Circles

Written by: Harrison
Recorded: May 1968

Unreleased

George Harrison: vocals, organ

Recorded among the May 1968 demos for the White Album, Circles was a George Harrison composition which eventually saw light of day in 1982.

Upon their return from India, all four Beatles gathered at Kinfauns, Harrison’s Esher bungalow. They recorded demos of 27 songs, to be put forward as potential titles for the White Album. Of these songs, 19 eventually found their way onto the album.

One of the discarded titles was Circles, seemingly recorded alone by Harrison with just an organ accompaniment. Speaking voices can be heard in the background; they may be those of the other Beatles, or possibly the sound of a television or radio.

One of Harrison’s more philosophical songs, Circles is lyrically similar to The Inner Light or Within You Without You, although the concept of the changing world being observed by a stationary individual perhaps best recalls John Lennon‘s I’m Only Sleeping.

The Beatles never recorded Circles as a group, although Harrison’s demo was later widely bootlegged along with the other Kinfauns recordings. Like Lennon’s Child Of Nature – which also resurfaced in a different form some years later – Circles wasn’t included on Anthology 3, although some of the other May 1968 demos did feature.

Harrison eventually released a version of Circles on his 1982 album Gone Troppo. It was recorded with a full band – including Billy Preston on organ and piano – and with largely different lyrics to those written in 1968.

Lyrics

Friends come and friends go
As I go round and round
In circles

Love warms and love colds
As I go round and round
In circles

He who knows does not speak
He who speaks does not know
And I go round in circles

Life comes and life goes
As I go round and round
In circles

He who knows does not speak
He who speaks does not know
And I go round in circles

Life comes and life goes
As I go round and round
In circles

Life comes and love goes
As we go round and round
In circles

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10 Responses to “Circles”

  1. The Walrus

    There’s tons of copies of the Kinfaus demo of this song floating around the internet.

    It has got to be the most horrible Beatles song ever.

    I can barely make out the lyrics, it’s just a repetion of George playing the same jntes on and on and singing apparent gibberish. No wonder it wasn’t released.

    Reply
  2. James

    Personally I wish the Beatles had recorded it. I think its got a haunting melody and the lyric concept is basically sound. I don’t think he did it very well on Gone Troppo but the Beatles would probably have nailed it.

    Reply
  3. Travis

    I agree with you James, I think this is a very eery song, a great, dark melody, similar in vein to “Blue Jay Way”, another vastly underrated Harrison composition. I do not like his solo version at all, and I completely agree a Beatles version would have far surpassed it – much like their Anthology vers of “Not Guilty”, another great Harrison gem that has been criminally ignored, which blew away the eventual Harrison solo recording. Love the line “He who knows does not speak, he who speaks does not know…”. Seriously one of my favorite lyrics of all time and a perfect reflection I think of George’s philosophy of people at the time.

    Reply
  4. Damon F

    I recall finding a band version of Circles on Youtube with swirling guitar parts, but I haven’t been able to locate it again.

    Reply
  5. Bungalow Bob

    George’s demo sure is dreary, but I can’t help thinking there is a good Beatles song in there somewhere. Imagine if Paul had been willing to whip the melody into shape, and John had cared enough to spice it up with some of his witty, cryptic wordplay. The question is: Did the other Beatles go out of their way to be creatively uncooperative with him, or did George actively discourage any collaboration on his compositions?

    Reply
    • Apple Scruff

      Well, it wasn’t because he discouraged collaboration because he was fine with Paul collaborating with him on other songs (I Want to Tell You, Long Long Long, While My Guitar Gently Weeps).

      Reply
      • Bungalow Bob

        This is interesting, Apple Scruff. I read somewhere that Paul DID add the distinctive, somewhat “dissonent” piano notes to the verses of “I Want To Tell You.” But I never read anything about him contributing to “Long, Long, Long” or “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” Let me know what YOU know about Paul’s collaborative efforts with these songs. Thanks! (Hmm… Maybe Paul felt he deserved a co-write on some of George’s tunes because of his help. I KNOW he added the rocking “middle bit” to “I, Me, Mine,” and DIDN’T get a co-writer’s credit; Did he want one?)

        Reply

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