The Story Behind The Song: The Beatles classic ‘Something’, George Harrison’s mysterious love letter
‘Something’ will forever remain a special track for the late mercurial George Harrison. Not only was it the first song he was able to release with The Beatles as a fully-fledge single, but it was also the first Beatles song to reach number one that wasn’t suffixed with ‘written by Lennon-McCartney’. The track saw Harrison announce him as being an integral part of The Fab Four’s machine, solidifying his presence alongside as his two prolific bandmates.
When the track was released as a double A-side with ‘Come Together’ on October 6th, 1969, in what remains one of the greatest releases of it’s kind of all time, it was finally Harrison’s moment in the sun which proved his credentials as a songwriting genius. If Harrison hadn’t been in a band with two of the greatest pop writers of all time in Lennon and McCartney, a factor which limited his opportunities in the limelight, his rise to prominence would have been realised much sooner. However, what he learnt in the art of songwriting from working day out with his close friends will, undoubtedly, proven to be a priceless decade-long lesson.
A great songwriter himself, Bob Dylan, once accurately summed up Harrison’s place within The Beatles: “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? If George had had his own group and was writing his own songs back then, he’d have been probably just as big as anybody,” he said in a 2007 interview and it remains a poignant nod of approval.
Abbey Road remains an adored Beatles record despite John Lennon later admitting he held disdain towards the project, confirming that his heart was no longer in the band: “I think it’s junk. It was just bits of song thrown together. And I can’t remember what some of it is,” he commented. However, what can not be denied is that two of the most loved tracks on the record are the aforementioned ‘Something’ and the timeless hit ‘Here Comes The Sun’, tracks which helped make the record one of the all-time greats.
The inspiration behind ‘Something’ was originally attributed to Harrison’s then-wife Pattie Boyd, “he told me in a matter-of-fact way that he had written it for me,” said Boyd in a book about her life. However, rumours about Harrison’s infidelity were rife at this point and it meant when BBC journalist David Wigg asked Harrison who the song was written for in 1969 the guitarist coyly answering, “Maybe Pattie, probably.”
Even Wigg wasn’t convinced, following up with an inquisitive “really?” question. Clearly, rumours of Boyd and Harrison’s loose relationship were beginning to be exposed and, not comfortable with the topic, the guitarist immediately moved the conversation away from the true muse of the song to a focus on the melody.
“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.”
Harrison became obsessive into his studies of Krishna Consciousness when he wrote the song and, more specifically, its original intent was as a devotion to Lord Krishna. He insisted that the original lyric was “something in the way HE moves,” but he changed it because he didn’t want to be accused of being a homosexual, which had only become legal in 1967.
The true meaning of the song will remain forever unknown and the ambiguity of ‘Something’ is what helps make it such a universally loved track that Frank Sinatra would go on to describe as “the greatest love song ever written.”
The part that ‘Something’ plays in the legacy of Harrison is immeasurable, it proved that he could churn out chart-topping hits and he had earned his right to star in more tracks on Beatles records rather than being given them as a token from Lennon and McCartney. A truly timeless classic.