Some songs are born miraculously, just ask Paul McCartney and his anthem ‘Let It Be’, a track in which he claims arrived at him in a dream. However, The Beatles had so many songs released during their comparatively short career that some are bound to be a little less impressive in their creation, some songs were even written as something to “pass the time”.
In 1967, George Harrison was beginning to find his own style of songwriting. The guitarist had contributed a few songs to the Fab Four by this point but hadn’t yet reached his upcoming heights, though the wheels were certainly in motion. That said, one track which appeared on the Magical Mystery Tour EP and album, was made during a sting in which Harrison was sitting back and waiting for the time to pass by. A curious set of circumstances but one which would elicit one of Harrison’s best songs; ‘Blue Jay Way’.
‘Blue Jay Way’ is a rare early song from Harrison to be featured on the band’s album and was written primarily as the ‘All Things Must Pass’ singer waited for publicist Derek Taylor to arrive at the house, a house situated on, yep, you guessed it, Blue Jay Way. “Derek Taylor got held up,” Harrison remembered, speaking with Hunter Davies in 1968. “He rang to say he’d be late. I told him on the phone that the house was in Blue Jay Way. And he said he could find it okay… he could always ask a cop.
“So I waited and waited. I felt really knackered with the flight, but I didn’t want to go to sleep until he came. There was a fog, and it got later and later. To keep myself awake, just as a joke to pass the time while I waited, I wrote a song about waiting for him in Blue Jay Way. There was a little Hammond organ in the corner of this house which I hadn’t noticed until then… so I messed around on it, and the song came.” It’s the kind of conception that befalls only the best songwriters, breezing into a classic tune with the consummate ease of a floating carrier bag.
The track was one of several songs that Harrison composed on the keyboard between 1966-1968 and saw the guitarist begin to finally find his feet within songwriting, having played third fiddle for so long. It also saw Harrison begin to imbue his work with the delicacy of Indian classical music.
Many have moved to dismiss the song as a little monotonous – and we wouldn’t necessarily put it up into the top 20 Beatles songs of all time – but what it does have is a lot of integrity and a hefty dose os spiritual intrigue. Despite being written in an off-hand manner, there’s nothing inauthentic about Harrison’s composition or delivery. As one might imagine, it sees the Quiet Beatle finally expressing himself the best way he knew how.
It sees George play lyrically with black comedy and also the absurdity of the situation and the song’s intent. While many have debated whether Harrison is literal here (waiting for his friend who has got lost in the city) or sermonising on the idea of being spiritually lost, we think as ever with the Fab Four it’s far better to sit back and let the music guide you.
One of Harrison’s trippier tracks, the song has often been considered to be affected by the LSD that fuelled Los Angeles at the time. Whichever way you look at it, one thing that can’t be denied: if you have some spare time and an organ nearby, have a go at quickly knocking up a song to “pass the time” and see how far you get. It will rightly show you how wildly talented Harrison was.
Below, listen to The Beatles song George Harrison wrote just to pass the time, ‘Blue Jay Way’.