Released: 22 November 1968 (UK), 25 November 1968 (US)
A love song written by Paul McCartney, I Will was one of the songs worked on by The Beatles and their associates while in Rishikesh, India.
Although the music came together fairly easily, the words were worked on in India, and remained unfinished even as recording began back in London.
I was doing a song, I Will, that I had as a melody for quite a long time but I didn’t have any lyrics to it. I remember sitting around with Donovan, and maybe a couple of other people. We were just sitting around one evening after our day of meditation and I played him this one and he liked it and we were trying to write some words. We kicked around a few lyrics, something about the moon, but they weren’t very satisfactory and I thought the melody was better than the words so I didn’t use them. I kept searching for better words and I wrote my own set in the end; very simple words, straight love-song words really. I think they’re quite effective. It’s still one of my favourite melodies that I’ve written. You just occasionally get lucky with a melody and it becomes rather complete and I think this is one of them; quite a complete tune.
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles
In the studio
If the writing of I Will took some time, recording it was possibly even tortuous. Although completed in just two days, it took The Beatles 67 takes to get right.
George Harrison did not take part in the recording. Beginning at 7pm on 16 September and finishing at 3am the following morning, McCartney, Lennon and Starr recorded the song, with a number of ad-libs as the session progressed.
These included take 19, which was an improvised song based around the line “Can you take me back where I came from?” Lasting 2’21″, the take was eventually trimmed to just 28 seconds and used on the White Album between Cry Baby Cry and Revolution 9.
The Beatles also strayed from the job in hand on take 35, which was an impromptu version of Cilla Black’s 1968 hit single Step Inside Love, written for her by Paul McCartney. He then led the group into an off-the-cuff song, Los Paranoias, inspired by a comment made by Lennon. Both these songs can be heard on Anthology 3.
According to Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn, the trio also recorded a song called The Way You Look Tonight, “a short number, the lyric of which was derived almost entirely from I Will”.
If the songs recorded were unusual, the instrumentation was no less so. McCartney was on familiar ground, playing acoustic guitar and singing. Lennon, meanwhile, kept time by beating some metal with a piece of wood. Starr played percussion instruments: bongos, maracas and cymbals.
Take 65 of I Will was the best version, and the next day McCartney overdubbed onto this backing vocals, bass and another acoustic guitar track. He also sang a bass part.