Tell Me What You See

Help! album artworkWritten by: Lennon-McCartney
Recorded: 18 February 1965
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Norman Smith

Released: 6 August 1965 (UK), 14 June 1965 (US)

Paul McCartney: vocals, bass, electric piano
John Lennon: vocals, rhythm guitar, tambourine
George Harrison: güiro
Ringo Starr: drums, claves

Available on:

Written mainly by Paul McCartney, Tell Me What You See was first released in the UK on the Help! album, and in the US on the Beatles VI collection.

Download on iTunes

Tell Me What You See was offered to Richard Lester for the soundtrack of the Help! film, but was rejected. McCartney later described the song as a filler track, co-written with John Lennon as a 'work song'.

I seem to remember it as mine. I would claim it as a 60-40 but it might have been totally me. Not awfully memorable. Not one of the better songs but they did a job, they were very handy for albums or b-sides. You need those kind of sides.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

Certain lines in Tell Me What You See are reminiscent of McCartney's And I Love Her, although the moods of the two songs are very different. It is possible that Lennon and McCartney were looking for inspiration in their older songs while writing.

Bright are the stars that shine
Dark is the sky
I know this love of mine
Will never die
And I Love Her
Big and black the clouds may be
Time will pass away
If you put your trust in me
I'll make bright your day
Tell Me What You See

In the studio

The song was recorded in four takes on 18 February 1965, the same day the group also recorded You've Got To Hide Your Love Away and the rejected If You've Got Trouble. Tell Me What You See was the last song to be completed.

The song introduced the sound of the güiro, a Latin-American instrument played by striking a wooden stick across a series of notches, to The Beatles' sound. Ringo Starr also played the claves.

Tell Me What You See also features a Hohner Pianet electric piano, which can also be heard on the Help! songs The Night Before and You Like Me Too Much.

23 responses on “Tell Me What You See

  1. SD

    Contents of the four-track tape:

    Backing Track:
    1.) drums (Ringo), bass (Paul), electric guitar (John), guiro (George)

    2.) Lennon-McCartney vocals (shared lead)
    3.) tambourine (John) and claves (Ringo)
    4.) electric piano (Paul) and additional harmony vocal part by Paul for the chorus

    The session is also well documented by Ray Coleman:
    “The group tapes the instrumental backing with George forsaking his guitar and getting a comb and paper effect with a drumstick and a piece of wood… They record the vocal by Lennon and McCartney, and later, they overrecord on to the original with Lennon, cigarette between his lips, shaking a tambourine and Ringo playing maracas*… At 10 pm, with Paul playing electric piano.” (Coleman in ‘Melody Maker’ Feb 27 1965)

    * Mistake by Coleman, Ringo played claves as you hear them on the record.

  2. Vonbontee

    A pretty weak song, yeah, but one I like just because it sounds ‘nice’, with the claves, electric piano, and especially the way John and Paul alternate bettween high harmony and midrange unison singing.

  3. Art Connor

    Listen to the different insturments and electric piano parts. They were already expanding in 1965, which was going to lead the way for Revolver and Sgt Pepper year and half later.

    I’ve put together some of the choice tracks from the Beatles VI, Help and Rubber Soul period. Great to listen to in the car. Kind of like a 65-66 version of Love Songs.

  4. Sebastian Mora

    You should mention, Lennon said, in his interviews with Playboy (1980) and Hit Parader (1972), that Tell Me What You See was Paul’s song completely.

  5. Frank Walton

    Truly under rated track and one of my favorites. It harkens back to 1963 in the way that it is formatted and in the use of the personal me / you lyrics. John and Paul’s great singing of notes in unison and breaking off into harmony for us makes it especially endearing to me.

      1. Melba

        Yep, I agree too! Most songwriters would give their right arm to pen a song as good as this. Just shows how incredibly rich the Beatles’ musical legacy is, that this song suffers by comparison with their other love songs.

      2. Steve

        Yes , it’s a joke that it’s thought of as a weak song. A beautiful melody and feel with great lyrics.
        Any songwriter would give their hind teeth to write such a perfect song.

  6. Sam

    I hear three voices when they sing both “Tell me what you see” and “MM mm mm mm mmm,” after the chorus part. Should George get a singing credit, or so you think John or Paul sings the lowest part?

    1. Marcio

      Always had the same impression. I have a kind of Help Reconstruction CD where se can hear the instruments track a vocal track with kind of separation…. Really the 3rd voice is like George…..

  7. Julian

    Here’s an interesting bit from “Tune In” about John’s childhood that’s related to the song:
    “[…] he was fascinated by a religious motto which Mimi or George had framed and hung on the wall at Mendips:

    However black the clouds may be
    In time they’ll pass away
    Have faith and trust and you will see
    God’s light make bright your day”

    Remove the God connotation & there you have it! John tapping into his early memories for a verse of the song.
    I was BLOWN AWAY when I read that part in Lewisohn’s book. Thank the higher powers that Mark exists, haha. 🙂

    1. david

      That’s really interesting.

      I’ve always found the lyrics to this song to be deliciously creepy – it’s like someone dangerously, obsessively, wanting to be everything to another person, to be their every waking hour: ‘If you let me take your heart….we will never be apart: if I’m part of you’, ‘Can’t you see that I’m trying to get to you’, ‘Open up your eyes, tell me what you see, it is no surprise now, what you see is me’; and I love the way they scream ‘Tell Me What You See!!!’

      So having the protagonist borrowing this religious passage and seeing himself as almost Godlike (God’s light make bright your day/I’ll make bright your day) adds even more depth and interest to a song that many dismiss as a throwaway love song.

  8. Baggio

    One of the weakest songs on the album but I still like it.
    The vocal dynamics between John and Paul (switching melody) reminds me of “Wait”

  9. Jon Purnell

    Has a kind of indian drone to it in parts. Inspired by See my Friends from year before???
    The songs lyrics about the perception of others could be deemed psychedelic? Not sure if they had taken LSD at this point.

  10. OldFartBassPlayer Walt

    I agree with poster who consider this a preview of where they would be interms of arranging music in a few months- consider all the textures of sound that weave in and out, each
    verse being slightly different, constantly building.

    My favorite part is Ringo’s drums during the piano break- perfect!

  11. GotToBeGoodLookinCosHesSoHardToSee

    Filler track? Wow. IMHO, “rock” music really doesn’t get any more beautiful than this. And funny how some stuff that was recorded just last week doesn’t sound this warm and spacious.

Leave a reply