I Want You (She's So Heavy)

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"I Want You (She's So Heavy)"
Song by the Beatles from the album Abbey Road
Released 26 September 1969
Recorded 22 February–11 August 1969,
EMI and Trident studios, London
Genre Blues rock, hard rock, progressive rock[1][2]
Length 7:47
Label Apple Records
Writer Lennon–McCartney
Producer George Martin
Abbey Road track listing
Music sample

"I Want You (She's So Heavy)" is a song by the Beatles, from their album Abbey Road. It was written by John Lennon[citation needed], but credited to Lennon–McCartney.

This song is an unusual Beatles composition for a variety of reasons, namely its length (nearly eight minutes), few lyrics (basically the title is the lyric, aside from two more phrases; only 14 different words are sung), a three-minute descent through repeated guitar chords (a similar arpeggiated figure appears in another Lennon contribution to the album, "Because"), and abrupt ending. It is one of the last songs that the Beatles mixed as a group, on 20 August 1969.[3] Josh Hart and Damien Fanelli, writing for Guitar World, placed the song 34th in their list of the 50 Heaviest Songs Before Black Sabbath, and said the song may "have inadvertently started doom metal".[4] Similarly, Classic Rock magazine commented that "the song pre-dated Black Sabbath's creation of doom rock by several months".[5]

Composition[edit]

The song opens up with a sinister riff in D minor in 6/8 which cadences on an A augmented chord, which leads into a more bluesy section in A minor in 4/4 time, with Lennon singing "I want you – I want you so bad". These two sections alternate and seem to be almost competing with each other but inevitably returning to the home key. The coda consists of a three-minute repetition of the ominous riff in the tonic minor, growing louder and more intense with each time, until the abrupt ending.

Recording[edit]

Lennon wrote the song about his love for Yoko Ono.[6] The song was rehearsed several times during the Get Back/Let It Be sessions; the basic track and Lennon's guide vocal (which is used in the master) were recorded at Trident Studios on 22 February 1969, shortly after filming for the film ended. Lennon played the lead guitar, as George Harrison stated:

It's very heavy. John plays lead guitar and sings the same as he plays. It's really basically a bit like a blues. The riff that he sings and plays is really a very basic blues-type thing. But again, it's very original sort of John-type song.[7]

Lennon and Harrison overdubbed multi-tracked heavy guitars on 18 April 1969. Billy Preston's keyboards and Ringo Starr's congas were added on 20 April 1969. "I Want You" received the "She's So Heavy" vocals on 11 August, and thus the title became "I Want You (She's So Heavy)".[8] "'She's So Heavy' was about Yoko," Lennon told Rolling Stone. "When you're drowning, you don't say, 'I would be incredibly pleased if someone would have the foresight to notice me drowning and come and help me.' You just scream."[6]

Three takes from 22 February were edited into a master (second generation), which was overdubbed, mixed down on 18 April (third generation), and overdubbed on 18 April, 20 April, 8 August and 11 August. Different overdubs were made to the second generation tape on 8 August. The mix is the third generation for 4:37 and then the second generation tape, which has white noise produced by the Moog synthesizer played by Lennon and additional drums added on 8 August. The final overdub session for "I Want You (She's So Heavy)", which included the final mixing and editing, was the last time all four Beatles worked in the studio together.[9][10]

The final master lasted 8:04, but Lennon decided on a surprise ending. During the final edit with the guitars, drums and white noise climaxing endlessly, he told recording engineer Geoff Emerick to "cut it right there" at the 7:44 mark, bringing the song (and Side 1 of Abbey Road) to an abrupt end. On Love, the three-minute stretch of repeated guitar chords that ends the song intercuts with elements of "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" and "Helter Skelter", while retaining the abrupt cut to silence at the end.[11][12]

Personnel[edit]

Personnel per Ian MacDonald[13]

Covers[edit]

Numerous bands and solo artists have covered "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" in the studio and live, in particular the following:

Performer Album Year Comment
Alvin Lee Nineteen Ninety Four 1994 Accompanied by George Harrison on slide guitar
Beatallica Sgt. Hetfield's Motorbreath Pub Band 2007 Merged with Metallica's "The Call of Ktulu" to create "Ktulu (He's So Heavy)"
Bee Gees 1978 Performance for the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band movie, with Peter Frampton, Frankie Howerd, Dianne Steiberg and Stargard
Blackmail Science Fiction 1999 Usage of part of the lyrics ("I want you so bad") and part of the tune for the song "3.000.000 Years From Here"[original research?]
Booker T. and the MGs McLemore Avenue 1969 Album cover also mimicks the Abbey Road album cover
Coroner Mental Vortex 1991
Earth to Andy Simple Machine 1998 As hidden track at the end of the album that features a "talking guitar" effect
Eddie Hazel Game, Dames and Guitar Thangs 1977 Eddie Hazel's solo debut album
Eric Gales Band Picture of a Thousand Faces 1993
The Flaming Lips - 2011 15-minute performance of the song at NYE Freakout in Oklahoma City, in honour of the special guest performance by The Plastic Ono Band
George Benson The Other Side of Abbey Road 1970
George Lynch Furious George 2004 Cover album
Groove Collective - 1996 Single, which charted in the US
Halestorm ReAniMate: The CoVeRs eP 2011
Joe Anderson, Dana Fuchs and T.V. Carpio - 2007 Performance by cast members for Julie Taymor's film Across the Universe'
John Legend Live in Philadelphia 2008
The Last Shadow Puppets - 2008 Performance during the BBC Electric Proms[14]
Ministry Cover Up 2008 track only on Japanese issue of the album
Noir Désir Dies Irae 1994 Live album; the title means Days of Wrath (lat.)
Robyn Hitchcock CD: Various Artists – Abbey Road Now! 2009 Album of covers of songs from Abbey Road
Sarah Vaughan Songs of the Beatles 1981 Omits any "She's So Heavy" vocals
Soda Stereo - 1990–91 Covered song in several live performances during that time
Soulive Rubber Soulive 2010 Beatles cover album
Steel Train 1969 2004 Cover album
Thrice - 2010 Released as download track for their label Vagrant Records[15]
Transatlantic All of the above 2000 Live album, cover appears as last segment of the closing medley
Type O Negative World Coming Down 1999 As part of a medley with "Day Tripper" and "If I Needed Someone"
Phillips, Grier & Flinner Looking Back 2002 Instrumental version, with David Grier on acoustic guitar, Todd Phillips (musician) on acoustic bass, and Matt Flinner on mandolin

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Professor Allan F Moore. Song Means: Analysing and Interpreting Recorded Popular Song. "that borderline between nascent progressive rock and heavy metal." 
  2. ^ Tom Moon. 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die. "the most convincing exploration of blues and progressive rock the Beatles ever attempted, "I Want You (She's So Heavy)"" 
  3. ^ The Beatles. J Lennon, P McCartney, G Harrison… – John Lennon – books.google.com
  4. ^ http://www.guitarworld.com/50-heaviest-songs-black-sabbath-40-31?page=0,6
  5. ^ Classic Rock Magazine, September 2014
  6. ^ a b c "59 – 'I Want You (She's So Heavy)' -". 100 Greatest Beatles Songs. Rolling Stone. Retrieved 18 June 2012. 
  7. ^ "George Harrison interview with Ritchie Yorke, September, 1969". Ottawa Beatles Site. Retrieved 8 October 2010. 
  8. ^ Voice Leading and Harmony as Expressive Devices in the Early Music of the Beatles:'She Loves You'W Everett – College Music Symposium, 1992 – JSTOR
  9. ^ http://www.beatlesbible.com/1969/08/20/mixing-editing-i-want-you-shes-so-heavy/
  10. ^ http://mentalfloss.com/article/27783/final-days-beatles
  11. ^ Willman, Chris (26 December 2006). "peace". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 25 July 2010. 
  12. ^ "The Beatles: LOVE". Yahoo!. 20 November 2006. Retrieved 25 July 2010. 
  13. ^ MacDonald 2005, p. 342.
  14. ^ "Last Shadow Puppets cover The Beatles in Liverpool". NME. 25 October 2008. Retrieved 6 January 2012. 
  15. ^ "Competition to win Thrice songs for download". Vagrant Records. Retrieved 6 January 2012. 

References[edit]

External links[edit]