The Beatles' Revelatory White Album Demos: A Complete Guide

We delve deep into the 1968 home recordings that planted the seeds for the band's classic self-titled double LP

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"Not Guilty"

Few songs capture the growing rancor within the Beatles quite like this song from Harrison, written in the unhappy aftermath of their trip to India. He had spent the previous two years using his allotted album slots to essentially preach philosophy, but "Not Guilty" marks his return to the secular realm in a gloriously irate fashion. On the surface his lyrics are a defense of the increasingly far-out counterculture mentality, but they hint strongly at his own feelings of persecution within the band. "It was me getting pissed off at Lennon and McCartney for the grief I was catching during the making of the White Album," he explained to Musician in 1987. "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."

"Not Guilty" is loaded with idiosyncratic chord clusters, off-kilter time signatures, and syncopated stops and starts, and Harrison can be heard on the Esher tape introducing the song, not inaccurately, as "a jazz number" that would "make a good rocker." Even in this early form, it's an extremely complex song, one that would trip up the band when they recorded it at Abbey Road that August. "Not Guilty" would have the dubious distinction of being the first Beatles track that required over 100 takes. Just two weeks before, Geoff Emerick, their longtime engineer, had quit in disgust over the band's repeated sniping in the studio, but the "Not Guilty" sessions became even more tense as Lennon and McCartney – who had trouble mustering enthusiasm for Harrison's work on the best occasions – struggled through four torturous days.

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