The Beatles song that Lennon wrote for Harrison to let him in on “the action”
The Beatles churned out an incredibly dense amount of material during their early days. Riding the wave of pop music, the Fab Four and Brian Epstein were determined to capitalise on their success with as much exposure as possible. That meant that the band were, for a short time anyway, churning out two albums a year as well as a feature film.
In turn, that heavy workload and the need for a never-ending ream of pop songs meant that The Beatles’ principal songwriters, John Lennon and Paul McCartney, were often churning out tunes at an unfathomable rate—but not all of the creations were for themselves. As well as writing for The Rolling Stones and other groups, they also wrote tracks for the band members too, including one for George Harrison.
In 1964, Harrison was a fair way away from becoming the songwriting behemoth he would later prove to be, writing some of The Beatles most beloved songs like ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ and ‘Something’. Instead, Harrison chose to provide back-up vocals and harmonies and concentrate on mastering the guitar—but that didn’t mean that the guitarist wasn’t intrigued by the spotlight. It was clearly something Lennon had noticed.
So for A Hard Day’s Night Lennon kept one spot on the record for George and write the guitarist a song so he could have “a piece of the action”, that song was ‘I’m Just Happy To Dance With You’. “We wrote [it] for George in the film,” Paul recalled in his biography Many Years From Now. “It was a bit of a formula song. We knew that in E if you went to an A-flat minor, you could always make a song… and this is one of these.”
By this time The Beatles had not only found fame and fans but they had also found a tried and tested formula. It was an essential tool for Lennon-McCartney as the expectation for a large volume of songs was increasing. It was a great way to satisfy record executives but that doesn’t mean the songwriting duo enjoyed them.
“We wouldn’t have actually wanted to sing it,” McCartney said. “The ones that pandered to the fans in truth were our least favourite songs.” It’s a sentiment that John Lennon has also shared, often looking back at their work during this time as a source of embarrassment rather than pride. The Beatles became such a huge force because they often revealed themselves in their songwriting, but it’s clear that ‘I’m Just Happy To Dance With You’ was specially crafted for George, “That [song] was written for George to give him a piece of the action,” John told Playboy’s, David Sheff.
It wasn’t the first song that the duo had set aside for Harrison’s talents, or should we say lack thereof. On 1963’s Please, Please Me Lennon put aside ‘Do You Want To Know A Secret’ for the talented guitarist, “Well, I can’t say I wrote it for George,” John told Sheff in All We Are Saying. Adding with a wry smile, “I thought it would be a good vehicle for him because it only had three notes and he wasn’t the best singer in the world.”
Lennon quickly put that sentiment into the correct space though when he corrected: “He has improved a lot since then, but in those days [George’s] singing ability was very poor because (a) he hadn’t had the opportunity, and (b) he concentrated more on the guitar.”
It’s a sentiment that George himself shared. In The Beatles’ Anthology, Harrison said: “I didn’t like my vocal on it,” George said of the track. “I didn’t know how to sing, and nobody told me how to.” We think, considering this, he’s done a stand up job on both.