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(Credit: Far Out / Press / Charlie Costello / Rahul Pande / Tiago Rosado)

Music

How James Taylor inspired George Harrison to write ‘Something’

@TomTaylorFO

‘Something’ is without doubt one of the top ten Beatles songs and I’ll fight the man who says otherwise even if he has a perm. Purring with romance and sexiness is the ultimate gift that a lover could ask for. Oozing with a sense of ethereality the unfurling verses could give goosebumps to a blade of grass, and then there’s that middle eight that could knock the socks off of Gandhi.

Pattie Boyd was the benefactor of that loving gift, and it is perhaps indicative of the song’s pining clutch that it represents the dying embers of their relationship. As she writes in her memoir, “George wrote a song called ‘Something.’ He told me in a matter-of-fact way that he had written it for me. I thought it was beautiful and it turned out to be the most successful song he ever wrote, with more than 150 cover versions. George’s favourite version was the one by James Brown. Mine was the one by George Harrison, which he played to me in our kitchen.”

Despite the sadness of what she writes afterwards, it is always important to remember the beauty of the prelude in a relationship and not the final chapter. The vignette of Boyd being serenaded by Harrison in the kitchen is certainly the romantic image that I cling to when I listen to the track, albeit she adds: “But, in fact, by then our relationship was in trouble. Since a trip to the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s ashram in India in 1968, George had become obsessive about meditation. He was also sometimes withdrawn and depressed.”

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Nevertheless, the track is a beauteous ode to love and devotion, and that notion seemed to seep into Harrison over time. You see, prior to him writing the song, Harrison and Paul McCartney had been auditioning a young James Taylor for their Apple Records label. And his track ‘Something in the Way She Moves’ clearly had a sizeable subliminal influence on him. 

As Taylor told Guitar World in 2021: “I felt hugely flattered. I had played this song for George and Paul as my audition, and I think it had just sort of stuck in his mind. But he didn’t realize that. I think all music is reiteration. I think we just pick stuff up and use it again. I mean, there are just 12 notes.” And as it happens, in a circle of fate, even Taylor’s own track contains a line from the 1964 Beatles song ‘I Feel Fine’.

As fate would have at Apple Records signed a superstar in James Taylor who would go on to sell more than 100 million records worldwide, and Harrison’s subliminally imbued ‘Something’ went on to be John Lennon’s favourite track from Abbey Road. But above all, we are all the benefactors of ‘The Quiet One’ borrowing a line to kickstart his lilting gem that still moves to this day.