Required listening: The Beatles’ “Long Long Long”

Just about everything about the Beatles has been done, written about, then rewritten, debated, debunked, argued, and celebrated thousands of times over. The lesser known details about their songs can carry just as much weight.

White Album
White Album

There’s a lot about “Long Long Long” from 1968’s double White Album, that is different from other Beatles songs. It’s not “Number 9” different, or “Yellow Submarine” classical/instrumental different. It’s a waltz, and employs unadulterated acoustic strumming and Hammond organ.

It’s also one of a handful that guitarist George Harrison sings alone. Part of the group’s metamorphosis at this stage included the band’s visit with sitar master Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in India. The Maharishi taught the band how to reach enlightenment through transcendental meditation.

It seems the effect on Harrison was more long-lasting. His first solo album in 1970, seven months after the Beatles broke up, “All Things Must Pass,” leans heavily on his religious beliefs, such as “My Sweet Lord” and “What Is Life.”

All things must pass

On “Long Long Long,” Harrison sings, quietly, “Now I’m so happy, I’ve found you,” as his guitar strums patiently. It’s common knowledge to Beatles fans that the “you” in the song is God.

This is Harrison’s love song to God. He also seems to regret straying from Him, and you get the sense he’s trying to reconcile himself for past mistakes. “How can I ever misplace you?” as he sounds incredulous that he ever let himself stray.

The ending of this song is what makes it unusual and distinct. The organ sounds a few unearthly notes, and then a strange buzzing or vibration can be heard. It’s like they’re trying to start an old car that just won’t turn over. The vibration and drumming picks up and builds, and Harrison lets out a sort of ghostly wail that rides along with the mix. The drumming slows, and it sounds as if a pick is running along the guitar strings, instead of the strings being strummed. The vibration fades, then Ringo Starr brings the drums in to end the track.

Here’s a youtube link with the 2009 remaster of the song.

The buzzing can be heard only when McCartney played certain notes on the organ. According to George Harrison’s autobiography, “I Me Mine,” the vibration was caused by a bottle of Blue Nun wine sitting on a speaker. The rattling changes the song from plaintive love song to psychedelic redemption.

With all their intricate composition and bizarre chord progressions, even toward the end of The Beatles, they still knew when to leave it alone.

Lable for Blue Nun wine

George Harrison, left, and Paul McCartney hammer out a song.

George Harrison, left, and Paul McCartney hammer out a song.

Label for Blue Nun wine
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