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The George Harrison song that secured his place as a Beatles songwriter


During the initial come up of The Beatles‘ career, George Harrison was often given the songs that he was to take a lead vocal on. Harrison saw himself as a guitar player first and foremost, and although the band had a tradition of giving each of their members at least one song to sing per album/while on stage, Harrison didn’t bother himself with the process of songwriting.

‘Don’t Bother Me’ would be the first song of Harrison’s own that would appear on a Beatles album, and although it has a strong melancholic melody, Harrison would later feel indifference towards the actual song itself, as revealed in his book, I Me Mine: “I don’t think it’s a particularly good song… It mightn’t even be a song at all, but at least it showed me that all I needed to do was keep on writing, and then maybe eventually I would write something good.”

Following ‘Don’t Bother Me’, Harrison had a difficult time coming up with another song idea. A Hard Day’s Night saw Harrison singing a Lennon/McCartney song, ‘I’m Happy Just to Dance with You’, which meant he was sent back to the level he had been on during the recording of Please Please Me, which saw him sing a song predominantly written by Lennon, ‘Do You Want to Know a Secret’.

Beatles for Sale was the nadir for Harrison as an influential decision-maker within the band: he only gets a single song, it’s a cover, and it’s the very last song on the album. Not that his take on Carl Perkins’ ‘Everybody’s Trying to Be My Baby’ is bad, but it’s certainly a low for Harrison’s position within the group dynamic. Harrison presented a tune called ‘You Know What to Do’ during the end of the A Hard Day’s Night sessions, but its negative reception among his bandmates caused him to lapse into a period of songwriting malaise. 

Perhaps it took a little sticktoitiveness from Harrison, or maybe it took his falling for Patti Boyd during the filming of A Hard Day’s Night, but as the band began assembling tracks for their second film, Help!, Harrison surprised the others by putting forth a new love song, ‘I Need You’. Because of the craziness of Beatlemania, Boyd and Harrison had separated for a brief period, causing Harrison to channel his despair and earnest calls for reconciliation into a new song.

The band accepted Harrison’s contribution and prioritised it with the other songwriters’ main contributions to the album’s initial sessions, Lennon’s ‘Ticket to Ride’ and McCartney’s ‘Another Girl’ (Lennon had yet to write the title song, and McCartney was too uncertain to put forth ‘Yesterday’ at this point). These three songs were recorded in a two-day session across February of 1965, and all three were greeted with a warm reception from the band and producer George Martin. Harrison was so roused by the success of ‘I Need You’ that he put forth another contribution for the album, ‘You Like Me Too Much’.

Harrison had his back against the wall, and he was facing down a future of being spoon-fed songs from his bandmates or wallowing in covers for the rest of his recording career. Instead, Harrison found the right inspiration, the right collection of chords, and the right amount of courage to ensure that he would have a permanent place among the band’s compositions. The Beatles now had three songwriters, and it would stay that way from here on out.

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