No matter how potent The Beatles output was, they couldn’t harness all of the talents at their disposal. By the end of their tenure, with George Harrison arriving as an integral member of the songwriting group, the Fab Four were brimming with ideas and creative innovations. However, with four different drives pushing in four different directions, it seems only logical that a few classic songs would fall between the cracks. Here, we’ve got the ten best songs rejected by The Beatles.
It’s a serious list too. We get a sense of the furious talent encapsulated within the band within the ten songs selected below. While, naturally, the list is heavily influenced by George Harrison’s maturation as an expert songwriter, there are also classics from the other two songwriting powerhouses, perhaps highlighting the need for The Beatles to split back in 1970 was more prevalent than first imagined. As such, all of the tracks we’ve picked out would go on to be a part of their storied solo successes.
It seems baffling that some of the songs below weren’t picked up by the band. But the truth of why lies in the last words of that sentence; ‘band’. The group may well have been marketed as four different members to go crazy over during the Beatlemania days, but they had remained largely intact as a unit outside of that.
However, as the songwriting teams began to turn away from one another, the songs they brought to the studio became more aligned with their own vision — not for the band as a whole.
Whether it was John Lennon’s new socio-political style, deliberately balancing on the avant-garde pop sound, or Harrison’s spiritual rock movement, something only accelerated by his work with Bob Dylan, who had proclaimed him to be a spent force working as a third fiddle to Lennon-McCartney. Equally, Paul McCartney struggled to have his own work recognised by the three members of the group who had grown to be ‘too cool’ for Macca’s style. Simply put, The Beatles needed to split up.
Like the atom, when they finally were split open, out poured some of the finest songs of their collective careers. Below, we’ve got our ten favourites.
10 best songs rejected by The Beatles
10. ‘The Back Seat of My Car’ – Paul McCartney
Paul McCartney’s seminal album Ram would allow Macca to flex the songwriting muscles that he had kept in check when with the Fab Four. Often maligned for his overuse of complex themes and styles, given his own space, he delivered some serious songs.
‘The Back Seat of My Car’ may not have broken the top 40 but it did highlight that McCartney had been holding himself back for some time. Here though, with the world at his feet, he delivers a unique sound that no other Beatle could muster.
9. ‘Junk’ – Paul McCartney
Paul McCartney has never been afraid to attack difficult subjects but what has always set him apart is how delicately he approaches them. On ‘Junk’, a song which featured on his debut album McCartney, he displays this deft touch with aplomb.
The song was originally written in 1968, but the track, along with ‘Teddy Boy’, was passed up as the band for not being in-keeping with their new rock sound. There are a few Beatles versions of the song, but McCartney’s solo version is the real joy.
8. ‘Isn’t It A pity’ – George Harrison
One guaranteed way to check to see if your song is a great one is to see who else has enjoyed listening to or performing it. If Harrison was to have looked around, he would have noticed that only the very best had ever taken on his song ‘Isn’t It A Pity’. The track, most notably covered by Nina Simone, is a classic Harrison effort. Dripping in laconic melody, the guitarist takes us through the spiritual balancing we must all go through.
The song is one of the more moving moments on All Things Must Pass and another from the rejected Beatles songs pile. While it’s possible to understand that the Fab Four were their own outfit with their own direction, it’s very hard to see how a song as beautifully constructed as this could be rejected while other Beatles’ hits were picked up. However, with room to branch out on his own, Harrison found himself mining gold wherever he turned.
7. ‘Every Night’ – Paul McCartney
In 1969, it seemed as though only Paul McCartney was really concerned with making the next Beatles album. The singer and songwriter had assumed the group’s creative control and was determined to get his own style out and under the spotlight. Some songs he attempted were still routinely shot down by the other members, ‘Every Night’ was one of them.
While ‘Every Night’ would not be a single, instead, nestling itself on McCartney’s debut from 1970, but it would become a live staple of Macca’s performances. The track still shows that underneath it all, McCartney is all about the melody.
6. ‘Wah Wah’ – George Harrison
“At that point in time, Paul couldn’t see beyond himself,” Harrison told Guitar World in 2001. “He was on a roll, but…in his mind, everything that was going on around him was just there to accompany him. He wasn’t sensitive to stepping on other people’s egos or feelings.”
Harrison admitted: “I just got so fed up with the bad vibes,” he told Musician magazine. “I didn’t care if it was the Beatles, I was getting out.” That day, arriving at his Surrey home, Harrison enacted the ultimate reply to his oppressive partners by reaching for his guitar and writing one of his most treasured tracks, ‘Wah Wah’.
Though it was named in part as a reference to the guitar effects pedal, later Harrison admitted in his biography I, Me, Mine that it was saying “You’re giving me a bloody headache,” to his bandmates. The bleating sound and Harrison’s power make this song a classic on its own.
5. ‘Another Day’ – Paul McCartney
‘Another Day’ was presented to The Beatles like many other songs during the Twickenham sessions and again at Apple corps in 1969 but it fell flat for the band. The song was so simply connected to McCartney’s everyday people style that it was rejected by Harrison and Lennon.
The song has gone down in history as being a part of Lennon’s ‘How Do You Sleep?’ jibe but that’s discrediting what is an archetypal Macca song. The singer would change the songwriting credits on the song to ensure a bigger slice of the pie but the song is what shines brightest amid McCartney’s instant post-Beatles catalogue.
4. ‘Run of the Mill’ – George Harrison
Following the group’s break-up, the band’s members weren’t shy about voicing their disdain for one another either. Not only did they trade insults in interviews; after all, all anybody wanted to talk about was the Fab Four anyway, but the bandmates also used songs to shoot barbs at one another. George Harrison had suffered greatly at the band’s hand as the group’s principal songwriters stifled his songwriting style.
Harrison told Derek Taylor in 1979 of the song’s composition, “It was when Apple was getting crazy…Paul was falling out with us all and going around Apple offices saying ‘You’re no good’ – everyone was just incompetent (the Spanish Inquisition sketch). It was that period – the problem of partnerships.”
In typical Harrison style, his song would be a touch more subtle. The ‘My Sweet Lord’ singer would do it in a more nuanced way than his counterparts on his triple solo album All Things Must Pass. The record featured several subtle references to his time in The Beatles, hinting at his displeasure of being so low on the ladder. But ‘Run of the Mill’ is undoubtedly the track in which Harrison goes into the most depth about his troubles with John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr.
3. ‘Gimme Some Truth’ – John Lennon
Another moment of Lennon letting his politics run wild as the protest song sits pretty within Imagine. One of the leftover songs from The Beatles’ Get Back sessions, Lennon turns his caustic wit and razor-sharp tongue at lying politicians “short-haired yellow-bellied sons of Tricky Dicky”, hypocrisy and chauvinism, “tight-lipped condescending mommy’s little chauvinists”.
It sees Lennon reflecting on the world around him and trying to gather up further ground support for a change in the political system.
Lennon is desperately trying to sift through the media minefield trying to find a golden nugget of truth. Another song with a contribution from George Harrison, the Quiet Beatle, arguably steals the show with his gritty playing on this one.
2. ‘Jealous Guy’ – John Lennon
‘Jealous Guy’ is the very inner workings of John Lennon, it is the iconic man putting himself on the canvas, warts and all, and unflinching dissecting everything good and bad about him. Mostly the bad.
Inspired by his time with the Maharishi, the song has since become a vision of Lennon’s life at the time and a candid moment of vulnerability. Speaking with David Sheff in 1980, he revealed: “The lyrics explain themselves clearly: I was a very jealous, possessive guy. Toward everything. A very insecure male. A guy who wants to put his woman in a little box, lock her up, and just bring her out when he feels like playing with her. She’s not allowed to communicate with the outside world – outside of me – because it makes me feel insecure.”
Speaking with the BBC, Lennon revealed further, “When you actually are in love with somebody you tend to be jealous, and want to own them and possess them one hundred per cent, which I do… I love Yoko, I want to possess her completely. I don’t want to stifle her, you know? That’s the danger, that you want to possess them to death.” It’s not a unique feeling, it’s one that many of us have experienced but far, far fewer have ever expressed. This is why it deserves to be to the top of this list. ‘Jealous Guy’ shows that John Lennon committed himself completely to his art.
1. ‘All Things Must Pass’ – George Harrison
If you survey the internet landscape for the George Harrison ‘Best Of’ articles you will be unlikely to find this little transcendental number on any of their lists. Why? We’re not sure. But are we going to mull it over for years and lose our cool over it? No. Thanks to one of the greatest songs ever written, George Harrison’s ‘All Things Must Pass’.
Originally recorded by Harrison as a demo for The Beatles on his 26th birthday, the song remains one of the few moments where western pop meets eastern ideology. Scrapped by The Beatles, the material eventually appeared on the album of the same name.
Its lyrics are based on a translation of part of chapter 23 of the Tao Te Ching, and the track acts as a moment of songwriting bliss. Harrison explains the most complex of theories with a simple, soaring and heartfelt moment of connection and advice. It’s the poetry of his creation that shines through everything he does.