When was it recorded? Sept. 16-17, 1968
When was it first released, and on which album? Nov. 22, 1968 on “The Beatles”
Who wrote it? McCartney
Have I heard this song before? No
What my research dug up:
(I have the local news on in the background and they’re talking about Sir Paul’s illness + cancelled concerts. Slow news day around here, I see.)
As with most of Paul’s later output, “I Will” is about Linda McCartney. (I’m on a roll here.) Paul began work on the number in Rishikesh. Quoth the Beatles Bible, “Although the music came together fairly easily, the words were worked on in India, and remained unfinished even as recording began back in London.”
“I was doing a song, ‘I Will,’ that I had as a melody for quite a long time but I didn’t have any lyrics to it. I remember sitting around with Donovan, and maybe a couple of other people. We were just sitting around one evening after our day of meditation and I played him this one and he liked it and we were trying to write some words. We kicked around a few lyrics, something about the moon, but they weren’t very satisfactory and I thought the melody was better than the words so I didn’t use them. I kept searching for better words and I wrote my own set in the end; very simple words, straight love-song words really. I think they’re quite effective. It’s still one of my favorite melodies that I’ve written. You just occasionally get lucky with a melody and it becomes rather complete and I think this is one of them; quite a complete tune.” — Paul McCartney (Barry Miles, Many Years From Now)
Alan Pollack noted, “The theme of wistful longing for a lover from whom one is separated insurmountably runs through many of Paul’s songs,” citing “All My Loving” (which I talked about on Day 6) as another prime example. Pollack also wrote, “The compact form is unusual for the lack of an intro; an outro that is long in proportion to the otherwise short overall length of the song, and the fact that the lyrics of every verse are different; i.e. it may be ‘short’ but it still tells a ‘story.’” So there’s that.
I discussed “Can you take me back” on Day 41 because it was recorded during the sessions for “I Will.” I also wrote, “According to Wikipedia, there are 67 takes of that song, which, fucking shit.” And here we are. George isn’t featured anywhere on “I Will,” and I can’t blame him for opting out of this extravaganza (the Beatles Bible calls the recording session “possibly even torturous,” which bodes well).
Paul, John and Ringo began recording at 7:00 PM Sept. 16. The first take of “I Will” actually appears on “Anthology 3.”
“Can you take me back” was ad-libbed during Take 19. The song Paul penned for Cilla Black, “Step Inside Love,” was ad-libbed during Take 35. This was followed by an ad-lib of “Los Paranoias,” and “[a]ccording to Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn, the trio also recorded a song called ‘The Way You Look Tonight,’ ‘a short number, the lyric of which was derived almost entirely from I Will’” (Beatles Bible). That’s understandable — it’s hard to stay on task during that weird late-night-early-morning time of day.
Recording ended at 3:00 AM on Sept. 17, which Take 65 deemed the best. Paul overdubbed more vocals, bass, and guitar later that day.
(All that fuss over a song that’s less than two minutes long…)
According to Wikipedia, “I Will” appeared as the B-side to the “Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da” single released in the Philippines in 1968.
I like “I Will,” but it’s probably not my new favorite Beatles song. It’s super sweet, which I can appreciate, but a bit too saccharine for me.