In September 1969, The Beatles released their penultimate album, Abbey Road. The seminal release showed a continuity of the band’s impressive knack for songwriting and creating tracks that not only delivered on universal appeal but in artistic merit, especially that of George Harrison.
The so-called quiet Beatle managed to squeeze one or two of his own compositions onto the band’s later albums and had begun to show himself as an increasingly competent songwriter with such tracks as ‘Taxman’ (1966) and ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ (1968). With Paul McCartney and John Lennon already taking the lion’s share of album real estate, Harrison had become increasingly disillusioned with his treatment within the group.
Abbey Road marked the beginning of the end for The Beatles as tensions grew between the members. The four seemed to be pulling in all opposite directions creatively and personally. Harrison and Lennon were particularly upset with McCartney’s domination over the project. They reluctantly recorded ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’, a strange addition that only its writer, McCartney, seemed to enjoy.
Meanwhile, Ringo Starr managed to get his rare composition, ‘Octopus’s Garden’, onto the album with the help of Harrison and his tropical-sounding lead blues guitar sections.
Despite an impressive selection, the album was highlighted by Harrison’s contributions, ‘Something’ and ‘Here Comes the Sun’. The former was a breakthrough for the aspiring songwriter and is regarded among The Beatles’ greatest love songs. American crooner Frank Sinatra even went as far as to deem it “the greatest love song of the past 50 years” in the 1990s.
Where ‘Something’ took the gold medal among lovers and peers, ‘Here Comes the Sun’ has been proven a major favourite among fans. Reaping the highest streaming stats of all the band’s discography, the song has now reached 850,700,000 streams on Spotify.
In his autobiography, Me Mine, Harrison wrote about the difficulties he had been dealing with at the time of writing the hit track. “‘Here Comes The Sun’ was written at the time when Apple was getting like school, where we had to go and be businessmen: ‘sign this’ and ‘sign that,’” he wrote. “Anyway, it seems as if winter in England goes on forever. By the time spring comes, you really deserve it.”
“So one day I decided I was going to sag off Apple, and I went over to Eric Clapton’s house,” he continued. “The relief of not having to go see all those dopey accountants was wonderful, and I walked around the garden with one of Eric’s acoustic guitars and wrote ‘Here Comes The Sun.’”
Clapton, one of Harrison’s long-time friends and collaborators, was immensely proud that the Beatle had found the inspiration for such a beautiful, timeless song in his own backyard. “He was just a magical guy, and he would show up, get out of the car with his guitar, and come in and start playing,” Clapton said in an interview for the Martin Scorsese documentary George Harrison: Living in the Material World. “I just watched this thing come to life. I felt very proud that it was my garden that was inspiring it.”
“It was a beautiful spring morning, and we were sitting at the top of a big field at the bottom of the garden,” the legendary guitarist added. “We had our guitars and were just strumming away when he started singing ‘it’s been a long cold lonely winter,’ and bit by bit, he fleshed it out.”
Listen to George Harrison’s springtime classic below.