The Story of... 'Something' by The Beatles
25 February 2020, 13:50
It's one of the most romantic rock songs of all time, and was the first time people stopped and took serious notice of George Harrison's talents as a songwriter.
The 'Quiet Beatle' wrote and performed this song for the Fab Four's Abbey Road album, and it went on to become one of the band's most popular tracks.
But what inspired the song and who else has sung it? Here's all the important facts you need to know:
Who wrote 'Something'?
'Something' was written by George Harrison, the Beatles' lead guitarist, and is thought to be the moment he proved that he was as good at writing songs as John Lennon and Paul McCartney.
It was the first Harrison song to be a Beatles A-side single.
Who and what inspired 'Something'?
George Harrison began writing the song in September 1968, during a session for the Beatles' self-titled double album, later known as the White Album.
In his autobiography, he remembered writing the melody on a piano, at the same time as Paul McCartney recorded tracks at London's Abbey Road Studios.
Harrison initially abandoned the song, believing that as the tune came to him so easily, he might have accidentally stolen the melody from another song.
The opening line was lifted from the title of 'Something in the Way She Moves', a song by Harrison's Apple Records mate James Taylor.
Harrison wrote the song in the style of Ray Charles, but his main inspiration is thought to be his wife, Pattie Boyd - later the inspiration for second husband Eric Clapton's 'Wonderful Tonight'.
In her 2007 autobiography, Boyd said: "He told me, in a matter-of-fact way, that he had written it for me. I thought it was beautiful."
Harrison also revealed other inspirations for the song. He reportedly told his friends from the Hare Krishna Movement that the song was about the Hindu deity Krishna.
In 1996, Harrison denied writing 'Something' for Boyd. He told journalist Paul Cashmere that "everybody presumed I wrote it about Pattie" because of the promotional film released alongside the Beatles' recording, which showed the couple together.
The song was rejected at first
George Harrison first introduced 'Something' at a Beatles session on September 19 1968, when he played it to George Martin's stand-in producer, Chris Thomas.
Despite Thomas's enthusiasm for the song, Harrison chose to focus on his song 'Piggies' instead, and wanted to give it to singer Jackie Lomax.
Harrison's songs at this time received little interest from John Lennon and Paul McCartney, and Martin was also unimpressed by 'Something' at first, considering it "too weak and derivative".
By the time Abbey Road's recording began, Harrison was more assertive with his work, and his songs 'Something' and 'Here Comes the Sun' were included.
George Harrison recorded a beautiful demo
Harrison suggested to Lennon and Yoko Ono about recording a solo album of his unused songs, and Lennon supported the idea.
On his 26th birthday, Harrison recorded solo demos of 'Something' and two other songs. It featured just electric guitar and vocals.
This demo version remained unreleased until its inclusion on the Beatles' outtake collection Anthology 3 in 1996.
Joe Cocker recorded a version before The Beatles
In March 1969, Harrison gave the song to Joe Cocker to record.
Helped by Harrison, Cocker recorded a demo of the song at Apple.
Musicologist Walter Everett has claimed that this was the same recording that appeared on the Joe Cocker! album in November 1969, but Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn says that Cocker later remade the track.
The original version was eight minutes long
The Beatles finally recorded 'Something' on April 16, 1969, and it was completed on May 2.
The line-up featured Harrison on rhythm and lead guitar, Lennon on piano, McCartney on bass, Ringo Starr on drums, and Billy Preston on Hammond organ.
The song ran to eight minutes, due to an extended, jam-style coda led by Lennon's piano, but this was later removed.
How did it perform in the charts?
'Something' - paired as a double-A side with 'Come Together', peaked at number one in the US.
It was also a number one hit in Canada, Australia, West Germany, New Zealand and Singapore. The combined sides reached number 4 in the UK.
It is the second most covered Beatles song after 'Yesterday'. In 1999, Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI) named it the 17th-most performed song of the 20th century, with 5 million performances.
Who has covered it?
Among the many covers, include:
- Shirley Bassey scored a top 5 hit in 1970
- Frank Sinatra described it as "the greatest love song of the past 50 years", and recorded two versions
- Elvis Presley performed it many times live
- Paul McCartney and Eric Clapton played it at the Concert for George tribute
- Bob Dylan
- Jeff Lynne
- Peggy Lee
- Tony Bennett
- Perry Como
- Isaac Hayes
- Martha Reeves
- Andy Williams
- James Brown
- Willie Nelson
- Smokey Robinson
- Tanya Tucker
- Bruce Springsteen