Long, Long, Long

The Beatles (White Album) artworkWritten by: Harrison
Recorded: 7-9 October 1968
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Ken Scott

Released: 22 November 1968 (UK), 25 November 1968 (US)

George Harrison: vocals, acoustic guitars
Paul McCartney: backing vocals, Hammond organ, bass
Ringo Starr: drums
Chris Thomas: piano

Available on:
The Beatles (White Album)

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.

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While it may outwardly appear to be an ode to a lover, Long, Long, Long was actually written about Harrison's joy at having found God.

In his autobiography, George 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.
George Harrison
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 Harrison on vocals and acoustic guitar, McCartney playing a modified Hammond organ, and 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.
Chris Thomas
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 with backing vocals from McCartney and a piano part by Chris Thomas.

60 responses on “Long, Long, Long

  1. JD

    A lovely song, but I can’t help wondering why George chose to sing it quite so softly. As it is, he gets drowned out by the percussion so drastically that the recording feels unfinished, like an early rehearsal for a song that never got polished.

    1. Fred Dombski

      In my opinion it’s a comment of the world trying to drown out a solemn moment such as it frequently does. Rather than a choir nearly shouting their joy, Mr. Harrison chose to serenely display his re-found acceptance of his deity. Also, I diverse to add the fact of ancient drumming to “awaken” a sleeping God as was done at the dawn of history in forgotten cultures.

  2. Nick

    I love the frailty of his voice on this one. i love how the drums crash in like an uninvited storm. there seems to be a less polished less produced feel to this one. i love it. my fav harrison tune

  3. Matt

    Listen to the new remastered Beatles (White Album), JD. George’s voice is, at last, not shadowed out by the percussion on this track. It’s absolutely beautiful, and it’s how the song should have always been.

  4. john

    just recently discovered this one… A diehard Beatles fan since the “wee-years” I’d never gave much thought to the song. Circumstances in life arrive, the Death of My true love-June, and then the “remastered White Album”. I’ve never listened to sides 3 & 4 as I have recently.George was just now starting to speak from the soul.

  5. Day Tripper

    I love the main part of this song too. But I dont like the “aaaaaaaaaaaaah”-part, the part, where the coke-bottle rotates. I thint it doesnt fit at all. I’m fading the song at 2:20

      1. Bob Fritz

        The ending of that song always creeped me out when I was a kid, but I guess it’s appropriate for a song that was about feeling estranged from God for a “long, long, long time.”

  6. Jeff

    The middle section of some of George’s songs are among the best in rock music. I include Long, Long, Long among these. Also included are Old Brownb Shoe, I Want To Tell You, Something, While My Guitar Gently Weeps. Harrison was perhaps the most underated singer, songwriter, muciscian in rock music. However, this is understandable given his bandmates John and Paul – the Kings of Rock Music!

  7. Bandy

    I heard this as a teenager on the White Album. After many years I am listening to it again. Brings a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. What a beautiful, beautiful, melodic and melancholy song! So very underrated! God bless you, George.

  8. robert

    When the White Album first came out it was difficult to really like this song – for a myriad of reasons – one is that it was competing against so many more accessible songs on the same LPs -including George’s other White Album songs.

    Also, the darkness of the song production really didn’t fit the mood of 1968 – and it was just hard to hear.

    But now, especially with the mono remaster – this song is standout brilliant – beautiful, haunting and if the lyrics are applied introspectively, somewhat challenging.

    1. Joseph Brush

      “The darkness of the song production really didn’t fit the mood of 1968”.
      Oh really.
      The political events events of that year cast a dark shadow for those of us who were there at the time.

      1. mauro suttora

        don’t confuse politics with normal life. The vast majority of people were having a wonderful time in 1968.
        Economy was good, hopes were high, youth were colourful, music was joyful.
        Lennon and many other musicians weren’t addicted to heroin yet, Lsd was still the main drug as in 1967, and the mood of the songs shows.

        Then, of course, Vietnam, Bob Kennedy, M.L.King…
        But, especially for us in Europe, it was a fantastic year.

        1. Joseph Brush

          In 1968, Czechoslovakia was invaded by the Warsaw Pact thereby ending the Prague Spring. There were student riots in Paris.
          There were riots at the Democratic Party convention in Chicago with subsequent brutal repression. Many young American men sought refuge from the draft by moving to Canada and Sweden. There was a war in Vietnam.
          Not everyone lived in Europe in 1968.

    2. Ian

      I got this LP for Christmas 1968 and found a lot of it very difficult to get into, only being 11 at the time. The funny thing is though, I loved this track even on first listening. It has a certain melancholic charm which is undiminished even after all these years.

  9. Pete McEwen

    Maybe my ears can’t hear it anymore or maybe it was lost going from vinyl to CD, but I remember a super low bass note after each “Long, long, long time…” Or maybe I imagined it.

  10. Yorick von Fortinbras

    Having known about and loving this song for years, I just discovered Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde and the first thing I thought of when I heard “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” was the similarity to “Long, Long, Long”. I’m pretty good at picking up these ‘borrowings’ and was happy to see that this was openly acknowledged by George here.

  11. aak

    One of Harrison’s finest works, in my opinion. The vocal is so delicate and there is an awesome contrast between the melody and the drums. The tone of the bass is absolutely beautiful as well; on the stereo it hits ever so softly on the left speaker, but it is extremely effective.

  12. Jay Borcherding

    I don’t have the remastered White Album, but I presume that is the version used over the end credits to Scorsese’s George Harrison: Living In the Material World, because it is an absolutely revelatory version of Long, Long, Long.

    Gorgeous! The delicacy of George’s vocal is maintained, yet it is pushed forward in the mix, and the counterpoint with the punchy percussion is perfect. Any sense of murkiness or muddiness is absolutely buffed out of the song, and the guitar, organ and piano parts are so sweetly melancholy that the result is nothing short of superb.

    It was a perfect choice to end Scorsese’s excellent film, and following Olivia Harrison’s words about George “lighting up the room” when he “left his body” it made me cry like a baby–it really does sum up the man and his music. George may have intended it as a love song to God, but it can be heard as a love song to anyone–including his fans.

  13. chris jay

    one of my all-time fave Beatles cuts–a highlight of the White Album and always haunting—–seek out Elliott Smith’s cover of this on the internet. Smith is a phenomenal interpreter of Beatles compositions and he really catches George’s spirit in his rendition of Long, Long, Long

  14. Daniel

    I have been touched in oh so many ways by the reflections of George and his volumes of commentary regarding the search for spiritual anchoring. George told us to find God as advice. He is missed everyday I remain alive. I’ll see you in the next world George and thank you personally…

  15. Neil

    Completely agree! It’s not easy to play drums as economically and uniquely affecting as Ringo did-a signature style and sound. Beautiful song, one of a pair along with ‘Something’ (which Sinatra said was the greatest love song ever written). To think of your greatest love to this tune and not weep is impossible.

    Actually a trio- with ‘Here comes the Sun’ Harrison matches the totality of the Lennon/McCartney canon without opposing it – so genius, so human, divine….. Oh the Humanity! We can be glad that feel it, we who know. N

  16. tils2468

    obviously changes all the time – but think george is my favorite beatle…for now 🙂
    what a fantastic tune this is …
    got me back on white album day to day and of course once you start you cant stop playin it …
    george i luv ya …..

  17. Shiro

    Where’s John? It’s obvious Lennon didn’t want to bother George’s song anymore at this point.
    Except for steel guitar for “For You Blue”, Lennon’s presence on George’s material, isn’t there.
    I wish Lennon involved more instead of wasting his creative energy to Yoko.
    I’m sure Lennon was looking down Harrison in spite of the fact George was beginning
    to blossom as a songwriter and an artist then.I wish Lennon appreciated Harrison more.

  18. Joseph Brush

    If you listen to some of the recording sessions of “Something” you will hear Lennon pushing George to finish the lyrics by asking George to just sing anything just to move the song along. Also John was influential in making sure “Something” was the A-side for the next Beatles single.
    Lennon’s guitar contribution for “Old Brown Shoe” was erased by George and replaced by the organ part. You may be interested to know that in 1965, Lennon helped Harrison finish off George’s two songs for the “Help” album in an all-night session.

  19. castironshore

    It is interesting to note the lack of johns presence on georges material after 67. Another reason harrison just couldn’t be arsed with the beatles anymore. Between pauls overbearing nature and john’s lack of interest it must have been a really frustrating place to be for george.

    ‘long long long’ is a wonderful song though, it’s just so passionate and soulful. Oddly it’s the kind of thing that should have appealed to john and would have really suited his backing vocals. Sad he was so dismissive of georges best songs.

  20. James Ferrell

    I know that this song is not a big favorite among the cognoscenti — too quiet, too spooky — but I just love it. Second best song ever with a capo on the third fret (after Fire and Rain).

  21. Wildblood

    he found himself
    his self
    god within
    after realising god without
    objectify him self
    the universal conciousness if it is realised outside
    then outside ego, your self is realised objectively as another oblect in a god infused universe
    therefore god within

  22. Graham Paterson

    This is one of my favorite George Harrison compositions. I love the line “so many tears I was wasting”. Instantly loved this song, when I first heard The “White Album”. Great lyrics. As “Beatle John” said this is the spiritual root of “Living In the Material World”. Lovely piano work by Chris Thomas. George’s acoustic guitar playing is brilliant. A powerful song of his about finding God.

  23. John Hackney

    I rediscovered this song, being a baby boomer born in 1952, with my first grandchild. When he was first thrust in my arms to hold I started thinking of lulaby melodies to calm him. This song came to my mind and I hummed the melody, best I could, being a vocally challenged individual . . . , but it worked. Since then, I’ve pulled out my old guitar and started trying to learn the chords. It is hauntingly beautiful and I now play it at low volume for my grandson — which seems to calm him – he is still new born.

  24. Graham Paterson

    As another person said on this site it was the perfect song to end Scorcese’s film “Living in the Material World”. With Olivia talking about what happened at the moment of George’s death. A genuine tearjerker moment.

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