Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Not Guilty

First recorded (as a demo) by George Harrison (1968).
Also recorded by The Beatles (1968, released 1996).
Hit album version by George Harrison (1978).

In an interview with Billboard editor Timothy White in 1999, Harrison referred to “the grief I was catching” from Lennon and McCartney post-India, and explained the message behind the song: “I said I wasn’t guilty of getting in the way of their career. I said I wasn’t guilty of leading them astray in our going to Rishikesh to see the Maharishi. I was sticking up for myself …”

From the wiki: “According to author Robert Rodriguez, ‘Not Guilty’ was ‘much-fabled’ among Beatles fans by the late 1970s, since the song was known as a White Album outtake but had never been heard publicly.

“Author Nicholas Schaffner paired it with Lennon’s ‘What’s the New Mary Jane’ as completed recordings that were known to have been left off the White Album, while authors Harry Castleman and Walter Podrazik wrote that, as far as collectors were aware, Harrison had taped ‘Not Guilty’ with Eric Clapton in summer 1968 before the Beatles attempted to record the song in March 1969.

“In fact, the Beatles recorded ‘Not Guilty’ in August 1968 during sessions for the White Album. The recording was produced by George Martin and engineered by Ken Scott. The song as presented to the group was difficult to learn due to its time signature changes, and during the first 18 takes on 7 August they focused only on the introduction; after a further 27 takes, recording was abandoned until the next day.

“The sessions for ‘Not Guilty’ eventually ran to 99 takes, many of which were incomplete performances. (The ‘final’ take, numbered 102, was, in fact, a reduction mix of take 99, edited and remixed in 1984 by Geoff Emerick for the aborted Sessions album. ‘Take 102’ without Emerick’s disruptive edits appears on the 50th Anniversary box set.) The 1968 recording marked the first time that Harrison used his Gibson Les Paul guitar known as ‘Lucy’, which was a gift from Clapton.

“On 12 August, 1968, without warning, Harrison then departed for a short holiday in Greece, which led to the cancellation of the Beatles’ 19 August session. Biographer Ian MacDonald views this sudden departure as a protest by Harrison against his band mates’ apparent indifference towards ‘Not Guilty’. According to Everett, the song was one of the last to be cut from the final running order of The Beatles. Although Lennon admired the composition initially, author Simon Leng considers that, with its ‘barbs about the Beatles’, the song ‘was just a little too candid in airing the band’s dirty laundry.’ Music journalist Mikal Gilmore similarly says that its exclusion was ‘perhaps because it was apparent to everybody that Harrison had aimed the song at Lennon and McCartney.’

“Harrison’s work as a songwriter had undoubtedly progressed from those first moments as a band and now he was rightly knocking on the door. For Lennon and McCartney, Harrison had perhaps grown a little above his station and meant that the songwriting duo were often likely to not give his songs the time of day.

“That can be said of songs like the iconic ‘All Things Must Pass’ which the band rejected as well as ‘Let It Down’ but there’s one track that the band did at least give a go. In fact, rumour has it they gave it over 100 goes, the long-forgotten classic ‘Not Guilty’. Written during the band’s trip to India, a trip that provided a proverbial treasure chest of songs, the track was shelved by the band at the last minute and kept off the album.”

“Over 100 takes and this George Harrison song was still rejected by The Beatles”, Far Out Magazine, September 9, 2020

“In early 1978, while gathering song manuscripts for his autobiography, I, Me, Mine, Harrison rediscovered his Kinfauns demo of ‘Not Guilty’. He decided to record the song again, in March 1978, during sessions for his 1979 album George Harrison. The sessions coincided with a period of domestic contentment for Harrison, during which he married his partner Olivia Arias and become a father for the first time, to son Dhani. In addition, Harrison had enjoyed participating in the Rutles’ spoof of the Beatles’ history, All You Need Is Cash, a film project that allowed him to debunk the myths that surrounded his former band.

“Leng views Harrison’s remake of ‘Not Guilty’ as typical of the singer’s frame of mind on George Harrison, writing: ‘In complete contrast [to the Beatles’ version], the 1979 reproduction is all shimmering cool and acoustic sea spray – here is a man looking back on events rather than being caught up in their heat.’ Harrison dropped a section of 3/8 time that had been one of the factors in making the 1968 recording difficult.

“Harrison recorded the song at his home studio in Henley, Oxfordshire, with Stevie Winwood, Willie Weeks and Andy Newmark among the backing musicians. Neil Larsen played Rhodes piano on the song.”

The Beatles, “Not Guilty” aka “Take 102” (1968):

George Harrison, “Not Guilty” (1978):

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