The Paul McCartney Project

Not Guilty

Written by George Harrison

Album This song officially appears on the Anthology 3 Official album.
Timeline This song has been officially released in 1996
Sessions This song has been recorded during the following sessions

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Song facts

From Wikipedia:

Not Guilty” is a song by English musician George Harrison released on his 1979 album George Harrison. He wrote the song in 1968 following the Beatles’ Transcendental Meditation course in India with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and its lyrics refer to Harrison’s relationship with his bandmates John Lennon and Paul McCartney as a result of that experience. The Beatles recorded the song for the The Beatles (the “White Album”) in August 1968 but abandoned the track after several days’ work, logging 99 takes. This last take appeared on the Anthology 3 compilation in 1996, as “Take 102“.

Harrison revisited “Not Guilty” in 1978 during sessions for his eponymous solo album. Unlike the Beatles’ original, which featured distorted electric guitar and harpsichord, the remake used acoustic guitar and was softer in tone.

Background and composition

George Harrison wrote “Not Guilty” in 1968 following the Beatles’ Transcendental Meditation course in Rishikesh, India. As the Beatle who had been most interested in attending teacher Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s course, Harrison felt responsible for his bandmates’ experience there. Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney had each left the ashram early and returned to England, while Harrison and John Lennon stayed on, only to then depart hurriedly after hearing of alleged impropriety between the Maharishi and a female student. In an interview with Billboard editor Timothy White in 1999, Harrison referred to “the grief I was catching” from Lennon and McCartney post-India, and explained the message behind the song: “I said I wasn’t guilty of getting in the way of their career. I said I wasn’t guilty of leading them astray in our going to Rishikesh to see the Maharishi. I was sticking up for myself …

The line “I won’t upset the Apple cart” was a deliberate reference to Apple Records, while “making friends with every Sikh” referred to activities with the Maharishi.

An acoustic demo of the song was recorded during May 1968 at Harrison’s home, Kinfauns in Esher, in preparation for what became the album The Beatles, also known as the “White Album“. This version of the song has never been officially released, but is available on numerous bootlegs. On the tapes, the song follows a group performance of Harrison’s tribute to meditation, “Sour Milk Sea“, after which he refers to “Not Guilty” as “a jazz number” that would make “a good rocker“.

Beatles version

Recording

The Beatles recorded “Not Guilty” in August 1968 during sessions for the White Album. The recording was produced by George Martin and engineered by Ken Scott. The song as presented to the group was difficult to learn due to its time signature changes, and during the first 18 takes on 7 August they focused only on the introduction; after a further 27 takes, recording was abandoned until the next day. The sessions still proved unsatisfactory, and ran to 99 takes, many of which were incomplete performances. Initial takes featured keyboard accompaniment from an electric piano, but this was replaced by a harpsichord that was installed in Abbey Road Studio 1.

Harrison tried to salvage the recording on 9 August with a six-and-a-half-hour session of lead guitar overdubs, during which he sat in the control room playing the guitar, while the amplifier was recorded from an echo chamber. After a further attempt to record guitar at live performance levels on 12 August, the song was abandoned, although the idea of recording amplifiers in a small room appealed to Lennon, who decided to use the technique on the next song the group attempted, “Yer Blues“. Harrison then spent a short holiday in Greece, fed up that none of his bandmates seemed to be helping him with the production of “Not Guilty“.

Exclusion from the White Album

According to musicologist Walter Everett, the song was one of the last to be cut from the final running order of The Beatles. Although Lennon admired the composition initially, author Simon Leng considers that, with its “barbs about the Beatles“, the song “was just a little too candid in airing the band’s dirty laundry“.

Following his pioneering backwards-recorded guitar solo on “I’m Only Sleeping“, in 1966, Harrison’s use of reverse echo-chamber effect on “Not Guilty” marked one of the last two examples of backwards audio on a Beatles recording, the other being one of the two reunion singles, “Free As A Bird“. In its three-part study of the 1968 double album, in 2008, Goldmine magazine commented that the song’s exclusion has traditionally been one of the points of debate regarding the White Album, with some listeners finding the content of the set “exquisitely balanced“, while others contend that the Beatles “really should have added ‘Not Guilty’ to the brew“. With reference to Martin’s stated wish that The Beatles had been edited down to a single LP, Everett offers a 15-song running order in keeping with the producer’s typical “preferences and constraints“, in which he contends that Martin would have selected “Not Guilty“, along with the Harrison compositions “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “Long, Long, Long“.

The final take, numbered 102 (a reduction mix of take 99), was edited and remixed by Geoff Emerick in 1984 for the aborted Sessions album. It was leaked to the Ultra Rare Trax Volume 3 bootleg in the late 1980s, and eventually released officially in October 1996 on Anthology 3. Author and critic Richie Unterberger describes the Anthology 3 version of “Not Guilty” as a “bastardization” due to the editing out of a mid-song guitar solo and other features from the 1968 stereo mix. He adds that this treatment is “more roundly castigated than almost any other of the Anthology reconstructions“. […]

From The Usenet Guide to Beatles Recording Variations:

  • [a] stereo 1984 at AIR Studios, Montserrat. edited.
    CD: Apple CDP 8 34451 2 Anthology 3 1996.

This version was mixed and edited for the Sessions LP. Comparison to another mix that has been bootlegged shows extensive editing and some use of tape loops. Among other things a short guitar solo and one line of lyric are edited out here.

Last updated on July 5, 2017

Lyrics

Not guilty
For getting in your way
While you're trying to steal the day.
Not guilty
And I'm not here for the rest,
I'm not trying to steal your vest.

I am not trying to be smart,
I only want what I can get.
I'm really sorry for your ageing head.
But like you heard me said:
Not guilty.

No use handing me a writ
While I'm trying to do my bit.

I don't expect to take your heart.
I only want what I can get.
I'm really sorry that you're underfed.
But like you heard me said:
Not guilty.

Not guilty
For looking like a freak,
Making friends with every Sikh.
Not guilty
For leading you astray
On the road to Mandalay.

I won't upset the apple cart.
I only want what I can get.
I'm really sorry that you've been misled.
But like you heard me said:
Not guilty.

Officially appears on


Anthology 3

Official album • Released in 1996

3:22 • OuttakeA • Stereo • Take 102. The Beatles spent three nights recording the basic track of George Harrison's Not Guilty, until they pronounced the 99th the "best" take and freed space in a tape-to-tape reduction mixdown for George to overdub his vocal. Curiously, though, once he had done so, and the recording was completed, it was decided to leave it off the White Album, the song remaining unheard until 1979, when George recorded an acoustic remake for his album George Harrison. But this Beatles version (Take 102), heavier in approach, has not been issued until now.

Paul McCartney:
Bass
Ringo Starr:
Drums
George Harrison:
Guitar, Vocals
George Martin:
Producer
Chris Thomas:
Harpsichord
Ken Scott:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Aug 08, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Aug 09, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Aug 12, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


The Beatles (2018)

Official album • Released in 2018

Demo

Session Recording:
Late May 1968
Studio:
George Harrison's Home, Kinfauns, Esher, Surrey, UK


The Beatles (2018)

Official album • Released in 2018

Outtake • Take 102

Bootlegs


Sessions

Unofficial album • Released in 2011

3:22 • Alternate take


Sessions

Unofficial album • Released in 2011

4:11 • Alternate take

Live performances

Paul McCartney has never played this song in concert.


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