If you’re a big fan of The Beatles then chances are you’ll know about the struggles that George Harrison faced in the latter stages of the band’s career. In fact, you could put the Quiet Beatle’s internal and external struggles within the group as one of the chief reasons they disbanded in the first place.
For so long John Lennon and Paul McCartney had been the principal songwriters of the group. But while Lennon had eventually let McCartney begin to write some songs when Macca first announced his interest in penning some tunes, when Harrison did the same thing he was widely shunned. Add this to the onslaught of needless business meetings and dodgy dealings that came with being in the biggest band on the planet, it’s easy to see how one could need a break. On one such break, however, George Harrison would write one of the Beatles greatest songs.
Being in The Beatles was no longer all about being chased down roads by packs of screaming girls, nor topping charts with toe-tapping ditties. These days, by around 1969, being a member of the Fab Four was a gruelling task with legal disputes, business issues and a general sense of impending pressure. It’s no wonder that every so often, that pressure needed to be released. For Harrison, he would always turn to his best pal Eric Clapton for that release.
After a particularly gruelling time, Harrison decided enough was enough and he needed to get away from The Beatles if only for a short while. The release of pressure allowed him to pen one of his most beloved songs, Abbey Road’s ‘Here Comes The Sun’. Harrison escaped the Apple HQ and headed to Clapton’s house in Ewhurst in Surrey. In The Beatles’ Anthology, Harrison picks up the story, “‘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’.”
“Anyway, it seems as if winter in England goes on forever; by the time spring comes you really deserve it,” he added. “So one day I decided I was going to sag off Apple and I went over to Eric Clapton’s house. The relief of not having to go and 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’.”
Speaking at the time, Harrison also suggests the song has a kindred soul in ‘If I Needed Someone’ and The Byrds song ‘Bells of Rhymeney’: “It was written on a nice sunny day this early summer, in Eric Clapton’s garden. We’d been through hell with business, and on that day I just felt as though I was sagging off, like from school, it was like that. I just didn’t come in one day. And just the release of being in the sun and it was just a really nice day. And that song just came. It’s a bit like If I Needed Someone, you know, like that basic sort of riff going through it is the same as all those ‘Bells Of Rhymney’ sort of Byrd-type things.”
The poetry of the moment is captured in Harrison’s songwriting and sees the guitarist expertly contain the joy of spring and sunshine. In the studio, the song would use a then-recent invention from Robert Moog—the synthesiser. Speaking in Anthology, Harrison said of the choice: “I first heard about the Moog synthesiser in America. I had to have mine made specially because Mr Moog had only just invented it. It was enormous, with hundreds of jackplugs and two keyboards.”
“But it was one thing having one, and another trying to make it work,” he continued. “There wasn’t an instruction manual, and even if there had been it would probably have been a couple of thousand pages long. I don’t think even Mr Moog knew how to get music out of it; it was more of a technical thing. When you listen to the sounds on songs like ‘Here Comes The Sun’, it does do some good things, but they’re all very kind of infant sounds.”
For Harrison, there couldn’t be a song more akin to his standing at the time. Within The Beatles set-up, he was frustrated and stifled at every turn, more useful for his signature than anything else. Away from The Beatles, he was able to write some of his most poignant and poetic songs. It was the sign he needed to tell him to get out of the Fab Four and start out on his own.
If writing a song like ‘Here Comes The Sun’ doesn’t tell you to start getting out of the office more, then we don’t know what will.