time contributing more than two songs to a Beatles album, reflecting his continued growth as a songwriter alongside John Lennon and Paul McCartney.
In writing “I Want to Tell You”, Harrison was inspired by his experience with the hallucinogenic drug LSD. As he later described it, the lyrics express what he calls “the avalanche of thoughts that are so hard to write, say or transmit”. It is Harrison’s stuttering guitar riff and dissonance in the melody that reflect the difficulties in achieving meaningful communication in conjunction with the song’s philosophical message. In this recording, McCartney played his bass guitar part after the band completed the rhythm track for a song, a technique that became commonplace on subsequent Beatles albums.
There has been much praise for the Beatles’ performance on the track among music critics and Beatles biographers, particularly McCartney’s use of Indian-style vocal melisma. Harrison performed “I Want to Tell You” as the opening song of his 1991 Japanese tour with Eric Clapton. This version appears on the album Live in Japan. Jeff Lynne performed the song at the Concert for George tribute in November 2002, a year after Harrison’s death. Other artists who have covered the track include Ted Nugent, the Smithereens, Thea Gilmore, and the Melvins.
Meaning of “I Want To Tell You”
The song’s meaning centers around the theme of struggling to communicate and express oneself. The lyrics convey a sense of frustration, as if the speaker is grappling with an inner turmoil, desperately wanting to convey their thoughts and feelings but finding it difficult to do so. Lines like “But how can I when you won’t take it from me?” suggest a feeling of being unheard or misunderstood.
Despite this frustration, there’s a clear yearning for connection and a desire to bridge the gap in understanding. The lyrics hint at a deep inner world, with phrases like “I want to tell you, my head is filled with things to say” and “I’ve got no time to take a picture” conveying a sense of urgency and inner turmoil.
In the context of George Harrison’s broader interests in Eastern philosophy and spirituality, which were becoming more pronounced during this period, “I Want to Tell You” can be seen as touching on themes of introspection and the importance of genuine communication. This aligns with Harrison’s growing exploration of deeper philosophical questions.
Overall, “I Want to Tell You” is a poignant reflection on the challenges of effective communication. Its introspective character, combined with George Harrison’s personal touch, contributes to the song’s significance within The Beatles’ body of work.
- George Harrison – double-tracked vocal, lead guitar, handclaps
- John Lennon – harmony vocal, tambourine, handclaps
- Paul McCartney – harmony vocal, piano, bass, handclaps
- Ringo Starr – drums, maracas, handclaps