Day 179: “Not Guilty”

When was it recorded?   Aug. 7-12, 1968

When was it first released, and on which album?   Feb. 23, 1979 on “George Harrison” (George Harrison album)

Who wrote it?   Harrison (duh)

Have I heard this song before?   No

What my research dug up:

George wrote “Not Guilty” after studying under the Maharishi in India.

“Actually, I wrote that in 1968. It was after we got back from Rishikesh in the Himalayas on the Maharishi trip, and it was for the White Album. We recorded it but we didn’t get it down right or something. Then I forgot all about it until a year ago, when I found this old demo I’d made in the Sixties. The lyrics are a bit passé – all about upsetting ‘Apple carts’ and stuff – but it’s a bit about what was happening at the time. ‘Not guilty for getting in your way/While you’re trying to steal the day’ – which was me trying to get a space. ‘Not guilty/For looking like a freak/Making friends with every Sikh/For leading your astray/On the road to Mandalay’ – which is the Maharishi and going to the Himalayas and all that was said about that. I like the tune a lot; it would make a great tune for Peggy Lee or someone.” — George Harrison (Rolling Stone, April 1979)

Yeah, or someone.

Quoth the Beatles Bible, “Lyrically, the song is largely in defense of the 1960s counterculture, although references to Harrison’s frustration at his often marginal role within the group can be detected.” (The “apple cart” is a dead giveaway.)

George recorded a demo of “Not Guilty” in May 1968 at his home in Esher.

The Beatles did record “Not Guilty” for the White Album. In fact, they recorded over 100 takes of it (mostly incomplete takes, but still).

  • Aug. 7 = 46 takes of the rhythm track; according to Wikipedia, the first 18 takes alone broke down during the introduction
  • Aug. 8 = 55 takes of the rhythm track; Take 99 was deemed the best
  • Aug. 9 = a reduction mix of Take 99 was made and dubbed Take 102 for overdubs to be added onto; George spend six hours adding extra lead guitar, bass, and drum parts
  • Aug. 12 = George overdubbed a second lead vocal

Quoth the Beatles Bible, “A rough mono mix was made at the end of the session, but the song was later rejected for the White Album.” Geoff Emerick mixed a final version in 1984 for “Sessions.” Though that album was scrapped, Emerick’s mix finally appeared in 1996 on “Anthology 3.”

As mentioned in the quote above, George rediscovered his “Not Guilty” demo in Mar. 1978 while working on his next solo album. Wikipedia noted, “Harrison restored two lines (‘For being on your street / Getting underneath your feet’) not in the Beatles’ version and dropped a section of 3/8 time that had been one of the factors in making the 1968 recording difficult.”

Author Simon Leng compared the two versions of “Not Guilty” thusly — “In complete contrast [to the Beatles’ version], the 1979 reproduction is all shimmering cool and acoustic sea spray – here is a man looking back on events rather than being caught up in their heat.”

Call me dramatic, but I prefer the version with more venom behind it.  Give me angry George on this song!




2 thoughts on “Day 179: “Not Guilty”

    1. Yeah, this was definitely a discovery for me too. I admit I’m not that familiar with George’s post-Beatles work apart from “All Things Must Pass” (the album). It’s a shame this one didn’t make the White Album cut though.

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