Who did George Harrison write The Beatles “greatest love song” ‘Something’ for?
We’re dipping into the Far Out Magazine vault and looking back to one of George Harrison’s best songs with The Beatles, the beautiful and timeless love song ‘Something’. Released in 1969 the single would be Harrison’s first number one and mark him out as a wildly talented songwriter.
When artists such as Frank Sinatra pick out your work and label it as “the greatest love song of the past 50 years,” you know you’re doing something right. But who was this pop ode in aid of? Many people pointed to Pattie Boyd but the answer is a little more convoluted than that.
‘Something’ will forever remain a special track for George Harrison. Not only was it the first song he was able to releases with The Beatles as a fully-fledge single. But it was also the first song fro The Beatles to reach number one that wasn’t suffixed with “written by Lennon-McCartney.”
For that reason alone the Abbey Road number became a moment of utter pride for the guitarist who had struggled to impose his songwriting will on the Fab Four. But the song also worked as a clear indicator of Harrison’s bright solo future away fromt he band and his chaotic life at the time of writing.
“He told me in a matter-of-fact way that he had written it for me,” said Harrison’s then wife Pattie Boyd in a book about her life. But the fact are a little hazy. Harrison and Boyd had met on the set of Hard Day’s Night and had enjoyed some blissful moments. But by the end of The Beatles career, Harrison had begun to step out on Boyd with frightening regularity and Boyd herself had begun to look elsewhere.
It meant when BBC journalist David Wigg asked Harrison who the song was written for in 1969 the guitarist answered: “Maybe Pattie, probably.” Even Wigg wasn’t convinced, following up with “Really?” Clearly rumours of Boyd and Harrison’s loose relationship was beginning to be exposed.
Harrison moved on quickly in the interview and apart from insisting that he had the melody from very early on and that the line “Something in the way she moves” had come from “elsewhere,” (James Taylor), Harrison kept quiet about ‘Something’ muse.
“I wrote it at the time when we were making the last double album,” he told David Wigg. “And it’s just the first line ‘something in the was she moves’ which has been in millions of songs. It’s not a special thing but it just seemed quite apt.” But musically, Harrison was clear with his direction.
“When I wrote it, I imagined somebody like Ray Charles doing it. That’s the feel I imagined, but because I’m not Ray Charles, you know, I’m sort of much more limited in what I can do, then it came out like this.”
In 1996, Harrison would clarify his comments and quickly take back the idea that he had written the song for Boyd who shortly after the track’s release had entered into a relationship with Harrison’s best friend, Eric Clapton. Instead, Harrison pointed towards more spiritual inspiration for the song.
“Everybody assumed I wrote it about Pattie,” said Harrison to author Joshua Greene. In Greene’s book he confirms that Harrison had revealed that he had in fact written the song as an ode to Hare Krishna and spirituality. But even that feels a bit tenuous.
“The words are nothing, really,” Harrison said in 1969. “There are lots of songs like that in my head. I must get them down. Some people tell me that ‘Something’ is one of the best things I’ve ever written. I don’t know. Maybe they’re right, maybe they’re wrong. It’s very flattering though….It’s nice. It’s probably the nicest melody tune that I’ve written.”
In reality, the only muse this song had was Harrison himself, likely far more passionately consumed by achieving his first number one for The Beatles than anything else. ‘Something’ may well be a love song. But it’s a love song for himself.