Not Guilty (song)

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"Not Guilty"
Song by George Harrison
from the album George Harrison
Released23 February 1979 (1979-02-23)
RecordedMarch–October 1978
LabelDark Horse
Songwriter(s)George Harrison
Producer(s)George Harrison, Russ Titelman
George Harrison track listing
10 tracks
Side one
  1. "Love Comes to Everyone"
  2. "Not Guilty"
  3. "Here Comes the Moon"
  4. "Soft-Hearted Hana"
  5. "Blow Away"
Side two
  1. "Faster"
  2. "Dark Sweet Lady"
  3. "Your Love Is Forever"
  4. "Soft Touch"
  5. "If You Believe"
"Not Guilty"
Song by the Beatles
from the album Anthology 3
Released28 October 1996 (1996-10-28)
Recorded7–9, 12 August 1968
Songwriter(s)George Harrison
Producer(s)George Martin

"Not Guilty" is a song by English rock musician George Harrison from his 1979 album George Harrison. He wrote the song in 1968 following the Beatles' Transcendental Meditation course in India with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, an activity that he had led the group in undertaking. The lyrics refer to Harrison's relationship with his bandmates John Lennon and Paul McCartney as the Beatles resumed their career in the aftermath to their falling out with the Maharishi. The band spent several days recording the song amid the tensions that characterised the sessions for their 1968 double album The Beatles (also known as the "White Album"). The track was completed in August 1968 but not included on the release.

Harrison revisited "Not Guilty" in 1978 during the sessions for his self-titled album. In contrast to the atmosphere surrounding the song's creation, this period was one of personal contentment for Harrison, whose participation in the Rutles' pastiche of the Beatles' history, All You Need Is Cash, had encouraged him to feel more comfortable with his former band's legacy. The song's arrangement similarly differs in mood from the 1968 version and reflects Harrison's adoption of a mellow jazz style. The musicians on the recording include Neil Larsen and Willie Weeks.

Through much of the 1970s, the Beatles' version was the subject of speculation among collectors of the band's unofficial recordings. This performance, featuring distorted electric guitar and harpsichord, remained unreleased until 1996, when it was included on the Anthology 3 outtakes compilation.

Background and composition[edit]

View of Rishikesh and the Ganges. When writing "Not Guilty", Harrison addressed the divisive atmosphere within the Beatles following their return from India in 1968.

George Harrison wrote "Not Guilty" in 1968 following the Beatles' Transcendental Meditation course in Rishikesh, India.[1] As the Beatle who had been most interested in attending teacher Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's course, Harrison felt responsible for his bandmates' experience there.[2] Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney had each left the ashram early and returned to England,[3] while Harrison and John Lennon stayed on, only to then depart hurriedly after hearing of alleged impropriety between the Maharishi and a female student.[4] 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 …"[5]

Rather than return to England immediately, where the Beatles were planning the launch of their Apple record label, Harrison had extended his time away by visiting his mentor Ravi Shankar in Madras.[6] When he returned to London in late April 1968,[7] according to Apple executive Derek Taylor, Harrison "reacted with real horror" at the lavishness of Apple's campaign.[8][nb 1] In "Not Guilty", the line "I won't upset the Apple cart" was a deliberate reference to Apple Records,[13] while "making friends with every Sikh" referred to activities with the Maharishi.[14] In his 1980 autobiography, I, Me, Mine, Harrison says that the lyrics address "Paul-John-Apple-Rishikesh-Indian friends, etc."[15]

An acoustic demo of the song was recorded during May 1968 at Harrison's home, Kinfauns in Esher,[16] in preparation for what became the album The Beatles, also known as the "White Album".[17] This version, previously available on numerous bootlegs, was eventually released on the 2018 50th Anniversary Box Set. 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".[18] Musicologist Walter Everett describes the song's lyrics as Harrison's "defense against the tyranny of his songwriting comrades".[19] He highlights its musical form as an example of "the composer's typically outlandish chord juxtapositions" and, in the Beatles' studio recording, of McCartney's inventive and melodic bass lines.[20]

Beatles version[edit]


The Beatles recorded "Not Guilty" in August 1968 during sessions for the White Album.[21] The recording was produced by George Martin and engineered by Ken Scott.[22] The song as presented to the group was difficult to learn due to its time signature changes,[23] and during the first 18 takes on 7 August they focused only on the introduction;[24] after a further 27 takes, recording was abandoned until the next day.[23] The sessions eventually ran to 99 takes,[23] many of which were incomplete performances.[24] Initial takes featured keyboard accompaniment from an electric piano,[25] but this was replaced by a harpsichord that was installed in Abbey Road Studio 1.[23] The recording marked the first time that Harrison used his Gibson Les Paul guitar known as "Lucy", which was a gift from his friend Eric Clapton.[26]

The band returned to the track on 9 August,[27] with a six-and-a-half-hour session dedicated to Harrison's lead guitar overdubs. During the session, he sat in the control room playing his guitar, while the amplifier was recorded from an echo chamber.[24] On 12 August, Harrison overdubbed his lead vocal, trying different areas of the studio in an effort to achieve the sound he was after. He again settled on the control room[25] with, in Scott's description, "everything coming back through the speakers to give it more of a live theater-type feel or club feel".[28] Lennon and McCartney experimented with harmony vocals on some parts of the song, but Harrison remained unsatisfied.[25] After more attempts to record guitar at live performance levels that day, the song was abandoned. A mono mix, titled RM1, of the completed track was carried out.[25][29][nb 2] Without warning, Harrison then departed for a short holiday in Greece, which led to the cancellation of the Beatles' 19 August session.[31] Ian MacDonald views this sudden departure as a protest by Harrison against his bandmates' apparent indifference towards "Not Guilty".[32] Scott told journalist Marshall Terrill in 2012 that the recording was problematic because "George wasn't feeling it. It was his song and he wasn't feeling it. He could not get a vocal that he was happy with. He couldn't get even into sort of the mood of singing it, that's why we tried different ways of him singing it …"[28]

The remaining Beatles resumed recording on 20 August with tensions running high, as Lennon and Starr worked in one studio and McCartney recorded alone in another.[33] Two days later, by which point Harrison had returned to London, the acrimony that had been building within the group led to Starr walking out, intent on quitting the Beatles.[34][35]

Exclusion from the White Album[edit]

According to Everett, the song was one of the last to be cut from the final running order of The Beatles.[13][nb 3] Although Lennon admired the composition initially,[37] 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".[38] Music journalist Mikal Gilmore similarly says that its exclusion was "perhaps because it was apparent to everybody that Harrison had aimed the song at Lennon and McCartney".[39]

Following his pioneering backwards-recorded guitar solo on "I'm Only Sleeping", in 1966,[40] Harrison's use of reverse echo-chamber effect on "Not Guilty" marked the last example of the Beatles using backwards audio on one of their recordings.[41] In its three-part study of the 1968 double album, in 2008, Goldmine magazine commented that the song's exclusion has long 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".[42] 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".[43]

The final take, numbered 102 (a reduction mix of take 99),[24] was edited and remixed by Geoff Emerick in 1984 for the aborted Sessions album.[44][45] It was leaked to the Ultra Rare Trax Volume 3 bootleg in the late 1980s,[46] and eventually released officially in October 1996 on Anthology 3.[23] 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".[47] Beatles author John Winn also criticises Emerick's work, describing it as a "mangled mix" with inconsistent sound and several "superfluous edits".[48] Take 102 without Emerick's edits appears on the 2018 50th Anniversary Box Set.

Solo version[edit]

According to author Robert Rodriguez, "Not Guilty" was "much-fabled" among Beatles fans by the late 1970s, since the song was known as a White Album outtake but had never been heard publicly.[49][nb 4] In their respective books on the Beatles published at that time, Nicholas Schaffner paired it with Lennon's "What's the New Mary Jane" as completed recordings that were known to have been left off the White Album,[51] while Harry Castleman and Walter Podrazik wrote that, as far as collectors were aware, Harrison had taped "Not Guilty" with Clapton in summer 1968 before the Beatles attempted to record the song in March 1969.[52]

We recorded it [in 1968] but we didn't get it down right or something ... 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 ... 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.[14]

– George Harrison, 1979

In early 1978, while gathering song manuscripts for his autobiography, I, Me, Mine,[53] Harrison rediscovered his Kinfauns demo of "Not Guilty".[14] He decided to record the song again, in March 1978, during sessions for his 1979 album George Harrison.[54] The sessions coincided with a period of domestic contentment for Harrison, during which he married his partner Olivia Arias and become a father for the first time, to son Dhani.[55][56] In addition, Harrison had enjoyed participating in the Rutles' spoof of the Beatles' history, All You Need Is Cash, a film project that allowed him to debunk the myths that surrounded his former band.[57][58][nb 5] Leng views Harrison's remake of "Not Guilty" as typical of the singer's frame of mind on George Harrison, writing: "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."[62] Harrison dropped a section of 3/8 time that had been one of the factors in making the 1968 recording difficult.[32]

Harrison recorded the song at his home studio in Henley, Oxfordshire,[54][63] with Stevie Winwood, Willie Weeks and Andy Newmark among the backing musicians.[64] Neil Larsen played Rhodes piano on the song.[65] Leng describes the musical mood on the track as "a loose version of the Rickie Lee Jones or Paul Simon jazz-pop sound, dominated by phased electric piano and breathy vocals".[62]

George Harrison received favourable reviews,[49] particularly in the UK, where it was his best-received work since the early 1970s.[66][67] Harry George of the NME welcomed the inclusion of "Not Guilty", saying that "No Beatle who could take part in All You Need Is Cash can be all bad". He described the song as a "tense soft-shoe shuffle" in which Harrison's lyrics offered "wit and composure".[68] Former Record Collector editor Peter Doggett writes that, in the context of its delayed release, eleven years after the events of 1968, the song "gently satirised the global obsession with the past, and specifically the era that the Beatles allegedly epitomised".[69]


Beatles version[edit]

According to Walter Everett:[70]

George Harrison version[edit]

According to Simon Leng:[71]


  1. ^ Reflecting the idealism behind the record company, Apple took out print advertisements inviting any budding artist to submit their music and creative ideas.[7][9] The London offices were inundated with submissions, almost all of which were ignored,[7][10] along with crowds of eccentrics responding to the Beatles' invitation.[11] According to Harrison in an interview late that year, Lennon and McCartney acknowledged that this had been a bad idea.[12]
  2. ^ The idea of recording amplifiers in a small room appealed to Lennon, who decided to use the technique on the next song the Beatles attempted, "Yer Blues".[30]
  3. ^ When announcing the forthcoming release, on 26 October 1968, the NME included "Not Guilty" among the double album's possible tracks.[36]
  4. ^ As a result, some bootleg compilers had taken "Frenzy and Distortion", a track that Harrison produced for Shankar's Raga soundtrack album in 1971,[50] and retitled it "Not Guilty" for inclusion on collections of the Beatles' rare recordings.[49]
  5. ^ As well as appearing briefly in the television film, Harrison acted as a consultant to its creators, Neil Innes and Eric Idle.[58][59] He also supplied them with archival footage from the Beatles' long-planned documentary project,[60] which eventually aired as The Beatles Anthology in 1995.[61]


  1. ^ Greene 2006, pp. 99–100.
  2. ^ Doggett 2011, p. 33.
  3. ^ Tillery 2011, p. 64.
  4. ^ Woffinden 1981, p. 4.
  5. ^ Huntley 2006, p. 165.
  6. ^ Tillery 2011, pp. 64–65.
  7. ^ a b c Miles 2001, p. 296.
  8. ^ Doggett 2011, p. 35.
  9. ^ Schaffner 1978, pp. 101, 103.
  10. ^ Winn 2009, p. 145.
  11. ^ Schaffner 1978, p. 103.
  12. ^ "George Harrison on business & The Beatles, 1969: CBC Archives". CBC Archives at YouTube. 21 December 2011. Retrieved 1 November 2018.
  13. ^ a b Everett 1999, p. 202.
  14. ^ a b c Brown, Mick (19 April 1979). "A Conversation With George Harrison". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
  15. ^ Harrison 2002, p. 138.
  16. ^ Winn 2009, p. 169.
  17. ^ Unterberger 2006, pp. 195, 198.
  18. ^ Winn 2009, p. 170.
  19. ^ Everett 1999, p. 233.
  20. ^ Everett 1999, p. 203.
  21. ^ Miles 2001, pp. 305–06.
  22. ^ Lewisohn 2005, pp. 147–48.
  23. ^ a b c d e MacDonald 1997, p. 266.
  24. ^ a b c d Lewisohn 2005, p. 147.
  25. ^ a b c d Winn 2009, p. 199.
  26. ^ Babiuk 2002, p. 224.
  27. ^ Winn 2009, p. 198.
  28. ^ a b Terrill, Marshall (25 July 2012). "Beatles' recording engineer Ken Scott reveals behind the scenes details on working with The Fab Four". Daytrippin'. Retrieved 11 March 2018.
  29. ^ Unterberger 2006, pp. 209–10.
  30. ^ Lewisohn 2005, p. 148.
  31. ^ Lewisohn 2005, p. 150.
  32. ^ a b MacDonald 1997, p. 267.
  33. ^ Quantick 2002, p. 27.
  34. ^ Lewisohn 2005, pp. 150–51.
  35. ^ MacDonald 1997, p. 271.
  36. ^ NME staff (26 October 1968). "Beatles Double Album Tracks & Price". NME. pp. 12–13.
  37. ^ Clayson 2003, p. 253.
  38. ^ Leng 2006, p. 38.
  39. ^ The Editors of Rolling Stone 2002, p. 38.
  40. ^ Brend 2005, p. 56.
  41. ^ Ryan & Kehew 2006, p. 490.
  42. ^ Goldmine staff (16 October 2008). "Cover Story – The White Album: Artistic zenith or full of filler? Part I". Goldmine. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
  43. ^ Everett 1999, p. 343.
  44. ^ Heylin 2010, p. 299.
  45. ^ Unterberger 2006, pp. 373–74.
  46. ^ Ruhlmann, William. "Ultra Rare Trax, Vol 3". AllMusic. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
  47. ^ Unterberger 2006, p. 210.
  48. ^ Winn 2009, pp. 199–200.
  49. ^ a b c Rodriguez 2010, p. 392.
  50. ^ Castleman & Podrazik 1976, pp. 107, 202.
  51. ^ Schaffner 1978, p. 111.
  52. ^ Castleman & Podrazik 1976, pp. 260, 263.
  53. ^ Thompson, Dave (25 January 2002). "The Music of George Harrison: An album-by-album guide". Goldmine. p. 18.
  54. ^ a b Madinger & Easter 2000, p. 457.
  55. ^ Tillery 2011, pp. 120,163.
  56. ^ Rodriguez 2010, p. 175.
  57. ^ Woffinden 1981, p. 104.
  58. ^ a b Doggett 2011, pp. 243–44.
  59. ^ Huntley 2006, pp. 155–56.
  60. ^ Badman 2001, p. 220.
  61. ^ Huntley 2006, p. 155.
  62. ^ a b Leng 2006, p. 203.
  63. ^ Badman 2001, p. 221.
  64. ^ Leng 2006, pp. 199, 202.
  65. ^ Planer, Lindsay (23 July 2014). "Not Guilty". AllMusic.
  66. ^ Huntley 2006, pp. 163, 169.
  67. ^ Woffinden 1981, p. 106.
  68. ^ George, Harry (24 February 1979). "George Harrison George Harrison (Dark Horse)". NME. p. 22.
  69. ^ Doggett 2011, p. 257.
  70. ^ Everett 1999, pp. 202–03.
  71. ^ Leng 2006, pp. 202–03.


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