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(Credit: David Hume Kennerly)

Music

The innovative psych song George Harrison wrote simply to “pass the time”

@SamWKemp

Sometimes the best ideas arise out of listlessness rather than hard-graft. Popular opinion states that masterpieces must be quietly honed to perfection. Though some of The Beatles’ best works were made this way – especially in the early days – a large proportion of them originated not from some desire to craft a song for the ages, but from feelings of boredom and lethargy.

In a way, this is unsurprising. Writing songs without a set purpose puts the songwriter’s inner-editor on the back burner. If they’re writing simply to “pass the time” as George Harrison was when he wrote ‘Bluejay Way’, the impulse to write according to a sure-fire formula is far less palpable, meaning that the composer is more likely to come out with something true to their own vision, something unique and novel.

Novelty was the beating heart of The Beatles’ 1967 album Magical Mystery Tour. The studio effort saw John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr push their sound into untapped and frequently carnivalesque territory. Of all the surrealistic gems that the album has to offer, one of the most perplexing is ‘Blue Jay Way’, written by George Harrison while he was waiting for Beatles publicist Derek Taylor, who had managed to lose his way in the Los Angeles canyons.

On August 1st, 1967, Harrison was visiting California with his wife Pattie, Neil Aspinall and Alexis Mardas. The friends were staying at the house of manager Peggy Lee on Blue Jay Way, a road nestled high in the Hollywood Hills. On his way to meet Harrison and co, Derek Taylor lost his bearings on the winding roads, leaving a jet-legged Harrison to keep himself occupied on the house’s S-6 Hammond organ.

Opening up about the creation of ‘Blue Jay Way’, Harrison later recalled: “Derek Taylor got held up. 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 OK… 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.”

Harrison continued: “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.”

Talk about making it sound easy. You can revisit ‘Blue Jay Way’ below.