The spiritual heart of the White Album, ‘Long, Long, Long’ provided a moment of calm between the raucous ‘Helter Skelter’ and the politically-charged ‘Revolution 1’.
While it may outwardly appear to be an ode to a lover, ‘Long, Long, Long’ was actually written about George Harrison’s joy at having found God.
In his autobiography, Harrison spoke briefly about the song, describing how its music had been inspired by the final track on Bob Dylan’s Blonde On Blonde album.
The ‘you’ in ‘Long, Long, Long’ is God. I can’t recall much about it except the chords, which I think were coming from ‘Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands’ – D to E minor, A, and D – those three chords and the way they moved.
I Me Mine, 1980
The wistful, hymnlike tribute to God was one of the White Album’s most subtle recordings; a hushed waltz which only rouses itself from hypnotic slumber during the middle section. The dynamics are key: the calmness of the verses is only broken briefly as Harrison laments the ‘many tears I was wasting’ before his enlightenment.
In the studio
Under the working title ‘It’s Been A Long Long Long Time’, recording for the song began on 7 October 1968. The Beatles, minus John Lennon, recorded a mammoth 67 takes of the rhythm track, with George Harrison on vocals and acoustic guitar, Paul McCartney playing a modified Hammond organ, and Ringo Starr on drums.
The ending of ‘Long, Long, Long’ was a fortuitous accident, as George Martin’s assistant Chris Thomas later recalled.
There’s a sound near the end of the song which is a bottle of Blue Nun wine rattling away on top of a Leslie speaker cabinet. It just happened. Paul hit a certain note and the bottle started vibrating. We thought it was so good that we set the mikes up and did it again. The Beatles always took advantage of accidents.
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn
Ringo Starr recorded some frenetic drumming, and Harrison’s ghostly howl compounded the effect. The song ends with a brutal G minor eleventh chord played on Harrison’s Gibson J-200, creating one of the most affecting and effective finales to any Beatles recording.
Recording continued the next day, with additional acoustic guitar and lead vocal parts by Harrison, and a bass track played by McCartney. ‘Long, Long, Long’ was completed on 9 October 1968 with backing vocals from McCartney and a piano part by Chris Thomas.
Great song. I love Chris Thomas’s playing but even more terrific is that incredible organ by McCartney.
Where was Lennon during these three days of recording?