I Want You (She’s So Heavy) - The Beatles
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"I Want You (She’s So Heavy)" - The Beatles (1969)
Lennon was inspired to compose “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” after Yoko’s attempts to save him from “drowning.”
At nearly seven and a half minutes, it is 27 seconds longer than “Hey Jude.” One music critic labeled it: “the weightiest slab of ‘heavy metal’ the Beatles ever quarried.”
George Harrison remarked:
“It is very heavy. John plays lead guitar and sings, and it’s just basically an old blues riff he’s doing. It’s a very original John-type song.”
Geoff Emerick thought the song was going to have a fade out, but then suddenly, John told him ‘Cut the tape.’
He recounts that he was apprehensive at first as they had never done anything like that, however Lennon was insistent. Emerick believes he was right as the song- and side one of the record itself- ended in this very jarring way.
Years later, when asked about that moment, George Martin would remark:
“There is nothing more electrifying, after a big sound, than complete silence.”
On the track, Lennon distills his agony into twelve pleading words set to a manic-depressive score. Throughout the track, George feeds John sweet and sharp guitar lines as keyboardist Billy Preston unleashes cascading organ chords. The rest of the song is left to John- including the guitars, voice, and Moog synthesizer.
There is virtually no harmony; but fierce, even minatory, percussion. The texture is basic yet the bass fills in the necessary spaces beneath the purring organ. To get a layered sound to emulate classical orchestration, Lennon and Harrison taped numerous electric guitar overdubs. The sound was boasted even further by deliberately injecting so-called white noise- static (the effect of the complete range of audible sound-wave frequencies heard simultaneously) into the mix.
Beatle scholar Alan Pollack remarked how this song was one of their most unusual experiments with form, not to mention its characteristically odd phrase lengths and changes of meter. He writes that it’s not quite a medley, rather more like two separate songs cinematically cross cut with each other. One provides the verses, while the other provides the intro, refrain, and extended outro.
Author Mark Hertsgaard commented how “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” was a very complex song to perform as it shifted in and out of various tones and tempos that were just slightly different from each other. He says it was a monument to the Beatles’ remarkable musical cohesion and rapport that it worked.
Lennon said after the break up that the one thing he missed about playing with them was being able to just sort of blink or make a certain noise and know they’ll all know where we were going on an ad-lib thing.
Jonathan Gould wrote in his book that he found the track notable for the “willful one-dimensionality of its words and music.” He commented that the end result was a: “strange brew of laconic blues realism and narcissistic grandiosity that sounds, by the end, like a collaboration between Phil Spector and Gertrude Stein.”
The lyrics of the composition consist of not much more than the title and the additional line “I want you so bad” repeated eight times. By making the simple declaration of “I Want You” a testimonial of faith as well as a howl of doubt, this transforms John’s idiomatic blues into a statement of purpose.
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