John Lennon and George Harrison shared a close musical relationship that lived on long after The Beatles’ split. However, surprisingly, only one song by the Fab Four is credited solely to the pair.
Harrison, who later revealed that he preferred working on material with his bespectacled bandmate over Paul McCartney because he provided him with a sense of freedom, didn’t try to interfere with his creative process. He once explained, “There came a time when Paul had fixed an idea in his brain as to how to record one of his songs.”
Harrison added: “It was taken to the most ridiculous situations, where I’d open my guitar case and go to get my guitar out and he’d say, ‘No, no, we’re not doing that yet.’… It got so there was very little to do, other than sit around and hear him going, ‘Fixing a hole …’ with Ringo [Starr] keeping the time.”
From the very beginning, Harrison and Lennon had an innate knowledge of one another’s skillset, a factor that allowed them to communicate without a word needing to be spoken while together in the studio. The duo was always on the same wavelength, and The Beatles’ first professional recording, ‘Cry For A Shadow’, is proof of their compelling creative marriage. The Fab Four were still in their formative period when they recorded the aforementioned track in 1961. Additionally, it’s one of just two songs the group released with Pete Best on drums.
The recording took place during one of their lengthy residencies in Hamburg, shows that offered a chance to cut their teeth on the live music circuit, a time that proved to be the making of The Beatles as they elevated their musicianship to newfangled heights. Despite playing up to half a dozen concerts every day, the band still found time to record material, and their musical juices were flowing on all cylinders.
At the time, they were employed as the backing band for the British rock ‘n’ roll singer Tony Sheridan, and they found the experience of working on cover versions for somebody else as a laborious task. ‘Cry For A Shadow’ was initially born out of Lennon and Harrison’s frustration with the duo needing a vehicle to channel their creativity.
Discussing how they made the track, Harrison recalled: “In Hamburg, we had to play so long, we actually used to play Apache…but John and I were just bullshitting one day, and he had this new little Rickenbacker with a funny kind of wobble bar on it. And he started playing that off, and I just came in, and we made it up, right on the spot.”
Remarkably, it took three years before the delightful instrumental was finally released outside of Germany with ‘Why’ as the B-side, although, in the United States, the two tracks swapped places. The freewheeling impromptu nature of the song makes it an utterly bewitching listen.