During the early days of The Beatles, the band didn’t act like a democracy. Paul McCartney and John Lennon would steer the ship in whatever creative direction they wished, trusting the creative process that was skyrocketing them to international fame. The stranglehold that the two principal songwriters held over the group even resulted in the duo writing one song purely out of charity to George Harrison in a desperate bid to give the guitarist “some action” on an album.
As The Beatles’ tenure advanced, Harrison’s role became much more significant with every release. By the end of their journey, he was arguably the most pivotal member of the band, producing perhaps the best Beatles material ever. However, this wasn’t always the case, and it took Harrison a lot longer to find his voice in comparison to his colleagues Lennon and McCartney.
Harrison’s first song to be included on a Beatles record was ‘Don’t Bother Me’, which appeared on the 1963 record With The Beatles. However, it didn’t make him a prolific songwriter, as he later admitted: “The first song was written basically as an exercise to see if I could write a song. I wrote that in a hotel in Bournemouth. We were doing a summer season. I was sick in bed, maybe that’s why it turned out ‘don’t bother me’.
“It’s not a very good song, but it at least showed me that, you know, all I needed to do was keep on writing, and maybe someday I’d write something good,” he self-deprecatingly added.
After writing ‘Don’t Bother Me’, Harrison still viewed himself as a guitarist first and foremost, meaning that his bandmates would just hand him songs that they deemed as throwaway. If they liked the number they were giving away that much, they simply wouldn’t have passed it on to him rather than singing on it themselves.
One song that both Lennon and McCartney disliked is ‘I’m Happy Just To Dance With You’, a number that appeared on the soundtrack for A Hard Day’s Night solely because Harrison needed a track on the film.
“We wrote ‘I’m Happy Just To Dance With You’ for George in the film. It was a bit of a formula song,” McCartney told biographer Barry Miles. “We knew that in E if you went to an A flat minor, you could always make a song with those chords; that change pretty much always excited you. This is one of these. Certainly ‘Do You Want To Know A Secret’ was.
“This one anyway was a straight co-written song for George. We wouldn’t have actually wanted to sing it because it was a bit. The ones that pandered to the fans in truth were our least favourite songs but they were good. They were good for the time. The nice thing about it was to actually pull a song off on a slim little premise like that. A simple little idea. It was songwriting practice.”
This rather blunt statement from McCartney was supported by John Lennon, who said: “That was written for George to give him a piece of the action.” On another occasion, he brutally commented, “I’d never have sung it myself”.
Truthfully, the song is one of The Beatles’ weaker moments, but on the other hand, it proves how far Harrison came during his time in the band. At one point, he was an afterthought, but, only a few years later on Abbey Road, his input in a songwriting sense arguable stole the show thanks to ‘Something’ and ‘Here Comes The Sun’, which showcased his striking development with the pen.