“George got stuck with being the Beatle that had to fight to get songs on records because of Lennon and McCartney. Well, who wouldn’t get stuck?” – Bob Dylan
There weren’t many artists that bettered George Harrison as a songwriter during the late sixties and early seventies. It just so happened that two of those few artists were in the same band as him. With John Lennon and Paul McCartney ruling The Beatles roost, Harrison found it difficult to get some of his songs on to the Fab Four’s records. Though he was regularly given a single song spot on the band’s latest LPs, there were more than a few that were rejected by the band.
George Harrison had a unique viewpoint on music. He saw pop music as a vehicle for a more resolute and stronger message of spirituality. It meant that even when The Beatles were in their own sphere of pursuing Eastern spirituality some of Harrison’s songs were pushed aside in more favourable pop affairs. However, judging by the songs below, it’s hard to imagine them not making it to any other band’s albums. In fact, many of them did find their way to Harrison’s own solo albums.
Of course, the most famous song to be rejected by the band was the title track of Harrison’s solo LP All Things Must Pass. The song was nearly fully-formed when Harrison brought the track to the attention of Lennon and McCartney. The duo, perhaps preoccupied or perhaps not ready to let Harrison into the fold properly, scoffed at the song when it was performed for them by the guitarist during the Let It Be sessions.
When the song was rejected by The Beatles during a particularly fractious session, Harrison decided to pass the song along to Billy Preston before rightly taking it back for his debut solo album. If there was one song to confirm that Harrison needed to get out of the band and pursue his own material, it is certainly ‘All Things Must Pass’, however, there are many more.
Another song, ‘Not Guilty’ was actually picked up by the Fab Four for a recording session. In fact, rumour has it they gave it over 100 goes, the long-forgotten classic ‘Not Guilty’. Written during the band’s trip to India, a trip that provided a proverbial treasure chest of songs, the track was shelved by the band at the last minute and kept off the album.
“Actually, I wrote that in 1968,” confirmed Harrison on The Beatles Anthology, where the track was released as ‘Take 102’. “It was after we got back from Rishikesh in the Himalayas on the Maharishi trip, and it was for the White Album. We recorded it but we didn’t get it down right or something. Then I forgot all about it until a year ago, when I found this old demo I’d made in the sixties.” The demo was from 1968 and was recorded at Kinfauns, his home in Esher, Surrey but eventually found an updated vision of the song features on 1979’s George Harrison.
Another Harrison classic that was left off a Beatles album was the incredible song ‘Let It Down’. Harrison tried on four different days during the January 1969 recording sessions to get all four members of the band on a session for the song but to no avail. It’s an archetypal song for Harrison which sees him put the everlasting battle between reality and spirituality formed into a lullaby pop song.
A song which featured on All Things Must Pass can surely be considered done of Harrison’s best ever songs, yet it struggled to find any love from The Beatles. ‘Isn’t It A Pity’ was another victim of the Let It Be sessions, which were beleaguered by Paul McCartney’s ego and John Lennon’s lack of focus. A song which is arguably one of his best struggled to find any room on the Beatles floor.
The rejection of many of Harrison’s songs eventually saw the guitarist walk out of the band temporarily. During his mini-break from the group, Harrison also wrote a bitter goodbye to the group ‘Wah Wah’, which he also tried to have the band record but, yet again, with no movement from Lennon and McCartney, Harrison was left to place it on his new solo record.
A session after Abbey Road, the band’s final recorded album, saw Harrison still looking to create as he produced another future All Things Must Pass song, ‘Woman Don’t You Cry for Me’. Another song not from the Let It Be sessions was Harrison’s track ‘See Yourself’ which the guitarist wrote in 1967 as a response to the criticism for Paul McCartney after he admitted using LSD in the media.
Across a range of songs, we can see just how talented George Harrison was as a songwriter. Of course, Lennon and McCartney knew it too. They were more than happy to include some of his finest works, and some of The Beatles’ finest works too, on the band’s albums. The real issue arises when you consider some of the fantastic songs of Harrison’s that were ditched in favour of sub-par Lennon-McCartney originals to feature on the LPs.
As a celebration of Harrison’s talent, we’ve brought together a playlist of the singer’s best songs that were rejected by The Beatles.