Why George Harrison’s ‘Long, Long, Long’ Is So Different From Other Beatles Love Songs
When The Beatles came back from India in spring of 1968, they had written so many songs they couldn’t fit them on one album. So they did something they’d never done before: They recorded a double album. Though they released it as a self-titled record, it became known as The White Album.
That opened up some space for George Harrison. As recently as Sgt. Pepper’s (1967), the Fab Four had released albums that only featured one song by George. On The White Album, George had four songs he wrote and sang the lead vocal on.
Of the four that went out on the album, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” ranks high on the list of George’s best songs. But the stirring “Long, Long, Long” wasn’t far behind. That track was a special kind of love song for The Beatles.
The ‘you’ George sang about in ‘Long, Long, Long’ was God
While The Beatles had changed a great deal by ’68, some things stayed the same. For starters, Paul McCartney hadn’t given up on his “granny music,” and fans got one of his granniest songs ever in The White Album’s “Honey Pie.”
But George’s spiritual growth had taken him to a different place entirely. And when he wrote the last song he recorded for the double album, he didn’t have his wife or another woman in mind. “The ‘you‘ in ‘Long, Long, Long’ is God,” George said in his book I Me Mine.
“It took a long, long, long, time,” George sang. “Now I’m so happy I found you.” It was a far cry from the days of Beatles just wanting to hold a girl’s hand — or even Paul flirting with a meter-maid. And George knew he’d be going out on a limb if he sang about God in a song.
“If you say the word ‘God’ or ‘Lord’, it makes some people’s hair curl!” he later said in an interview. “They feel threatened when you talk about something that isn’t ‘Be-Bop-A-Lula.’ If you say something that is not just trivia then their only way out is to say, ‘You’re lecturing us or you’re preaching.'”
George took it to the next level with his solo hit ‘My Sweet Lord’
When George made his first solo record in 1970, he was still hesitant about putting himself out there with a song about God. But Phil Spector (the album’s producer) and everyone else who’d heard All Things Must Pass knew right away that “My Sweet Lord” was the hit.
George took some convincing, but he agreed to release “My Sweet Lord” as his first single. And it was a massive hit, selling over 1 million copies within a few weeks of its release. (It has sold over 10 million copies altogether.)
That song also had a universal message. When he sang, “I really want to know you, Really want to show you,” it didn’t strike many as overly religious. And when he had the backing vocals slide from “Hallelujah” to “Hare Krishna,” he pulled off one of the great tricks in pop songwriting.
He tested the waters for that breakout with “Long, Long, Long,” the moment of peace and serenity that followed the loudest, sweatiest track on The White Album.