Think For Yourself

Rubber Soul album artworkWritten by: Harrison
Recorded: 8 November 1965
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Norman Smith

Released: 3 December 1965 (UK), 6 December 1965 (US)

George Harrison: vocals, rhythm guitar
John Lennon: harmony vocals, Vox Continental organ, tambourine
Paul McCartney: harmony vocals, bass
Ringo Starr: drums, maracas

Available on:
Rubber Soul
Yellow Submarine Songtrack

One of George Harrison's first philosophical songs, Think For Yourself was first released on the 1965 album Rubber Soul.

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An unusually harshly-worded warning about the perils of leaving bad deeds unrectified, the inspiration behind the song is unknown. In his 1980 autobiography, Harrison claimed not to remember its origins, although he made a self-deprecating reference to the likes of Taxman and Piggies:

Think For Yourself must be written about somebody from the sound of it - but all this time later I don't quite recall who inspired that tune. Probably the government.
George Harrison
I Me Mine

Whereas a number of Harrison's later songs were awash with pseudo-cosmic wisdom, Think For Yourself is remarkable for its earthy sourness. Parallels can be drawn between the song and Within You Without You, which found Harrison more at peace with the differences of others.

Although your mind's opaque
Try thinking more if just for your own sake
The future still looks good
And you've got time to rectify all the things that you should
Think For Yourself
Try to realise it's all within yourself
No-one else can make you change
And to see you're really only very small,
And life flows on within you and without you
Within You Without You

In the studio

Think For Yourself was recorded in a single session on 8 November 1965, under the working title Won't Be There With You.

The Beatles recorded the basic track - rhythm guitars, bass and drums - in a single take. They then overdubbed lead guitar, more bass (this time fed through a fuzz box), tambourine, maracas and organ, along with two three-part vocal tracks.

Paul used a fuzz box on the bass on Think For Yourself. When Phil Spector was making Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah, the engineer who's set up the track overloaded the microphone on the guitar player and it became very distorted. Phil Spector said, 'Leave it like that, it's great'. Some years later everyone started to try to copy that sound and so they invented the fuzz box. We had one and tried the bass through it and it sounded really good.
George Harrison
Anthology

Prior to the recording, George Martin taped the group rehearsing the song. The Beatles were aware of this, deliberately playing up to the microphones.

The recording went mostly unused, although a six-second segment of the group practising their harmonies found its way into the Yellow Submarine film, when The Beatles were called upon to revive the mayor of Pepperland.

17 responses on “Think For Yourself

  1. SD

    George played a rhythm guitar part (it’s not a lead guitar) on the basic track and John the Vox Continental organ (not an electric piano).
    Paul actually played two basses. One on the basic track and another one (the fuzz bass) as an overdub, recorded together with maracas (Ringo?) and tambourine (John?) on one track.

    1. Joe Post author

      I think it might actually be a distorted guitar part rather than a bass. It’s certainly within a guitar’s range, and it’s all played higher than the bass line (but otherwise mirrors it). What do other people think?

      1. Deadman

        Naturally, with enhanced treble, the distorted bass sounds at times like a distorted guitar, but (1) the cover notes explicitly say that it’s fuzz bass–why lie?–, and (2) there are some notes too low for ordinary guitar (listen in particular to the last section of each chorus before and during the words, “Think for yourself”).

          1. grego mac

            It is Paul on the fuzz bass. I don’t understand why there is any confusion. All of the evidence points to it being Paul. It SOUNDS like Paul doubling his original bass track.

  2. brian

    Update: after relistening to “Think For Yourself” using headphones. a rhythm guitar can be heard ever so lightly being played in the background (stereo left channel).

  3. Mr. Gil

    In the right channel, on the phrase, “…and you’ve got time to rectify all the things that you should”, the high vocal harmony on the word “time” is slightly higher-pitched than on previous verses. It’s spine-tingling.

    1. Michael

      I agree Mr. Gil, that harmony on the word “time” (“and you’ve got TI-EM to rectify”) always got me, still does after 40 years. I think it was Paul, as he usually took the high harmonies. I love Rubber Soul so much because, as the album had to be recorded very quickly to meet the Christmas deadline, the Beatles had to crank out these recordings very fast. Many of the songs contain little imperfections in some of the vocal harmonies, such as this one. You can even hear an occasional cough and chatter here and there. I love hearing them, I think it adds something to the songs, perhaps character, that makes them even more endearing. There’s such brilliance and spontaneity captured in these songs.

  4. ryan

    Was Paul using the Hofner or his new Rickenbacker? According to some RIC fan sites, this was the first song he recorded with his Rickenbacker. They quote George as saying so…but I can’t find a definitive answer.

    1. eranzilberbass

      The Ric was surely used on this ALBUM for the first time , not for all of the tracks. The best source for a 100% true answer is the book “The Beatles recording sessions”. In my opinion and experience , the Ric carries the “fuzz bass” sound much better than the Hofner. The Hofner is hollow , and tends to feedback when played through a fuzz pedal. The Ric dosen’t.

    2. philmat

      I read somewhere that Paul used the Ric extensively throughout RS, Revolver, Pepper, and the White Album. It is quite a different bass sound than what we were used to hearing in the previous albums. The Hofner has a woodier, more mellow sound, and being a short-scale bass, it has less sustain. The Ric, being a neck-through bass is much punchier and has that piano-like ring and sustain to it. The fuzz bass on this track could very well be the Ric on the bridge pick-up only, which is very trebly. Doesn’t sound like the Hofner at all.

  5. Tony

    Kinda new sound with the 2 basses. I wouldnt doubt if George and Paul played bass on the same track because the styles are different. The fuzzy bass sounds like George’s techniches. I love to rip apart the tracks on this one. You know what they write and who played what, but half the time one of them wasnt there and they made due. One reason I think that they both played the bass is because George really did not like to play it, but this was after all a first when you look at it

    1. paulsbass

      That’s both Paul.
      Obviously he would play two different bass lines, one as the lead (fuzz), one as the tonal fundament.
      They both have Paul’s typical rhythmic and melodic feel.

  6. Jean Erica Moniker

    It always sounded to me like he was singing: “the future’s still obscure(d); and you’ve got time to rectify all the things that you should”…

    In a song that uses words like “opaque” and “rectify”, “obscure(d)” seemed to work just fine (even the off-rhyme seemed very Harrisonesque) – I actually find “still looks good” to be a bit of a let down…oh well…great song either way!

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