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.
Alan-a-Dale. The minstrel wandering around Sherwood Forest in the Robin Hood legend. That’s me. This song finds me in my troubadour mode…
Just because I was involved with Jane at the time doesn’t mean this song is addressed to, or about, Jane. When I’m writing, it’s as if I’m setting words and music to the film I’m watching in my head. It’s a declaration of love, yes, but not always to someone specific. Unless it’s to a person out there who’s listening to the song. And they have to be ready for it. It’s almost definitely not going to be a person who’s said, ‘There he goes again, writing another of those silly love songs.’ So, this is me in my troubadour more.
The Lyrics: 1956 To The Present
Although the music for ‘I Will’ 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 harder still. 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 1968 and finishing at 3am the following morning, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, and Ringo Starr recorded the song, plus 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 2’23”, the take was eventually trimmed to just 28 seconds and used on the White Album between ‘Cry Baby Cry’ and ‘Revolution 9’. The full version was released in November 2018 as Can You Take Me Back? (Take 1).
If the songs recorded were unusual, the instrumentation was no less so. McCartney was on familiar ground, playing acoustic guitar and singing. Lennon, however, kept time by beating wood blocks known as skulls, and Starr played other percussion instruments: bongos, maracas and cymbals.
Take 65 of ‘I Will’ was the best version and, the next day, onto this McCartney overdubbed backing vocals, bass and another acoustic guitar track. He also sang a bass part.