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"Something" is a song by the Beatles, written by George Harrison and released on the band's 1969 album Abbey Road. It was also issued on a double A-sided single with another track from the album, "Come Together". "Something" was the first Harrison composition to appear as a Beatles A-side, and the only song written by him to top the US charts while he was in the band. The single was also one of the first Beatles singles to contain tracks already available on an LP album.

John Lennon and Paul McCartney, the band's principal songwriters, both praised "Something" as one of the best songs Harrison had written, or that the group had to offer.[3] As well as critical acclaim, the single achieved commercial success, topping the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States and making the top five in the United Kingdom. The song has been covered by over 150 artists, making it the second-most covered Beatles song after "Yesterday". Artists who have covered the song includeElvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, James Brown, Shirley Bassey, Tony Bennett, Andy Williams, Smokey Robinson, Ike & Tina Turner, the Miracles, Eric Clapton,Joe Cocker, Isaac Hayes, Julio Iglesias, Mina, Phish and Neil Diamond. Harrison said his favourite version of the song was James Brown's, which he kept in his personaljukebox.[4]

Contents[]

 [hide] 

  • 1 Background and inspiration
  • 2 Composition
  • 3 Pre-Abbey Road recording history
    • 3.1 The Beatles' Get Back rehearsals
    • 3.2 Harrison solo demo
    • 3.3 Joe Cocker demo
  • 4 Recording and production
  • 5 Release
    • 5.1 Promotional video
  • 6 Reception, awards and legacy
  • 7 Notable cover versions
  • 8 Live performances (by Harrison)
  • 9 Personnel
  • 10 Chart performance
    • 10.1 Beatles version
    • 10.2 Shirley Bassey version
  • 11 References
  • 12 Sources
  • 13 External links

Background and inspiration[edit][]

George Harrison began writing "Something" in September 1968, during a session for the Beatles' self-tilted double album, commonly known as "the White Album".[5] In his autobiography, I, Me Mine, he recalls working on the melody on a piano, while Paul McCartney carried out overdubs in a neighbouring studio at London's Abbey Road Studios.[6] Harrison put the composition "on ice" at first,[7] believing that with the tune having come to him so easily, it might have been the melody from another song.[8] InI, Me, Mine, he adds that the middle eight for "Something" "took some time to sort out".[6]

The song's opening lyric was taken from the title of "Something in the Way She Moves", a track by Harrison's fellow Apple Records artist James Taylor.[9][10] While musically Harrison imagined the composition in the style of Ray Charles, his inspiration for "Something" was his wife, Pattie Boyd.[11] In her 2007 autobiography,Wonderful Today, Boyd recalls: "He told me, in a matter-of-fact way, that he had written it for me. I thought it was beautiful …" Boyd discusses the song's subsequent popularity among other recording artists and concludes: "My favourite [version] was the one by George Harrison, which he played to me in the kitchen at Kinfauns."[12]

Having begun to write love songs that were directed at both God and a woman, with his White Album track "Long, Long, Long",[13] Harrison later cited alternative sources for his inspiration for "Something".[14] In early 1969, according to author Joshua Greene, Harrison told his friends from the Hare Krishna Movement that the song was about the Hindu deity Krishna;[15] in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine in 1976, he said of his approach to writing love songs: "all love is part of a universal love. When you love a woman, it's the God in her that you see."[16]By 1996, Harrison had denied writing "Something" for Boyd,[10] adding that "everybody presumed I wrote it about Pattie" because of the promotional film accompanying the release of the Beatles' recording, which showed each member of the band with their respective wife.[17]

Composition[edit][]

In the version issued on the Beatles' 1969 album Abbey Road, which was the first release for the song,[18] "Something" runs at a speed of around 66 beats per minute and is in common timethroughout. It begins with a five-note guitar figure, which functions as the song's chorus, since it is repeated before each of the verses and also closes the track.[19] The melody is in the key of C major until the eight-measure-long bridge, or middle eight, which is in the key of A major.[20][21] Harrison biographer Simon Leng identifies "harmonic interest … [in] almost every line" of the song, as the melody follows a series of descending half-steps from the tonic over the verses, a structure that is then mirrored in the new key, through the middle eight.[22] The melody returns to C major for the guitar solo, the third verse, and the outro.[20]

While Leng considers that, lyrically and musically, "Something" reflects "doubt and striving to attain an uncertain goal",[22] author Ian Inglis writes of the confident statements that Harrison makes throughout regarding his feelings for Boyd.[23] Referring to lines in the song's first two verses,[24] Inglis writes: "there is a clear and mutual confidence in the reciprocal nature of their love; he muses that [Boyd] 'attracts me like no other lover' and 'all I have to do is think of her,' but he is equally aware that she feels the same, that 'somewhere in her smile, she knows.'"[23] Similarly, when Harrison sings in the middle eight that "You're asking me will my love grow / I don't know, I don't know",[24] Inglis interprets the words as "not an indication of uncertainty, but a wry reflection that his love is already so complete that it may simply be impossible for it to become any greater".[23] Richie Unterberger of AllMusic describes "Something" as "an unabashedly straightforward and sentimental love song" written at a time "when most of the Beatles' songs were dealing with non-romantic topics or presenting cryptic and allusive lyrics even when they were writing about love".[1]

Pre-Abbey Road recording history[edit][]

The Beatles' Get Back rehearsals[edit][]

Harrison first introduced "Something" at a Beatles session on 19 September 1968, when he played it to George Martin's stand-in as producer of The Beatles, Chris Thomas, while the latter was working out theharpsichord part for Harrison's track "Piggies".[5] Despite Thomas's enthusiasm for the new composition, Harrison chose to focus on "Piggies".[25] He told Thomas that he intended to offer "Something" to singerJackie Lomax,[5] whose debut album Harrison was producing for Apple Records.[26] "Something" was not among the tracks released on Lomax's album, however,[27] much of which was recorded in Los Angeles following the completion of the White Album.[28]

After Harrison rejoined the Beatles in January 1969 for their Get Back film project (later released as Let It Be), "Something" was one of many recent compositions that he offered to the group.[29] Leng describes this period as a prolific one for Harrison as a songwriter, comparing it with John Lennon's peak of creativity over 1963–64,[30] yet Harrison's songs received little interest from Lennon and McCartney amid the tense, uncooperative atmosphere within the band.[31][32] Martin was also unimpressed by "Something" at first, considering it "too weak and derivative", according to music journalist Mikal Gilmore.[31]

The Beatles rehearsed the song at Apple Studio on 28 January.[33] With the proceedings being recorded by director Michael Lindsay-Hogg for the planned documentary film,[34] tapes reveal Harrison discussing his unfinished lyrics for "Something" with Lennon and McCartney, since he had been unable to complete the song's second line, which begins "Attracts me …"[35] To serve as a temporary filler, Lennon suggested "like a cauliflower", which Harrison then altered to "like a pomegranate".[5] In their study of the available tapes, Doug Sulpy and Ray Schweighardt write that the Beatles gave the song two run-throughs that day, which was the only occasion that they attempted it during the Get Back/Let It Be project.[36]

Harrison solo demo[edit][]

Following the Beatles' brief efforts with "Something" on 28 January,[37] Harrison talked with Lennon and Yoko Ono about recording a solo album of his unused songs, in order to "preserve this, the Beatle bit, more".[38] Lennon offered his support for the idea,[38] similarly keen that his and Ono's recording projects outside the Beatles could continue without jeopardising the band's future.[37] On 25 February 1969 – his 26th birthday – Harrison entered Abbey Road Studios and taped solo demos of "Something", "Old Brown Shoe" and "All Things Must Pass",[39] the last two of which had also been rejected recently by Lennon and McCartney.[40]

With Ken Scott serving as his engineer,[41] he recorded a live take of "Something", featuring just electric guitar and vocal.[42] By this point, Harrison had completed the lyrics, although he included an extra verse, sung to a counter-melody, over the section that would comprise his guitar solo on the Beatles' subsequent official recording.[22] This demo version of "Something" remained unreleased until its inclusion on the Beatles'outtake collection Anthology 3 in 1996.[43]

Joe Cocker demo[edit][]

In March 1969, Harrison gave "Something" to Joe Cocker to record,[44] having decided that it was more likely to become a hit with Cocker than with Lomax.[45] Referring to this and similar examples where Harrison placed his overlooked songs with other recording artists, Ken Scott has refuted the idea that he lacked confidence as a songwriter in the Beatles, saying: "I think he was totally confident about the songs. The insecurity may have been, if the Beatles kept going, 'How many songs am I going to be able to get on each album?', and with the backlog sort of mounting up … [to] get it out there, and get something from it."[46]

Assisted by Harrison, Cocker recorded a demo of the song at Apple.[5] While musicologist Walter Everett suggests that this was the same recording of "Something" that appeared on the Joe Cocker! album in November 1969,[44] Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn writes that Cocker subsequently remade the track.[5]

Recording and production[edit][]

Main article: Abbey Road (album)

The Beatles undertook the recording of Abbey Road with a sense of discipline and cooperation that had largely been absent while making the White Album and Let It Be.[47] Having temporarily left the group in January 1969 partly as a result of McCartney's criticism of his musicianship, Harrison exhibited a greater level of assertiveness regarding his place in the band, particularly while they worked on his compositions "Something" and "Here Comes the Sun".[48] In addition, like Lennon and McCartney, Martin had come to fully appreciate Harrison as a songwriter, later saying: "I first recognised that he really had a great talent when we did 'Here Comes the Sun.' But when he brought in 'Something,' it was something else … It was a tremendous work – and so simple."[49]

The group first recorded "Something" on 16 April before Harrison decided to redo the song, a new basic track for which was then completed at Abbey Road on 2 May. The line-up was Harrison on Leslie-effected rhythm guitar, Lennon on piano, McCartney on bass, Ringo Starr on drums, and guest musician Billy Preston playing Hammond organ. On 5 May, at Olympic Sound Studios, McCartney replaced his bass part and Harrison added lead guitar.[44] At this point, the song ran to eight minutes, due to the inclusion of an extended coda led by Lennon's piano.[9]

After taking a break from recording,[50] the band returned to "Something" on 11 July, when Harrison overdubbed what would turn out to be a temporary vocal. With the resulting reduction mix, much of the coda, along with almost all of Lennon's playing on the main part of the song, was cut from the recording. The piano can be heard only in the middle eight, specifically during the descending run that follows each pair of "I don't know" vocal lines.[44] Lennon later reprised the piano chords from the discarded coda in his 1970 song "Remember".[51][52] On 16 July, Harrison recorded a new vocal, with McCartney overdubbing his harmony vocal over the middle eight and Starr adding both a second hi-hat part and a cymbal.[44]

Following another reduction mix, at which point the remainder of the coda was excised from the track, Martin-arranged string orchestration was overdubbed on 15 August, as Harrison, working in the adjacent studio at Abbey Road, re-recorded his lead guitar part live.[44] Writing for Rolling Stone in 2002, David Fricke described the Beatles' version of "Something" as "actually two moods in one: the pillowy yearning of the verses … and the golden thunder of the bridge, the latter driven by Ringo Starr's military flourish on a high-hat cymbal".[49] Leng highlights Harrison's guitar solo on the recording as "a performance that is widely regarded as one of the great guitar solos", and one in which Harrison incorporates the gamaks associated with Indian classical music, following his study of the sitar in 1965–68, while also foreshadowing the expressive style he would adopt on slide guitar as a solo artist.[53]

Release[edit][]

They blessed me with a couple of B-sides in the past, but this is the first time I've had an A-side. Big deal, eh?[5]

– George Harrison to BBC reporter David Wigg, 8 October 1969

Apple Records issued Abbey Road on 26 September 1969,[54] with "Something" sequenced as the second track, following Lennon's "Come Together".[55] Lennon considered "Something" to be the best song on the album;[10] having ensured that "Old Brown Shoe" was chosen as the B-side for the Beatles' single "The Ballad of John and Yoko", according to his later recollection,[56] Lennon now pushed Allen Klein to release "Something" as a single from Abbey Road. Coupled with "Come Together", the double A-side single was issued on 6 October in America (as Apple 2654) and 31 October in Britain (as Apple R5814).[55] The release marked the first time that a Harrison composition had been afforded A-side treatment on a Beatles single,[57] as well as the only time during their career that a single was issued in the UK featuring tracks already available on an album. In a 1990 letter to Mark Lewisohn, Klein refuted a claim made by Lewisohn in his book The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, that the single was intended as a money-making exercise; Klein said it was purely a mark of Lennon's regard for "Something" and "to point out George as a writer, and give him courage to go in and do his own LP".[5]

Although its commercial impact was lessened by the ongoing success of the parent album,[58] "Something"/"Come Together" was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) on 27 October.[59] During the single's chart run on Billboard in the US, "Something" peaked at number 3 until the magazine changed its practice of counting sales and airplay separately for each song; following this change on 29 November,[60] the single topped the Billboard Hot 100,[61] for one week.[62] "Something"/"Come Together" thereby became the Beatles' 18th number 1 single in the US, surpassing Elvis Presley's record of 17.

As the preferred side, "Something" was also number 1 in Canada,[63] Australia[64] and West Germany,[65] while on the listings compiled by Cash Box magazine in America, which continued to measure both sides of a single separately, "Something" peaked at number 2 and "Come Together" spent three weeks at number 1.[66] In Britain, the combined sides reached number 4.[67] In 1999, the single was certified Platinum by the RIAA.[68]

Promotional video[edit][]

The promotional video for "Something" was shot shortly before the break-up of the band. By this time, the individual Beatles had drawn apart and so the film consisted of separate clips of each Beatle walking around his home, accompanied by his wife, edited together. The film was directed by Neil Aspinall.[69]

Reception, awards and legacy[edit][]

Among contemporary reviews, Time magazine declared "Something" to be the best track on Abbey Road,[70] while John Mendelsohn wrote in Rolling Stone: "George's vocal, containing less adenoids and more grainy Paul tunefulness than ever before, is one of many highlights on his 'Something,' some of the others being more excellent drum work, a dead catchy guitar line, perfectly subdued strings, and an unusually nice melody. Both his and Joe Cocker's version will suffice nicely until Ray Charles gets around to it."[71] Like Lennon, both McCartney and Starr held the song in high regard. In the 2000 book The Beatles Anthology, Starr paired "Something" with Harrison's White Album track "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", as "Two of the finest love songs ever written, and they're really on a par with what John and Paul or anyone else of that time wrote", while McCartney described it as "George's greatest track – with 'Here Comes the Sun' and 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps'".[72]

In a 2002 article for The Morning News, author Ken Womack included Harrison's guitar solo on the track among his "Ten Great Beatles Moments".[73] Describing the instrumental break as "the song's greatest lyrical feature – even more lyrical, interesting enough, than the lyrics themselves", Womack concluded: "A masterpiece in simplicity, Harrison's solo reaches toward the sublime, wrestles with it in a bouquet of downward syncopation, and hoists it yet again in a moment of supreme grace."[74]

In 1970, the same year the Beatles announced they had split, "Something" received the Ivor Novello Award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically.[75] "Something" continues to garner accolades from the musical establishment decades after its release, with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) website naming it as the 64th-greatest song ever. According to the BBC, the song "shows more clearly than any other song in The Beatles' canon that there were three great songwriters in the band rather than just two".[7] The Beatles' official website itself said that "Something" "underlined the ascendancy of George Harrison as a major song writing force".[76]

With more than 150 versions, "Something" is the second most covered Beatles song after "Yesterday".[77] In 1999, Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI) named "Something" as the 17th-most performed song of the twentieth century, with 5 million performances in all. Other Beatles songs on the list were "Yesterday" and "Let It Be", both written by McCartney (though attributed to Lennon and McCartney).[78] In 2004, "Something" was ranked number 273 on Rolling Stone '​s list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". In 2010, the magazine ranked it number 6 on The Beatles' 100 Greatest Songs.[79] [80]

Notable cover versions[edit][]

"Something"
Single by Shirley Bassey
from the album Something
B-side "Easy to Be Hard"
Released June 1970
Format 7"
Genre pop
Length 3:35
Label United Artists
Writer(s) George Harrison
Producer(s) Johnny Harris, Tony Colton
Shirley Bassey singles chronology
"The Sea and Sand"

(1970)

"Something"

(1970)

"Fool on the Hill"

(1970)

Among the song's many cover versions, Welsh singer Shirley Bassey recorded a successful version of "Something". It was released in 1970 as the title single to her album of the same name. It became Bassey's biggest UK hit for many years, reaching number 4 and spending 22 weeks on the chart. The single also reached number 6 on the US AC Chart.

Harrison's composition began accumulating cover versions from other artists almost immediately after its release by the Beatles. Lena Horne recorded a cover version in November 1969 for her album with guitarist Gabor Szabo, Lena and Gabor. Other cover versions soon appeared, including versions from Elvis Presley (who included it in his Aloha from Hawaii TV special), Phish, Frank Sinatra, Nancy Sinatra, Ike & Tina Turner, the O'Jays, James Brown, Smokey Robinson, Martha and the Vandellas, Musiq Soulchild and Ray Charles. Despite having written the song with Charles in mind, Harrison's favourite version was James Brown's. Harrison once said of Brown's recording: "It was one of his B sides. I have it on my jukebox at home. It's absolutely brilliant."[4]

Sinatra was particularly impressed with "Something", calling it "the greatest love song of the past 50 years".[7] Apart from performing "Something" numerous times in concert, Sinatra recorded the song twice: in the late 1960s as a single for Reprise (this version later appeared on Frank Sinatra's Greatest Hits, Vol. 2), and in 1980 forTrilogy: Past Present Future. During live performances, the singer was known to mistakenly introduce "Something" as a Lennon–McCartney composition, however, by 1978, had begun correctly citing Harrison as its author.[81] Harrison would go on to adopt Sinatra's minor lyrical change (the song's bridge, "You stick around now, it may show" was changed to "You stick around, Jack, she might show") for his own live performances.[82]

A version by country singer Johnny Rodriguez reached the top ten of the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart in the spring of 1974.[83] Barbara Mandrell covered the song on her 1974 album This Time I Almost Made It.

In 1999, Power Metal band Helloween released a single of covers titled Lay All Your Love on Me in which they made a cover version of "Something" in a Heavy Metal style.[84]

In 2002, after Harrison's death, McCartney performed the song using just a ukulele on his "Back in the US" and "Back in the World" tours. McCartney and Eric Clapton performed "Something" at the Concert for George on 29 November 2002, a performance that was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals.[85] The song was also performed as a tribute to Harrison by McCartney in 2008 at the Liverpool Sound Concert, performing the song in a similar fashion to that of the Concert for George: starting off with only a ukulele for accompaniment, then after the bridge, being joined by the full band to conclude the song similarly to that of the original recording.[86][87][88] Bob Dylan likewise played the song live as a tribute to Harrison following his death.[89][90] Bruce Springsteen opened his first show after Harrison's passing by playing an acoustic version of "Something" with violinist Soozie Tyrell (followed by a rendition of Harrison's hit "My Sweet Lord").[91]

In 2013 Nancy Sinatra covered "Something" on her album Shifting Gears.

Live performances (by Harrison)[edit][]

In August 1971, Harrison played "Something" at the Concert for Bangladesh, backed a large band that included Starr, Preston, Eric Clapton and Leon Russell. The version used on the subsequent live album and in the 1972 concert film was taken from the evening show that day, when Harrison played it as the final song, before returning to perform "Bangla Desh" as an encore.[92]

Personnel[edit][]

The Beatles
  • George Harrison – lead vocal, lead guitar, rhythm guitar
  • Paul McCartney – bass guitar, backing vocal
  • John Lennon – piano
  • Ringo Starr – drums
Additional personnel
  • Billy Preston – Hammond organ
  • George Martin – string arrangement

Chart performance[edit][]

Beatles version[edit][]

Chart (1969–70) Peak

position

Australian Go-Set National Top 40 Singles[64] 1
Austrian Singles Chart[93] 11
Canadian RPM 100 Singles[63] 1
Irish Singles Chart[94] 3
New Zealand NZ Listener Chart[95] 1
Norwegian VG-lista Singles Chart[96] 2
UK Singles Chart[67] 4
US Billboard Hot 100[61] 1
West German Media Control Singles Chart[65] 1

Shirley Bassey version[edit][]

Chart (1970–71) Peak

position

Australian Go-Set National Top 60 Singles[97] 47
Austrian Singles Chart[98] 19
Belgian Ultratop Singles Chart[99] 11
Dutch MegaChart Singles[100] 10
French SNEP Singles Chart[101] 34
Irish Singles Chart[102] 13
New Zealand NZ Listener Chart[103] 3
UK Singles Chart[104] 4
US Billboard Hot 100[105] 55
US Billboard Adult Contemporary[105] 6
West German Media Control Singles Chart[100] 40


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