Written in 1968, Harrison recorded a demo in May 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.
‘Not Guilty’ was written in 1968 although it appeared for the first time on the 1979 George Harrison album. I wrote it before the Beatles White album and it seems to be about that period: Paul – John – Apple – Rishikesh – Indian friends, etc.
I Me Mine
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 3:22 mix, which faded the song out early, was eventually released in 1996 on Anthology 3.
In 2018, on the super deluxe edition of the White Album, the full version of take 102, lasting 4:28, was released, as was the remastered Esher demo.
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 you 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.
Rolling Stone, 19 April 1979
‘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.
It depends on which side of your face you smile, really. That’s been a problem for a while is that people always felt I was the ‘serious one’, but people don’t get concepts about people or they put a tag on somebody and no matter what you do, they seem to think that’s what you are, but if you go back through all those albums or even with The Beatles, it’s more like tongue in cheek. If you say a joke and you don’t smile, it doesn’t mean to say it’s not a joke. But this album, for example, ‘Not Guilty’, the whole lyric of that is kind of comedy.
It’s just about that period in 1968. It’s a complete joke, the lyric. In fact, if you go back on all the records, there’s a lot of comedy in it. You just have to look for it.
Press conference, Los Angeles