The Beatles

I Want to Tell You

Composed by George Harrison

Song Review by

"I Want to Tell You" might be the least famous of the songs on the Beatles' Revolver album, and thus the least recognizable of the three songs George Harrison wrote for the LP -- "Taxman" was by far his most celebrated contribution, and while "Love You To" might not be universally admired, it stood out for its all-out dive into raga-rock. "I Want to Tell You" is more conventional than either of those songs. It's a bouncy, catchy tune, kicked off by a circular, full guitar riff typical of 1966 British mod rock. It is not, however, lacking in interesting, idiosyncratic qualities, starting with the slow fade-in, a device the Beatles had first used back on "Eight Days a Week." The jaunty, almost honky-tonk piano had a peculiarly metallic tone, leaning on a sequence of almost dissonant jiggling two-note riffs in the latter part of the verses that well mirrored the anxieties detailed in the lyric. The group vocal harmonies at the end of the verses were rich and swelling, Paul McCartney adding another of many notches to his career as one of the great upper-register male harmony singers in rock. The tempo, too, had an indecisive stop-start quality, almost petering out altogether near the end of the bridge before a stuttering piano and Ringo Starr's declarative drum brought it back to life. And while "I Want to Tell You" on the face of it seems like it might be a lyric of a guy talking to his girlfriend, it seems more likely to be a reflection of a confused interior state of mind -- the kind of thing the Beatles were just starting to take on in some of their song lyrics in 1966. What exactly it is that George wants to tell us, why exactly he feels so tense about it, why he feels hung up without knowing why, why he can't articulate what's on his mind -- none of that's made clear, perhaps because it isn't clear to himself. It's a rather strange song in that regard, but musically it's more upbeat than the subject matter might portend, coming to a satisfying fade-out climax as the group repeatedly harmonizes on the phrase "I've got time," behind and elongating the word "time" as the track drifts off. The most widely heard cover of "I Want to Tell You" is probably the surprising one done by Ted Nugent on his 1979 album State of Shock.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Revolver 1966 EMI 2:28
No Image 1992 Toshiba EMI
The Ultimate Box Set 1995 Capitol 2:29
The Beatles: Stereo Box Set 2009 Capitol 2:27
The Beatles USB 2009 Capitol 2:27
The Beatles in Mono [Vinyl Box Set] 2014 Capitol
blue highlight denotes editor's pick