Throughout their reign, The Beatles, composed of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr, each navigated unique creative and spiritual journeys. These personal voyages profoundly influenced their music-making approach. Particularly during the White Album era, George Harrison emerged as a more prolific songwriter and guitarist, a transformation catalyzed by his sojourn to Rishikesh and deep study of the sitar.
In Rishikesh, The Beatles immersed themselves in Transcendental Meditation under Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s guidance. Harrison, particularly drawn to Indian culture and meditation, penned ‘Not Guilty’ in 1968. This song reflects the complex dynamics and divergent experiences within the band.
While Harrison and Lennon extended their stay in the ashram, Starr and McCartney departed early, with McCartney keen to focus on Apple Corps, their new business venture. This period marked the last unified non-musical activity of The Beatles and sowed seeds of discord that contributed to their eventual disbandment in April 1970.
In his 1980 autobiography, Harrison described ‘Not Guilty’ as an encapsulation of his experiences with Lennon, McCartney, Apple Corps, and their Indian sojourn. Later, in The Beatles’ Anthology, he revealed the song’s genesis post-Rishikesh, noting its initial recording struggles. The lyrics, somewhat dated, mirrored the era’s tensions, expressing Harrison’s efforts to carve his own space within the band.
‘Not Guilty’ epitomizes Harrison’s discomfort in the band and his alignment with the 1960s counterculture. Despite its rhythmic complexities, the song poignantly conveys Harrison’s determination to forge his artistic path. Though it was later featured on his 1979 self-titled album, ‘Not Guilty’ remains a profound testament to Harrison’s individuality, underscored by the band’s dedication to perfecting it over 103 takes.