Wah-Wah

Album: All Things Must Pass (1970)

Songfacts®:

  • Harrison wrote this during the Beatles' Let It Be sessions after he and Paul McCartney had a nasty fight that led to George quitting the group on January 10, 1969. The sessions were being recorded for the documentary Let It Be, which wasn't sitting well with Harrison. After he left, The Beatles tried recording without him, but didn't get very far. After a meeting on January 15 where McCartney and John Lennon agreed to give him more input, Harrison agreed to come back to the fold. "Wah-Wah" ended up on his first solo album, All Things Must Pass, released November 27, 1970.

    Harrison wasn't the first Beatle to temporarily quit the group. Ringo Starr walked out during the White Album sessions a year earlier.
  • A wah-wah pedal is a device used to create various effects on electric guitar, but the term has a different meaning in this song. In an interview with Crawdaddy magazine, Harrison explained: "That was the song, when I left from the Let It Be movie, there's a scene where Paul and I are having an argument, and we're trying to cover it up. Then the next scene I'm not there and Yoko's just screaming, doing her screeching number. Well, that's where I'd left, and I went home to write 'Wah-Wah.' It had given me a wah-wah, like I had such a headache with that whole argument. It was such a headache."
  • Bobby Whitlock played keyboards on the album. After the sessions, he formed Derek and the Dominos with Eric Clapton, who also played on the album. Whitlock told Songfacts, "I was the last one to show up at the session - I was running late and my car went down on me. It was getting started, I walked in and Phil Spector said, 'Phase those drums! Phase those guitars!' He's standing there looking out like he's the captain of a ship, and he says, 'Phase everything!' A guy had to operate this phase shifter by hand, his name was Eddie Albert, and he had to work it by twisting this knob to the left, to the right, to the left, to the right. You had to do it manually then. He's saying, 'Phase this, phase that,' I come in, I'm late and Billy Preston's sitting down at the organ, Gary Brooker is on the piano, where's my spot? Everything was on the downbeat. I said, 'I've got it, give me that little piano over there, I've got my part.' I played everything that nobody was playing - I played on the upbeat. That's me on the electric piano playing the exact opposite."
  • On the album, the "O'Hara-Smith Singers" are credited on this track. According to Whitlock, that was him and Clapton.
  • Harrison did just one solo tour in his lifetime (in 1974), and "Wah-Wah" wasn't on the setlist. He performed the song live just twice - at the two Concert For Bangladesh shows he organized at Madison Square Garden on August 1, 1971. This was the first major charity concert, with appearances by Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Billy Preston and Ringo Starr.

Comments: 35

  • Babs from Howell Mi Wow! I can see I’ve been thinking about Wah-Wah in a completely different way than the entire world; starting with George himself. And even though I understand today that I’ve misinterpreted it, I still like my meaning and I’ll probably now just think of Wah-Wah as having multiple explanations. So my dad was an Englishman too (I continually thank my lucky stars for this because I’ve received more than words could convey because of my English heritage! And you wouldn’t believe the myriad of ways this has shaped my thinking and my very life) Anyway, those amazing Brits have a way about them that really appeals to me! Their Charm, Civility, Humor (oh God, I love it!), their class and style, their gentlemanly (or gentle-womanly) approach, their appreciation for beauty, the very way they conduct themselves is just...nice! They don’t take themselves too seriously and I also think they’re a little bit nutty (said with only respect, love and admiration). But have you seen their tv programs from the ‘70’s? And even today; if you catch a ‘panel’ show, they blast each other all day long! And instead of being bitter like I think most other nationalities would take it, the one being made fun of is often laughing the loudest at their own expense! Something about that seems so healthy to me. So I’m going to retract my ‘nutty’ statement; it’s the exact opposite! Ha! Now I’m all off-track here....So my dad would sometimes describe things which began with: “They’re giving you/me the....(whatever).” One time our whole car erupted into laughter when we were driving through Atlanta, and my dad says: “Kevin you gotta be careful through here; they’re giving you the walls!” Omg! Like so many English People, my dad had a way with words! Basically, the freeway was a treacherous drive with unparalleled construction....and my dad described it as he did (perfectly, too)! And they WERE giving us the walls! Cars had to watch out for the regular stuff plus the construction was so built up you felt like you were penned-in. I’ve never seen construction like that before or since; overkill! So maybe it was his delivery, but it was also such an unexpected commentary lol. So when I heard George singing: “You’re giving me a Wah-Wah!”, I thought of it in the way my English dad spoke. And to me it made sense that Wah-Wah was like crying or moaning. I don’t know if I’ve explained myself clearly; I hope some of y’all kinda get it at least. Let me tell you this too please; that yesterday alone, while texting with my daughter, I must’ve added “They’re (or: “You’re” was used sometimes) giving me a Wah-Wah” no less than 7 times in under an hour during that conversation; and it was in reference to 7 different topics or people or whatever was going on! I have found great use for “You’re giving me a Wah-Wah!” lately and it always makes me laugh a little. But that’s only because I apply it as described above (not to do with George vs Paul or Drugs or the other meanings I read here) And somehow it’s brought me real comic relief when I could’ve been angry or sad. It has honestly made my life that much better! And all because of of my own definition of Wah-Wah! As John said “Whatever gets you through the night”, right ?
  • Tom from Flemington, NjGeorge and Paul were arguing about Paul's Let it Be. After each line that Paul sang George would answer with a guitar line using his Wah Wah pedal. Paul did not want any guitar lines after his vocal and let George know it but not in a kind way. That's why in the movie George tells Paul, "I'll play anything you want or I won't play anything at all". Hence, Wah Wah, I don't need no Wah Wah (pedal).
  • Don from Willoughby, OhSteve of Tell City IN, You are spot on.
  • Rob from Hartland, WiThe song is actually been credited to Jimmy Page and Bobby Plant
  • Roger from Wyandotte, MiFor a spectacular version of this song, see ‘The Concert for George’. In addition to the numerous guitar players (including Dhani), its fascinating to see four sets of drums being played by some of the best.
  • Olivia from Philadelphia, PaI love this song! What is wah wah though? The beginning of this song kind of sounds like "I've got a feeling"
  • Leo from Berg En Dal, NetherlandsWhat George ment by Wah Wah??
    During this period George was exploring his Krishna Consciousness and he wrote many songs related to his religious views. I like to see this song also in this perspective.
    The material world as we know it is called Maya. This means the present world we live in and that is luring us away with all its short lived attractions from our real goal: Spritual growth
    "You made me such a big star", fits perfectly and "Cheaper than a dime" also. But the last verse really is the proof: "I don't need no Wah Wah , and I know how sweet life can be, if i keep myself free of Wah Wah , I don't need no Wah Wah." replace every "Wah Wah" with "Maya" and you almost have a prayer of someone who understands that he has got this present life only to learn that the material world is not of any real importance because it will fade soon, and that progression in the spiritual world, which lasts forever, is our goal in life.
    Compare these lyrics to "Living in the material world" and you will see that that song is rally about the same subject.
    My last "proof" is in the song "Beware of darkness" : there is the line "Beware of Maya" to show that George was well aware of the dangers that Maya hold for us in Krishna Consciousness.
  • Veryberry from Kent, United KingdomI think he used it as a meaning for many different things, in the same way as the word 'smurf' is used... by Smurfs - I know that sounds silly, although I defo think it originated with the argument with Paul.
    I think he also used it for other issues, his relationship with Patty had dissolved into a brother sister style set up where they lived separate lives by the time of the Concert for Bangladesh so about the time of writing this he may very well have been comtemplating their sexual relationship - I hear the first verse as meaning that. And I do think that drugs come into it as he was embracing his religion which requires abstinence from all intoxicants (even cigarettes) and I'm sure he was attempting this if not succeeding. so for me this song is about sex (patti) drugs and Rock & Roll (Paul) I think he could see himself as being free without all these. But hey we all hear things differentl hehe.
  • John from Raleigh, NcI've read George in interviews saying "Wah Wah" is Liverpool slang for a headache, which he claimed Apple business was becoming. He wrote it after a fight with Paul (I've read it was over him using his wah-wah pedal too much!), but it's not necessarily about Paul.
  • Nady from Adelaide, AustraliaGeorge's son Dhani is hot...looks just like a younger Georgr but with less bushy eyebrows:)
  • Erik Hanson from San Diego, CaWah Wah is a homonym for Wa Wan, the publishing company for the "Indianist" movement composers founded by Arthur Farwell. The New York Times / Arno press 5 volume compilation set of the Wa Wan Press was released in 1970 and I sure Harrison would have had that set of books. If you know anything about Plains Indian music the "Wah Wah" song, as well as others of Harrison work" is very much in an American Indian note progression. I've been an Indian singer for 30 years and noticed this long ago. Wa Wan (the N signifies a nasal N sound) is a Omaha Indian language word that means "to sing over" and is the name of one of their major rituals. - See "A Study of Omaha Indian Music" by Alice Fletcher.
  • Adhrian from Bucharest, RomaniaGeorgie boy should've made three four big albums by himself before publicly defying anybody, even humorously and even as pissed of as he was for not being credited at his most. Paul was the manager, not the creative director, c'mon fellows the break up was all about the big bucks ("I'm tired of fighting for time on our albums" meant I wanna make my own money with Klein not some offended art ego) even though they were 150 million worth in the 70 s...
  • Ken from Louisville, KyInterestingly, at "The Concert For George", a year after his death, all of the performers joined in on the chorus for "Wah Wah"...including Paul McCartney!
  • Ken from Louisville, KyGeorge said in an interview that this was the first song he recorded for the "All Things Must Pass" album.
  • Bonni from Melbourne, AustraliaThe "wah wah" he's referring to is similar to "blah blah blah" or "yadda yadda yadda". Imagine taking your hand and making that "yap yap yap" sign. That's what he's talking about. "I don't need your wah wah", and he's singing it about Paul McCartney. Basically, George got into an argument with Paul and wrote this song.
  • Krissy from Boston, MaThank u Brian for explaining it.
  • Brian from New Brunswick, Njto clarify: harrison was heavily influenced by certain aspects of indian culture, which certainly informed of the way people say "wah wah" in north india specifically to express appreciation of something, say at a music concert, or even a good cup of tea. its english parallel might be "wow." it can also be used sarcastically, which is how george is using it in this song, in reference to paul, more or less saying "oh wow, look at you, you (think you) are so great" etc.
    hope that helps.
  • Krissy from Boston, MaI am reading the book I Me Mine by George Harrison himself. He was explaining evry song he worte up or most and he said he wrote it about Paul.
  • Liquid Len from Ottawa, CanadaI can't see it being about drugs, I would say it's more directed towards Paul. Sorry, but Harrison was certainly not sober in the 70s, 80s!
  • Nick from Moncton, CanadaJohn got the riff for Day Tripper from Oh Pretty Woman, or I think thats the song, it thats the one recorded first. I know he got it directly from another song, and dosen't hide that fact
  • Alice from Asheville, NcWell, since this website says he wrote it after fighting with Paul, I figured it was about Paul. "You made me such a big star, being there at the right time, cheaper than a dime" like Paul (and John) made him a star with the Beatles because he was there, and at the time they didn't have to pay him much. I just can see it all relating to a fight with Paul.
  • John from Guildford, EnglandThe riff to this is very much that of Paul McCartney's 'I've Got A Feeling', which was being recorded at this time. My theory is that George was playing around with Paul's riff, and came up with this one. It happens all the time in music - for instance, compare the riff in 'Oh Pretty Woman' with that of the later 'Day Tripper'...
  • Jimi from Lapeer, MiEveryone knows what a wah-wah pedal is, but that's not what the reference is here. In an interview with George shortly after the release of the album, he says he wrote this about no longer needing or wanting drugs.
  • Bruce from Lake Tahoe, CaI guess only non-guitarists would not know this immediately. He's just talking about using his wha-wha pedal, or not needing his wha wah pedal. The use of said wha wha pedal on the song should be a dead giveaway.

    I suppose it would definitely sound like an odd lyric if you had no idea what one was.
    "wha whaaaa!.."
  • Jimi from Lapeer, Miwah wah is drugs. george is saying he didnt need them any longer. eventhough they "made me such a big star - being there at the right time, cheaper than a dime."
  • Robin from Roslyn, NyI thought "wah wah" was whinging or whining. "You're giving me your wah wah" meaning Paul was bitching about things. He says "You don't see me crying. You don't hear me sighing"
  • Cb from St. Joseph, MiRead Harrison's 1979 book "I, me, Mine", where he explains this song (and others). The Hoosier's comment about Wah Wah meaning "headache" or a hassle is closest to the truth.
  • Melissa from Fairborn, OhBobby Keys plays tenor saxophone solo on this track.
  • Michel from Hollannd, United StatesI think he means the comments of McCartney who was constantly bossing the others around in the latter stage. Wha -wha means the same as bla bla. Showing I can manage myself and I'm better of with out you now.
  • Kevin from Holland, PaI've always thought this was just a humorous song about the Wah Wah pedal. I've alway heard that using the Wah Wah pedal was looked down upon by some guitarists since it can be abused to cover mistakes by lesser talents. The song is just George joking that he is now above using a Wah Wah pedal (I don't need no Wah Wah) but being thankful that he had it at one time (...I'm thinking of you and all the things that we used to do....Being there at the right time, cheaper than a dime)
  • Schmitty from Vienna, Vaooops....and two...maybe he means crying??
  • Schmitty from Vienna, VaWell....one...if you listen closly to the intro(and the rest of the song) Eric Clapton was playing the riff with a Wah-Wah effect pedal...listen real hard and u can hear the distinct sound...
    also in Concert for George(DVD) on Wah-Wah look when the camera shows all of Clapton...look at his feet...hes playing a wah-wah pedal...i have one and i get the same sound on this song with a nice Stratocaster
  • Steve from Tell City, InI think by wah-wah, he means headache. "You've given me a wah-wah"....They used to be close to one another, and things dissolved, and the arguments and petty crap that went along with their disagreements gave him a headache.
  • Josh from Plainview, NyI'm not quite sure myself what "wah-wah" means. But I think, since he wrote it after getting into a fight with Paul during the "Let it Be sessions, that it means he doesn't need all the things that went along with being a Beatle (fame, money etc. and that he has reached a point in his life where he is happier without them. Maybe I'm wrong if anyone believes differently please let me know. By the way awesome song, one of my favorites on "All Things Must Pass".
  • Chris from Milwaukee, Wia greant song. but, what does he mean by wah wah?
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