Long, Long, Long
|"Long, Long, Long"|
Cover of the Apple Publishing sheet music
|Song by the Beatles from the album The Beatles|
|Released||22 November 1968|
|Recorded||7–9 October 1968,
EMI Studios, London
|The Beatles track listing|
"Long, Long, Long" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles from their 1968 album The Beatles (also known as the White Album). It was written by George Harrison following the group's time in India in early 1968. The composition is the first of Harrison's love songs that appear to be directed to both a lover and his deity.
Critic Richie Unterberger wrote that "Long, Long, Long" is one of the most underrated songs in the Beatles' large discography. Ian MacDonald also argues that the song is Harrison's "finest moment" on The Beatles.
Background and inspiration
George Harrison wrote "Long, Long, Long" following the Beatles' stay in Rishikesh, India, in early 1968, where they were studying Transcendental Meditation with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Although the four Beatles had departed for the retreat seemingly united in a common spiritual pursuit, their mixed experiences there resulted in divisiveness permeating the group for the first time. Having been the strongest advocate of meditation, Harrison was left isolated within the band in his continued espousal of Indian philosophy. While noting the context of the song's recording, towards the end of the troubled sessions for the Beatles' White Album, author Ian MacDonald describes "Long, Long, Long" as Harrison's "touching token of exhausted, relieved reconciliation with God".
Writing in 1977, author Nicholas Schaffner said that the song was "the first of dozens of Harrison love songs that are ambiguous in that he could be singing either to his lady or to his Lord". This ambiguity became more prevalent during Harrison's solo career. In his autobiography, I, Me, Mine, Harrison states that "the 'you' in 'Long Long Long' is God", a point to which theologian Dale Allison adds: "We know this from George's comments, [but] not the lyrics themselves, which are cryptic."
In I, Me, Mine, Harrison says that his musical inspiration for the composition was Bob Dylan's "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands" – specifically, that song's "three chords and the way they moved". "Long, Long, Long" was one of many songs that marked Harrison's return to the guitar as his principal musical instrument, a development that began in Rishikesh and, by late 1968, led to him abandoning his commitment to the Indian sitar after three years of intensive study.[nb 1] Following the completion of his Wonderwall Music soundtrack album in February 1968, which he recorded partly with Indian classical musicians in Bombay, Harrison's rediscovery of the guitar coincided with a new, prolific period in his songwriting. Musicologist Walter Everett likens this growth to the arrival of John Lennon and Paul McCartney as composers in 1963, yet he comments that Harrison was forced to remain "privately prolific" within the Beatles, while Lennon and McCartney continued to dominate the band's songwriting. As a further influence in "Long, Long, Long", author Simon Leng cites the release of the Band's debut album, Music from Big Pink, which "signaled the rebirth of 'the song'" as an alternative to the excesses of late-1960s psychedelia.
The song is in the key of F. The melody appears to fluctuate from this home key, however, through its avoidance of perfect cadences, as the dominant, C7 chord resists anchoring on the tonic I chord of F major. In addition, all plagal changes in the song (in this case, B♭ to F major) are fleeting. Partly as a result of the absence of resolution in the home key, the role of the bass over the verses – descending in a 4-3-2-1 pattern as the chords drop from IV-iii-ii-I – establishes an almost subliminal tonic. A notable moment is the use of a minor triad 1st inversion on "long time" (at 0.17 secs) in which in the triad formula ♭3-5-1, the 1st note (♭3) B♭ is heard as the lowest note in the chord, this being described as a Gm/B♭ 'slash' polychord. The lyrics' reference to an extreme length of time is accentuated by the stretching out of an already slow 6/8 metre into 9/8 and by the appending of a measure-long instrumental tag after each two bars of vocal melody. Everett notes that the song is played with a D major chord shape but is in F key due to a capo on the 3rd fret. He also remarks on the close similarity between this song and "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands", as well as an understated musical mood akin to the Band.
According to musicologist Alan Pollack, "Long, Long, Long" has "an off-beat mixture of styles typical of the times: a three-way cross between jazz waltz, folk song, and late sixties psychedelia". Leng describes the composition as "a confluence of the Indian, folk, and spiritual influences the guitarist had been exploring since 1966", as well as, in its depiction of the "spiritual refuge" Harrison had discovered, the basis for an "internal dialogue that would see him through the remainder of his career".
Under the working title "It's Been a Long, Long, Long Time", recording for the song began at EMI's Abbey Road Studios in London on 7 October 1968, during the final week of sessions for the White Album. Since the start of the project, in late May, the album sessions had been fraught with ill feeling, partly as a result of the constant presence of Yoko Ono, Lennon's new partner, and disagreements within the band over the running of their new business venture, Apple Corps. According to Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn, however, the session for "Long, Long, Long" was a relaxed occasion, with the burning of Indian incense helping to create the requisite atmosphere in the studio. With Lennon absent, the Beatles recorded 67 takes of the rhythm track, with Harrison on vocals and acoustic guitar, McCartney playing Hammond organ, and Ringo Starr on drums.
The following night, Harrison added a second acoustic guitar part and another vocal, and McCartney overdubbed bass guitar. The song was completed on 9 October, with the addition of a brief backing vocal from McCartney and piano played by Chris Thomas.
The rattling heard at the end of "Long, Long, Long" was the result of a bottle of Blue Nun wine sitting on the Leslie speaker. When McCartney played a certain note on the organ, the bottle began to rattle. To compound the effect, Starr recorded a fast snare drum roll.
Release and reception
Apple Records released The Beatles on 22 November 1968, with "Long, Long, Long" appearing as the final track on side three of the double LP. The sequencing ensured that the song provided what author Mark Hertsgaard describes as "a calm landing pad" after McCartney's heavy rock-styled "Helter Skelter". Shortly after the album's release, Harrison spent time with Dylan and the Band in Woodstock, in upstate New York. In addition to co-writing "I'd Have You Anytime" with Dylan, Harrison further established his independence from the Beatles during this visit, which music critic John Harris views as the foundation for his 1970 triple album All Things Must Pass.
Among contemporary reviews of the album, Alan Walsh of the NME admired the song as "a gentle, lilting track" while, less impressed, Record Mirror described it as "not a strong tune", with drums "monopolising the sound". Recalling the release in his 1977 book The Beatles Forever, Nicholas Schaffner said that in departing from the overtly Indian style of his previous compositions for the Beatles, Harrison provided "a quartet of more conventionally accessible pop songs that many felt were among the finest on the [White Album]". While acknowledging Harrison's limitations as a singer compared with Lennon and McCartney, Schaffner added: "but when he tones his voice down to an ethereal near-whisper, as in 'Long Long Long,' he can evoke as well as anyone the magic and the mystery of what Jonathan Cott has called 'the music of deep silence.'"
AllMusic editor Stephen Thomas Erlewine views "Long, Long, Long" as "haunting" and, along with its composer's three other White Album tracks, evidence that Harrison "had developed into a songwriter who deserved wider exposure" than his typical quota of two songs on each Beatles LP. Less impressed with Harrison's other contributions to the album, including "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", Ian MacDonald welcomes "Long, Long, Long" with the words: "at last – the real George." MacDonald considers it to be "Harrison's finest moment on The Beatles: simple, direct, and, in its sighing, self-annihilating coda, devastatingly expressive".
In a 1998 review, the NME described the track as "redemptive" and "one of many hidden delights" on the White Album, in addition to citing it as an example of how, even when the band were "stretched to the limit" through disharmony, "The Beatles' riches were manifold." Writing for Rolling Stone in 2002, Greg Kot deemed the song to be "quintessential Harrison, summarizing the impending exhaustion of the Beatles and the era they defined, while pointing the way toward the spiritual heights achieved by his solo debut masterpiece, All Things Must Pass". In his obituary of the former Beatle, for Rock's Backpages, Mat Snow included "Long, Long, Long" among his favourite Harrison compositions, saying "for my money the music of George Harrison is most compelling when dwelling in those strange shadows of elusive regret and longing, even fear …" David Quantick of Uncut admires the track as "a yearning, beautiful song … an oasis of calm and faith".
"Long, Long, Long" was ranked 80th in Mojo magazine's 2006 list "The 101 Greatest Beatles Songs", where musician Colin Newman described it as "achingly beautiful" and "like the album in microcosm … A lament for a long-lost love which ends with a ghostly freakout." In a similar list, in 2011, Rolling Stone ranked the song at number 98. Conversely, in 2012, readers of The Daily Telegraph voted "Long, Long, Long" as the fifth worst Beatles track, while the editors of the music website Something Else! placed it third on their 2011 list titled "Songs where the Beatles, well, sucked". Two years later, Mojo listed it at number 9 in a poll to determine "the ultimate list of connoisseurs' Beatles' songs", as defined by any track not included on the band's greatest-hits compilations 1962–1966 and 1967–1970.
In 1987, Daniel Amos frontman Terry Scott Taylor recorded what Trouser Press admired as a "first-rate cover" of "Long, Long, Long" for his album A Briefing for the Ascent. Conversely, Sean Carruthers of AllMusic considers singer Tom Hooper's 2002 cover to be a version that "manages to drain the life" out of the composition. Elliott Smith included "Long, Long, Long" in his live performances; his biographer Benjamin Nugent writes that the song appealed to Smith amid his struggles with depression and drug addiction, as "a ballad about trying to get rid of self-imposed suffering and returning to a place where you can relate to other people".
Tanya Donelly recorded what Uncut described as a "compelling version" for her 2006 CD This Hungry Life. My Morning Jacket lead singer Jim James opened his 2009 EP of Harrison compositions, Tribute To, with the song – a cover that Drowned in Sound praised as "not only the standout moment, but also one of the most beautiful and arresting songs of the year". Having recorded the EP within days of Harrison's death in November 2001, James said that part of his decision to release it came from his attendance at the David Lynch Foundation's Transcendental Meditation awareness concert, "Change Begins Within", where "[Harrison]'s name came up a lot … his spirit was very big at that event."[nb 2]
According to Ian MacDonald:
- George Harrison – double-tracked lead vocal, acoustic guitars
- Paul McCartney – backing vocal, Hammond organ, bass guitar
- Ringo Starr – drums
- Chris Thomas – piano
- The only Western LP that Harrison took with him to Rishikesh was Dylan's Blonde on Blonde, which contains the eleven-minute "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands".
- McCartney and Starr also performed at Change Begins Within, as did Donovan, Mike Love and Paul Horn, all of whom had attended the Rishikesh seminary with the Beatles in 1968.
- Unterberger, Richie (2010). "Review of Long, Long, Long". AllMusic.[dead link]
- MacDonald 1998, p. 283.
- Womack 2014, p. 571.
- Paytress, Mark (2003). "A Passage to India". Mojo: The Beatles' Final Years Special Edition. London: Emap. p. 12.
- Leng 2006, p. 33.
- Schaffner 1978, pp. 88–89.
- Inglis 2009, p. 118.
- Doggett 2011, p. 33.
- Tillery 2011, p. 65.
- Greene 2006, pp. 99–100.
- MacDonald 1998, pp. 282–83.
- Schaffner 1978, p. 115.
- Allison 2006, p. 12.
- Harrison 2002, p. 132.
- Allison 2006, p. 149.
- Lavezzoli 2006, p. 185.
- Shea & Rodriguez 2007, p. 158.
- Leng 2006, pp. 34, 37–38.
- Everett 1999, p. 349.
- Leng 2006, p. 274.
- Janovitz, Bill. "Bob Dylan 'Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands'". AllMusic. Retrieved 15 November 2015.
- Miles 2001, pp. 291, 292.
- Lavezzoli 2006, pp. 184–85.
- Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "George Harrison". AllMusic. Retrieved 15 November 2015.
- Everett 1999, p. 199.
- Leng 2006, p. 318.
- MacDonald 1998, p. 451.
- Pollack, Alan W. (1998). "Notes on 'Long, Long, Long'". soundscapes.info. Retrieved 13 November 2015.
- Pedler 2003, p. 302 fn 15.
- Pedler 2003, p. 709.
- Everett 2009, pp. 185–86.
- Everett 1999, pp. 204, 349.
- Everett 1999, pp. 204–05.
- Leng 2006, pp. 37–38.
- Lewisohn 2005, p. 159.
- Miles 2001, p. 311.
- Norman 1996, pp. 340–42.
- MacDonald 1998, pp. 271, 287.
- Lewisohn 2005, pp. 141, 143, 151.
- Hertsgaard 1996, pp. 238, 247, 250–51.
- Doggett 2011, pp. 44–46.
- Miles 2001, pp. 315–16.
- Everett 1999, p. 205.
- Lewisohn 2005, p. 160.
- Miles 2001, p. 314.
- Castleman & Podrazik 1976, pp. 70–71.
- Hertsgaard 1996, pp. 259–60.
- Leng 2006, pp. 39, 51–52.
- Everett 1999, pp. 208, 350.
- Anderson, Kyle (25 February 2012). "Happy Birthday, George Harrison! Celebrate with Evan Rachel Wood's cover of his classic Bob Dylan collab 'I'd Have You Anytime' – EXCLUSIVE". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 16 November 2015.
- Harris, John (July 2001). "A Quiet Storm". Mojo. pp. 66, 68.
- Sutherland, Steve (ed.) (2003). NME Originals: Lennon. London: IPC Ignite!. p. 53.
- Uncredited writer (16 November 1968). "The Beatles: The Beatles (White Album) (Apple)". Record Mirror. Available at Rock's Backpages (subscription required).
- Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "The Beatles The Beatles [White Album]". AllMusic. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
- MacDonald 1998, pp. 264, 282–83.
- Staff writer (12 September 2005) . "NME Reviews – The Beatles". nme.com. Retrieved 28 November 2015.
- The Editors of Rolling Stone 2002, pp. 185, 187.
- Snow, Mat (1 December 2001). "George Harrison 1943–2001". Rock's Backpages. Available at Rock's Backpages (subscription required).
- Inglis 2009, pp. 123, 263.
- Alexander, Phil; et al. (July 2006). "The 101 Greatest Beatles Songs". Mojo. p. 66.
- "100 Greatest Beatles Songs: 98 – 'Long, Long, Long'". rollingstone.com. 19 September 2011. Retrieved 14 November 2015.
- Womack 2014, p. 572.
- Something Else! staff (27 December 2011). "Songs where the Beatles, well, sucked: Gimme Five". Something Else!. Retrieved 14 November 2015.
- "MOJO Unveils What You’ve Decided Is The Ultimate List Of Connoisseurs' Beatles' Songs". thebeatles.com. October 2013. Retrieved 14 November 2015.
- Reno, Brad. "Daniel Amos". Trouser Press. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
- Carruthers, Sean. "Tom Hooper The Unexplored Cosmos". AllMusic. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
- Nugent, p. 200.
- "While My Guitar Gently Weeps: Your guide to this month's free CD ...". Uncut. August 2008. p. 48.
- Glide Magazine staff (25 June 2009). "Jim James Becomes Yim Yames for George Harrison Tribute EP". Glide Magazine. Retrieved 15 November 2015.
- Wheeler, Michael (5 August 2009). "Album Review: Yim Yames – Tribute To". Drowned in Sound. Retrieved 15 November 2015.
- Ayers, Michael D. (25 June 2009). "Jim James Reveals George Harrison E.P. Details". billboard.com. Archived from the original on 27 June 2009. Retrieved 15 November 2015.
- Scheck, Frank (5 April 2009). "Concert Review: Change Begins Within". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 9 April 2009. Retrieved 16 November 2015.
- Miles 2001, pp. 293–94.
- MacDonald 1998, p. 282.
- Allison, Dale C., Jr. (2006). The Love There That's Sleeping: The Art and Spirituality of George Harrison. New York, NY: Continuum. ISBN 978-0-8264-1917-0.
- Castleman, Harry; Podrazik, Walter J. (1976). All Together Now: The First Complete Beatles Discography 1961–1975. New York, NY: Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-25680-8.
- Doggett, Peter (2011). You Never Give Me Your Money: The Beatles After the Breakup. New York, NY: It Books. ISBN 978-0-06-177418-8.
- The Editors of Rolling Stone (2002). Harrison. New York, NY: Rolling Stone Press. ISBN 978-0-7432-3581-5.
- Everett, Walter (1999). The Beatles as Musicians: Revolver Through the Anthology. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-512941-5.
- Everett, Walter (2009). "Any Time at All: The Beatles' free phrase rhythms". In Womack, Kenneth (ed.). The Cambridge Companion to the Beatles. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-68976-2.
- Greene, Joshua M. (2006). Here Comes the Sun: The Spiritual and Musical Journey of George Harrison. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-0-470-12780-3.
- Harrison, George (2002). I, Me, Mine. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books. ISBN 978-0-8118-5900-4.
- Hertsgaard, Mark (1996). A Day in the Life: The Music and Artistry of the Beatles. London: Pan Books. ISBN 0-330-33891-9.
- Inglis, Ian (2009). "Revolution". In Womack, Kenneth (ed.). The Cambridge Companion to the Beatles. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-68976-2.
- Lavezzoli, Peter (2006). The Dawn of Indian Music in the West. New York, NY: Continuum. ISBN 0-8264-2819-3.
- Leng, Simon (2006). While My Guitar Gently Weeps: The Music of George Harrison. Milwaukee, WI: Hal Leonard. ISBN 978-1-4234-0609-9.
- Lewisohn, Mark (2005) . The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions: The Official Story of the Abbey Road Years 1962–1970. London: Bounty Books. ISBN 978-0-7537-2545-0.
- MacDonald, Ian (1998). Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties. London: Pimlico. ISBN 978-0-7126-6697-8.
- Miles, Barry (2001). The Beatles Diary Volume 1: The Beatles Years. London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-7119-8308-9.
- Norman, Philip (1996) . Shout!: The Beatles in Their Generation. New York, NY: Fireside. ISBN 0-684-83067-1.
- Nugent, Benjamin (2005). Elliott Smith and the Big Nothing. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-0-3068-1447-1.
- Pedler, Dominic (2003). The Songwriting Secrets of the Beatles. London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-0-7119-8167-6.
- Schaffner, Nicholas (1978). The Beatles Forever. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-07-055087-5.
- Shea, Stuart; Rodriguez, Robert (2007). Fab Four FAQ: Everything Left to Know About the Beatles … and More!. New York, NY: Hal Leonard. ISBN 978-1-4234-2138-2.
- Tillery, Gary (2011). Working Class Mystic: A Spiritual Biography of George Harrison. Wheaton, IL: Quest Books. ISBN 978-0-8356-0900-5.
- Womack, Kenneth (2014). The Beatles Encyclopedia: Everything Fab Four. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-0-313-39171-2.