Not Guilty

Anthology 3 album artworkWritten by: Harrison
Recorded: 7-9, 12 August 1968
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Ken Scott

Released: 28 October 1996

George Harrison: vocals, guitar
Paul McCartney: bass
Ringo Starr: drums
Chris Thomas: harpsichord

Available on:
Anthology 3

One of The Beatles finest ‘lost’ recordings, Not Guilty was recorded during the White Album sessions, but remained unreleased until Anthology 3 in 1996.

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Not Guilty was written by George Harrison. A demo was recorded in May 1968 at Kinfauns, his home in Esher, Surrey, where The Beatles convened to try out their bumper crop of songs written during or immediately after their trip to India.

Actually, I wrote that in 1968. It was after we got back from Rishikesh in the Himalayas on the Maharishi trip, and it was for the White Album. We recorded it but we didn’t get it down right or something. Then I forgot all about it until a year ago, when I found this old demo I’d made in the Sixties. 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. ‘Not guilty for getting in your way/While you’re trying to steal the day’ – which was me trying to get a space. ‘Not guilty/For looking like a freak/Making friends with every Sikh/For leading your astray/On the road to Mandalay’ – which is 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.
George Harrison
Rolling Stone, April 1979

Lyrically, the song is largely in defence of the 1960s counterculture, although references to Harrison’s frustration at his often marginal role within the group can be detected.

Not guilty
For getting in your way
While you’re trying to steal the day …

I won’t upset the apple cart
I only want what I can get
I’m really sorry that you’ve been misled
But like you heard me said:
Not guilty

At the time of its recording, relations within the group were becoming increasingly strained, with The Beatles often working alone and choosing not to help each other. For Lennon and McCartney this was less of an issue, but Harrison needed the rest of the group’s support to have his songs considered.

Part of the problem may have been the complexity of the song, with numerous time signature changes and half-bars which derailed many of The Beatles’ attempts. However, the result was far from disastrous, and would arguably have made a better inclusion on the White Album than a number of other songs.

Not Guilty was eventually re-recorded by Harrison for his self-titled 1979 album, in a mellower version featuring acoustic guitar and Fender Rhodes electric piano, the latter played by Steve Winwood.

In the studio

The song was recorded at Abbey Road in August 1968. The group taped over 100 takes of Not Guilty, but even the best of these failed to win a place on the White Album.

The Beatles began work on Not Guilty on 7 August 1968. They recorded 46 takes of the rhythm track, comprising guitar, bass, electric piano and drums. The first 18 of these were devoted to the introduction alone; beyond that, just five takes were complete.

The next day the group recorded takes 47-101 of the rhythm track. The electric piano was replaced by a harpsichord to emphasise the rhythmic chord patterns. Take 99 was deemed the best of the day.

On 9 August a reduction mix was made to free up space on the tape. Take 99 became 102, and onto this a range of overdubs were added.

In a session lasting more than six hours, extra lead guitar, bass and drum parts were recorded. The distinctive lead guitar riffs and solo were recorded by Harrison in the studio control room, with his amplifier stack turned up high in the studio below.

George asked us to put his guitar amplifier at one end of the echo chambers, with a microphone at the other end to pick up the output. He sat playing the guitar in the studio control room with a line plugged through to the chamber.
Brian Gibson, engineer
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

Work on Not Guilty finished on 12 August, with the recording of a second lead vocal by Harrison. As with the previous lead guitar overdub, he opted to tape his performance in the control room.

George had this idea that he wanted to do it in the control room with the speakers blasting, so that he got more of an on-stage feel. So we had to monitor through headphones, setting the monitor speakers at a level where he felt comfortable and it wouldn’t completely blast out his vocal.
Ken Scott, engineer
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

A rough mono mix was made at the end of the session, but the song was later rejected for the White Album.

In the early 1980s, Geoff Emerick made a stereo mix, editing roughly a minute from the running time, for EMI’s aborted Sessions album. The mix was eventually released in 1996 on Anthology 3.

26 responses on “Not Guilty

  1. bruce

    WHAT?? This song is way much better than “don’t pass me by” from the white album.
    It should have been included in as well
    The vocals are superb. What a great song

    1. SgtPepper1909

      I’m not actuallly sure that this was considered better than the experimental cut “Wild Honey Pie”– wasn’t it that Pattie Harrison dug “WHP” and so that it made the “White Album”? I don’t think Paul really was expecting it to be a “White Album” track.
      But it shouldn’t have replaced “Not Guilty”, that’s for sure.

  2. Preston Phillips

    I think the reason this didn’t make the White Album was that John and Paul saw the lyrics as somewhat of a dig at them. George would have stopped them from taking it off, but he was in Los Angeles producing a Jackie Lomax record and couldn’t make the 24-hour session where they finished the album.

    1. Joseph Brush

      In light of the drug busts of John and George that were to follow, the inclusion of Not Guilty on the White Album would have provided the British Press with a field day on the front pages of the tabloids.

    2. mr. Sun king coming together

      John and Paul were using the general rule of 1 per side, which means that Harrison would have been forced to drop something else by him. Harrison probably gave them a list of what 4 songs he wanted on the WA

  3. Drew

    Oy, there are some bad lyrics in this song:

    I’m really sorry that you’ve been misled
    But like you heard me said:

    Seriously? “Like you heard me said”? That’s pretty bad.

    Anyway, this song could have replaced Sexy Sadie, and the fact that John’s rant against Maharishi went on the album and George’s defensive rant about himself didn’t make it means the Beatles were sensitive about how they were being perceived. And it was John, no doubt, who pushed for his own song to be on the album.

  4. Mean_Mr_Mustard

    Who cares that Not Guilty didn’t make the White Album. Paul and John made the Beatles with their songwriting so, fair or not, they got to call the shots. The real crime is that “Wild Honey Pie” made the cut. Yesterday morning someone was playing “Wild Honey Pie” outside my bedroom window, so I went to investigate. I was wrong. It was two cats fighting.

  5. David Stardust

    I think ‘Not Guilty’ surpasses ‘Revolution 9′ (duh), ‘WHP’, perhaps even George’s own ‘Savoy Truffle’ and certainly ‘Cry baby Cry’ and ‘Honey Pie’…..however other tracks missed the cut including ‘Junk’, ‘Child of Nature’ ‘Sour Milk Sea’, and I could probably write up an alternate track listing if I have time.

  6. Mick

    More pertinently than not being on the White Album, other tracks like Sour Milk Sea should have made Anthology 3 rather than so many tatty acoustic demos and incomplete run-throughs.

    There are just SO MANY great ‘lost’ tracks on bootleg that it’s a crime for the Anthologies to be handed over to things like an early busk of Bathroom Window.

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