I Want You (She’s So Heavy)

Abbey Road album artworkWritten by: Lennon-McCartney
Recorded: 22 February; 18, 20 April; 8, 11 August 1969
Producers: George Martin, Glyn Johns, Chris Thomas
Engineers: Barry Sheffield, Jeff Jarratt, Tony Clark, Geoff Emerick, Phil McDonald

Released: 26 September 1969 (UK), 1 October 1969 (US)

John Lennon: vocals, lead guitar, organ, Moog synthesiser
Paul McCartney: backing vocals, bass
George Harrison: backing vocals, lead guitar
Ringo Starr: drums, congas
Billy Preston: Hammond organ

Available on:
Abbey Road
Love

I Want You (She's So Heavy) was written by John Lennon and closed side one of the Abbey Road LP. A cry of love in several parts, it was recorded over a six month period between February and August 1969.

Abbey Road - The Beatles

The Beatles had, in fact, first played the song on 29 January during the ill-fated Get Back sessions. Originally with the working title I Want You, the group returned to it less than a month later, as the first song to be recorded for Abbey Road. It was also one of the final songs on the album to be completed.

Coming in at just under eight minutes, I Want You (She's So Heavy) also contains some of John Lennon's simplest lyrics since the days of Love Me Do. A direct outpouring of his all-consuming love for Yoko Ono, the song contains just 14 different words.

A reviewer wrote of She's So Heavy: 'He seems to have lost his talent for lyrics, it's so simple and boring.' She's So Heavy was about Yoko. When it gets down to it, like she said, 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. And in She's So Heavy I just sang 'I want you, I want you so bad, she's so heavy, I want you,' like that.
John Lennon
Rolling Stone, 1970

The obsessiveness of the lyrics is reflected in the repetitiveness of the music. The song contains the same phrases played over a number of rhythmic, tempo and time signature variations. Perhaps the sheer otherness of I Want You explains why it was so well-liked by all members of The Beatles.

Most remarkable, however, is the grinding three-minute finale, featuring Lennon's and Harrison's massed overdubbed guitars multitracked many times over the same relentless chord pattern, which was slashed at full volume to give the impression that it could have gone on forever. Lennon also used the white noise generator from a Moog synth to get the howling wind effect.

The finale from the song was mixed with the organ from Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite! and some vocals from Helter Skelter on 2006's Love album.

In the studio

The Beatles taped 35 takes of the basic rhythm track at Trident Studios in London's Wardour Street on 22 February 1969. The next day, again in Trident, a composite edit was assembled, consisting of the early part of take nine, take 20 for the middle eight, and take 32 for the rest of the song.

On 18 April the multitracked guitars for the finale were recorded by Lennon and Harrison.

John and George went into the far left-hand corner of [studio] number two to overdub those guitars. They wanted a massive sound so they kept tracking and tracking, over and over.
Jeff Jarratt, engineer
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

On 20 April a Hammond organ part was added, as were congas, brought into the studio by The Beatles' assistant Mal Evans especially for the song.

I Want You (She's So Heavy) wasn't then worked on until 8 August, the day the cover photos for Abbey Road were also taken. John Lennon added a Moog synthesiser part, plus the white noise heard during the finale, and Ringo Starr added more drums.

Unusually, these overdubs were added to the original Trident master, not the reduction mix that had been created on 18 April.

On 11 August, the day I Want You (She's So Heavy) was renamed from its working title of I Want You, and Lennon, McCartney and Harrison recorded their repeated "She's so heavy" harmony vocals, recorded twice to give the effect of six voices.

And with that the recording was complete, although the final version - including the distinctive cut-off ending - wasn't made until 20 August, when the mixes from 18 April and 8 August were edited together.

98 responses on “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)

  1. hunchentoot

    The recurrent 6/8 arpeggio, combined with the bass line, seems inversely related to the C – C/B – A minor -D arpeggiation, used in “You Never Give Me Your Money” and “Golden Slumbers/The End”.
    That C-C/B-Am-D in turn, seems to me to have been “lifted” by George, from an Eric Clapton song, “Badge”, which Clapton would not release until 1970.
    _That_ may have been payback for Eric leaving the “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” sessions, with Patty Boyd, in tow.

      1. An Exploding Bozo Moment

        Off the subject a bit, I noticed how well you could splice “Because” and “I Want You (She’s so Heavy) together. I haven’t actually done this on a computer, but in my head, when I am playing “She’s So Heavy,” the music easily jumps the track” (as in a train jumping its tracks) to “Because” right at the point where Lennon says “She’s So…” and the music switches to the repeating hypnotic guitar riff. At that point, the beginning of “Because” just clicks right in, to the point that I have trouble NOT having it click in. It’s a nuisance. A musicologist could analyze what the similarities are. Certainly it has something to do with the arpeggios.

        1. Bryan F

          Although the arpeggios in Because are in 4/4 time in C# minor as opposed to the arps in I Want You which are in D minor over a 6/8 time signature. Having said that, the “movement” of the arpeggio could make you think that…or hear that.

        2. Fullie

          You could rhythmically, but they’re in different keys. “I Want You…” starts with a Dm, while “Because” begins in C#m. The other problem is (if you’re a guitarist) that “I Want You…” is played in Drop D tuning, and “Because” is in standard tuning.

  2. PurpleNeonLights

    Where did I hear that Chet Atkins had done one of the lead breaks in “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”?

    I don’t have a rendition of the song right handy, so I can’t give you the exact point at which the lead starts, but it is easily recognizable. It is all alone, and utterly expert in its execution. I have never heard any Beatle play that well, with such finesse and expertise. I have trouble accepting that a Beatle played that lead.

    Any further info about this?

    1. grego mac

      John played the lead on his Epiphone Casino. His solo is so FELT by him that he sounds as good as Chet Atkins, even though technically Chet Atkins could probably play circles around him.
      Sorry if that reads a little weird, but I have had a few drinks. This is a great site by the way.

    2. Tweeze

      The lead is definitely John. John doesn’t get much credit for phenomenal lead work, but he really could play. His was one of the finest ever when it came to the use of guitar tone. Just like his amazing voice, John’s guitar was always right-on.

      1. John Wilkinson

        There’s a couple of tracks on Paul’s first ‘Home Alone’ Solo album ‘McCartney’ with that warm guitar sound. I’d always supposed Paul had played the solo on ‘I want You’

        I’m pleased I was wrong.

        Well done John.

  3. Chris

    PurpleNeonLights: No. The only time a lead guitar was done by an outsider was Clapton on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”.

    Plus, the “I never heard him play that well” was one of the arguments used by the Paul is Dead crowd…

  4. Mark

    How can you write about this song without commenting on the phenomenally good bass line? This and ‘Something’ are evidence of Paul’s genius on the bass.

    1. Joe Michaels

      You are absolutely spot on. Both songs are delicious on the low end. I always thought George really let Paul have “his way” with the bassline on Something…and a real stretch for George given the melody. But I read somewhere that the bassline was actually GEORGE’S recommendation!

    2. Jon

      This is definitely one of Paul’s most inventive and aggressive bass performances. I always smile when I hear the descending bass riff he plays around 4:05. It sounds like a melodic tom fill!

    1. James

      I’ve been listening to the isolated rock band track and that bass line while not technically difficult is so innovative and improvised. Excellent

  5. DoBotherMe

    The guitar line from “Badge” wasn’t lifted, George wrote the music and lyrics with Clapton (and has cowrite credits) and played guitar on the Cream release. And if you pay attention you’ll hear the same guitar cadence repeated in many Beatle and Harrison songs. It’s a Harrison invention. (Derek Taylor and Ringo also contributed words to Badge during a drunken coffee klatch at Kinfauns)

    1. locogato

      Not really. Anyone who does listen to the Beatles acknowledges his musicianship at the bass, and that’s many people, right?
      I would say he started being adventurous with the basslines by the time of the Rubber Soul album.
      Paul himself has given credit to Brian Wilson (of Beach Boys) as inspiration for such a drift.
      Lucky us!

    2. Tweeze

      Back then Paul was definitely given mucho accolades for his bass playing. The Beatles have been given substantial credit for being the catalyst of success for the bass line moving from the dark background into actually becoming an essential part if not a lead instrument. (See ‘Think For Yourself’)

      1. Jamie

        Substantial credit? From whom? That’s beyond stupid. You need to expand your obviously very narrow horizons and realize that blues, Motown and rock ‘n’ roll had done that years and years and years before the Beatles did. I give credit where it’s deserved but that statement is utterly ridiculous.

        1. Bat Fastard

          Hardly beyond stupid. For one thing, the electric bass was a new instrument – Leo Fender basically heralding in modern music in the 1950s. And Blues? Rock n Roll? Not much scope there for the melodic style that Tweeze is referring to. Motown, well I’ll accede to James Jamerson. So you need to expand your obviously very narrow horizons and realise that many other factors may contribute to a perfectly acceptable opinion. And that’s before I even get to pointing out how bass was hardly audible until decent record players appeared.

  6. richard calvert

    ….I want you so bad, it’s driving me mad….Beyond the Paul’s Dead suggestion, ‘Love’ is beyond any words to describe it properly? The Moody Blues; ‘Nights In White Satin’, is a perfect example of the agony of ‘Love’. This is the dark emotional passion before the dawn, (ie.) ‘Here Comes The Sun’. I hear how George’ used the same ‘Sound’ on the (all instrumental side of): ‘All Things Must Pass’. Johns’ deeply brooding personna once again helps so much in complimenting the brighter colors of the Beatles brushes; album after album! The cut at the end seems ‘so’ appropriate now as it did back then!

  7. Arthur

    Without a doubt their most brilliant song: I can go on for hours about how genious that finale is, bus I won’t.
    This song again shows the genious that was John Lennon.

    But how can you not say anything about Ringo’s drumming?
    Next to the white noise, Ringo’s drumming is a big factor in how the finale changes.
    If it wasn’t for that, you would just have a complete tensionless finale.

    1. Mathew

      I agree with you about Ringo’s drumming on this track. I’ve read a lot about how they had to convince Ringo to perform a drum solo for ‘The End’.

      But in my mind, his playing here sounds very much ad-libbed, a lot like … a drum solo.

  8. Joseph Brush

    Thanks to DoBotherMe for the Badge clarification. I thought everyone knew that Eric and George cowrote that song.
    Every member of the Beatles played at peak performance on I Want You and the entire Abbey Road album, which is the true miracle of the Beatles after the traumatic experience of the Get Back sessions. We were and are so lucky this final testament to their legacy was created.

  9. EarlyAprilAdam

    In reply to the people saying that it doesn’t sound like a Beatle could have played the guitar solo or that it was George…sorry, you’re crazy! That’s totally John wailing away the best he knew how! Trust me, I play the guitar and I recognize styles, and it’s DEFINITELY John.

    1. Andrew

      It’s John playing the lead. If you need proof, he’s singing along with his guitar in the verses, and his guitar absolutely matches what he’s singing. No one could match the nuances of the vocals. Besides, the part is not difficult – but it needs to be ‘felt’ when played. This is a clip of me and some friends having fun with this song – I’m on the Les Paul. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NSIotIYHFPg) This song seems simple in many respects – until you have to learn all the parts and changing time signatures, odd bars and so on. Suddenly it becomes a very complicated beast! And one I never tire of.

  10. brian

    “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” is a song that took me a while to appreciate because, yes, it is monotonous. But when you realise why and enjoy all the great things going on in it, it’s realy a genius piece of work. The first few time I heard it as a teenager and even occasionally as an adult the abrupt ending would startle the crap out of me and make me jump! My guess is that was one of John’s intentions!

  11. Wing Dairu

    The outro is so unique. It’s almost as if it’s hypnotizing you, pulling you further and further into the repetitive chords until you lose yourself in it. Definitely something only the Beatles could pull off in such a spectacular manner.

    1. Joe Post author

      Not so, according to Mark Lewisohn’s The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions:

      “There remains to this day a myth about ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)': that one can hear a muffled shout of disapproval from the control room after John Lennon, all but tearing his larynx to pieces, shouts “Yeeaahhh!” during the recording on the finished master this occurs at 4’32”), the inference being that someone was instructing John to keep his voice down. Never, never would anyone have issued such an instruction about a vocal in such a fashion! Close scrutiny of the original Trident tapes reveals the indecipherable shout to belong to a fellow Beatle, off microphone, taped on 22 February, and that it was certainly not one of disapproval.”

      1. Chris

        In any case, the way I heard it is that control-room dude didn’t tell Lennon to pipe down, he told the engineer something like “turn it the fuck down!”…

  12. SgtPepper1909

    About the formulaic Harrison style:
    To me it seems nearly fingerstyle, even though it probably is arpeggios/broken chords (with an assortment of hammer-ons and other assorted notes). It did show up in Happiness is a Warm Gun, even though that may be John playing that passage (“Happiness, is a warm gun, happiness, is a warm gun mama…). It also was in Badge, which right away struck me with the thought of the “It Don’t Come Easy” lick, on which song Harrison has co-writer credits. (And I don’t think Ringo wrote that riff).

  13. StarrTime

    So John played the solo? Wow, I’ve never really thought of him as a “great” guitar player, but this, Get Back and Honey Pie are three of my favorite Beatle guitar solos and all were played by John.

    1. Jeagle

      When i listen to the I want you (she’s so heavy) finale, i am amazed every time. The sound of the moog synth toward the final 2 minutes, as it grows in power, gives off a very apocalyptic vibe. It may sound crazy, but when i listen to this song, this picture is painted in my mind:
      I always picture Armageddon occurring, with the beatles playing this song all together on the apple rooftop, everyone thrashing and loud, as flames fall from the red sky above and the city of london burns behind them.

      1. A Mold of Your Face in Play-Doh

        Re: The white noise at the end:

        I concpetulaize it as material creation slowly giving way to the Om sound (or Aum);

        …and as matter giving way to the atoms, then the light of subatomic particles, then a field of pure boundless light.

        It’s like the romantic/sexual/passion thing getting so intense and elevating, it rises up into a higher level.

        Of course, I don’t know what Lennon intended. That’s how it came through to me.

    2. Michael

      If you play the guitar, you’ll find that the solo, as great and effective as it is, is really easy to play. I can’t believe some people here are even debating this. It’s John, and it’s clearly played on a hollow body electric guitar (John’s trusty Casino). George used his Les Paul and maybe his Fender Telecaster Abbey Road (and of course accoustic guitars). Also note, everybody praises McCartney’s bass playing on the entire Abbey Road album, but George has stated that he played bass on several Abbey Road tracks.

      1. Eric

        Actually, according to most accounts, George only played bass on one Abbey Road track, “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window” (Paul played lead guitar, so they basically traded off). In at least one source, John is credited as playing bass on “Carry That Weight”. All other bass parts (including the ones most people single out for praise, such as “Come Together” and this track) were played by Paul.

  14. Winston O'Boogie

    I love this song, yet it seems to be the only one of its kind. Does anyone know any similar songs and bands to this? I know Cream and Led Zepplin.

    1. brian

      If you listen to the song “Eclipse”, the last track on Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side Of The Moon” album, you can hear the unmistakable similarity to “I Want You”‘s outro progression. It can’t be heard in the melody but in the instrumental backing.

  15. graham

    listen to the song “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” by Green Day and at 3:46 it sure sounds similar to the ending of I Want You.Even that whole album seems to have been influenced by Abbey Road.

  16. foxnaif

    i found this site because i was looking for who played lead guitar on I Want You. Some here say John, some say George, the credits by anon atop say both. I’ll go with that.

    1. Gordonth

      It was really good. After many years i really did enjoy their music. Raw and beautiful..John and George overdubbed as many
      guitars onto the finale as they possibly could.
      John then doubled his lead vocal on guitar (with standalone solo at 2:24), and
      George added his lead lines to the intro and as fills in the verses.

  17. Granadth

    Definitely one of my favorite song of the Beatles!
    “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” is one of their most unusual experiments, not to mention its characteristically odd phrase lengths and changes of meter. …unusual long running time, abrupt ending..
    I can get so lost in this song, it’s brilliant!! John Lennon here at his genius best… masterpiece.
    And now some details about guitars..
    John and George overdubbed as many guitars onto the finale as they possibly could. John then doubled his lead vocal on guitar (with standalone solo at 2:24), and George added his lead lines to the intro and as fills in the verses..Thanks!!!

  18. Das IMperator

    Has anyone noticed that at 4 minutes 28 seconds into the CD pressing of the song there’s a scratch as Lennon screams ‘yeah’? I have an LP copy of Abbey Road and the scratch isn’t there which makes me think maybe they copied a record (with a scratch) for the CD issue.

  19. Joe Michaels

    We covered this song in our high school band. (Good dance number…) The joke was, no one in the band could look at anyone else to get a clue as to when the song would end. We each had to count the 15 repetitions in our heads, making the ending that much more cool.

  20. Brad Westlund

    I remember dreading hearing that three-minute ending whenever I listened to this song. It used to seem like it took forever, but now it seems like it goes by so fast; sometimes I have to restart the whole thing over again. Oh, how we learn…

  21. newyorkjoe

    This song is genius, as is so much of Abbey Road. The bass–one of the most gorgeous bass lines in pop music, totally progressive yet always respecting the boundaries articulated by R’s drums. J & G’s guitars are telepathically in sync. Both aurally simple and complicated, it stands as the true and most sophisticated au revoir from the greatest rock band ever.

    1. ManNamedLear

      It’s debated. I’m inclined to believe it’s the Hofner given the tone, the ease with which Paul plays some of the faster licks, the fact that the bass is ever so slightly out of tune, and the fact that the song was started during the “Get Back” sessions (for which Paul played the Hofner a lot).

  22. Sergio A. Genzon

    The Beatles at their funkiest AND their jazziest too! Lennon doing George Benson’s trdemark of singing his guitar line/solo in unison, McCartney’s intricate baselines, Ringo quasi Latin Rock druming (I don’t hear congas but I do hear him playing a conga drum pattern on the traps), and of course, Billy Preston’s Hammond adding so much too it, so tastefully as well as wild and funky. This song takes The Beatles to a whole different level. Simply Masterfull!

  23. Peter

    The Beatles, ladies and gentlemen.

    Really, this song displays their ensemble work at its finest. As someone said above, this is each member at peak performance. This is what it sounds like when a band is firing on all cylinders.

    And to think they despised one another at the time.

    Miraculous.

  24. David the historian of science

    I remember reading that, for the months in 1969 before “The End” was composed and recorded, the Beatles fully intended Side 1 of Abbey Road to be the second side of the album, so that the full volume cut out of “I Want You” would have been the final cathartic goodbye of the last Beatles album. [No “Let It Be” official album release was expected at that point, obviously.]

  25. Christopher Hight

    This song is brilliant. Great guitar solo,fantastic bass line and heavy drumming. Lennons vocals are great as are the harmonies on the chorus. When my youngest daughter heard the jam at the end, she couldn’t believe it was Beatles. She guessed Pink Floyd. Wondering if Paul wrote the bass line or is it Johns?

  26. Travis

    Hey,

    Does anyone know if there are any kind of effects/pedals used on the guitars during the intro/”she’s so heavy”/outro arpeggio section? I’ve heard that the guitar is run through a Leslie amp. Any other effects besides that?

    1. Charlie

      John plays the stabs like at 1:45, on the organ, and Billy Preston plays the solo bits on the Hammond like at 1:57. George is playing rhythm, in drop D, and John’s playing lead guitar in standard tuning.

  27. Billy Shears

    More Lennon genius. Simple lyrics repeated over most of the seven-something minute song. It has links to some of the “Plastic Ono Band” stuff -just around the corner- with the desperate singing -almost screaming on some of the verses. Simple and melodic solo by John that fits perfectly as a bridge near the middle. Great ending – haunting… Nice work by Paul also.

  28. Guy

    Whenever the solo comes starts in this song I stop whatever it is I’m doing and give it my full attention even after hearing it 100s of times. It’s that good.
    Love this site and people’s passion and comments. Well done Joe.

  29. Bill

    It’s very simple to understand why Paul’s bass lines are so good… He was firstly a guitarist, who applied his melodic guitar sensibilities to his bass playing. If you’re already a good guitarist, it’s not that hard to apply the same things to a bass, since it’s tuned the same way, just an octave lower. Also, since you don’t use any chords when bass playing, it’s easier to be even more melodic.

  30. James Ferrell

    The 6/8 part always reminds me of “Remember (Walking in the Sand)” by the Shangri-Las–the dramatic chord progression, tempo, even the key.

    A line from the same song then pops up later in “Free as a Bird” (“whatever happened to the boy that I once knew/the life I gave to you”). I bet John liked this song. :-)

    1. Joseph Brush

      This reminds me of an old Mel Torme song which was sometime before the Shangri-Las. For the life of me, I can’t remember the name of the song.

    1. Julian

      It’s absolutely Paul. The song emerged as a jam during the last days of Get Back sessions. This recording might be from the last day – January 31st, 1969. They liked the song so much that they decided to start recording it a couple of weeks later on February 22nd at Trident Studios.

  31. Heorge Garrison

    Something I noticed recently about this song, was that during the long outro, George slipped in a solo at about 5:15, you need to have it playing quite loud to notice it. If you’re using head-phones listen out for it in your right ear.

  32. lewis n. villegas

    I’ve always loved this song. Lennon was pasting things together collage-style and the more I read about the way that the song came together, the more this kind of song writing and recording is revealed. We can now multi-track on a Mac. But back in 1969 this was all brand new.

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