Don’t Bother Me

With The Beatles album artworkWritten by: Harrison
Recorded: 11, 12 September 1963
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Norman Smith

Released: 22 November 1963 (UK), 20 January 1964 (US)

George Harrison: vocals, lead guitar
John Lennon: rhythm guitar, tambourine
Paul McCartney: bass, woodblock
Ringo Starr: drums, bongo

Available on:
With The Beatles

George Harrison’s first original song was written on tour in August 1963.

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Don’t Bother Me I wrote in a hotel in Bournemouth, where we were playing a summer season in 1963, as an exercise to see if I could write a song. I was sick in bed.
George Harrison
Anthology

The song wasn’t highly regarded either by Harrison or the other Beatles.

I don’t think it’s a particularly good song; it mightn’t be a song at all. But at least it showed me that all I needed to do was keep on writing and maybe eventually I would write something good. I still feel now: I wish I could write something good. It’s relativity. It did, however, provide me with an occupation.
George Harrison
Anthology

Don’t Bother Me was meant as a plea for privacy, and the tone of the lyrics is reflected in the downbeat music. The Beatles took two sessions to get it right, ending up with a Latin-flavoured recording with percussion by Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney.

A lot of the girls were mad on him, so we always wanted to give him at least one track. Then George started to catch on: ‘Why should you write my songs?’ And he started writing his own.

From when George first started, he would deliver one song per album. It was an option to include George in the songwriting team. John and I had really talked about it. I remember walking up past Woolton Church with John one morning and going over the question: ‘Without wanting to be too mean to George, should three of us write or would it be better to keep it simple?’ We decided we’d just keep to two of us.

He wrote Don’t Bother Me. That was the first one and he improved from that and became very good, writing a classic like Something.

Paul McCartney
Anthology

The mood of the song was uncharacteristic for The Beatles at the time, but negativity was a trait that reappeared in Harrison’s later songs, including Only A Northern Song and Think For Yourself.

Originally attempted on 11 September 1963, The Beatles returned to Don’t Bother Me the following day. After recording the rhythm track, Harrison double-tracked his lead vocals, and Lennon, McCartney and Starr added percussion. Lennon played a tambourine, McCartney hit a woodblock, and Starr played an Arabian bongo.

Don’t Bother Me later featured in a nightclub scene in the A Hard’s Day’s Night film.

22 responses on “Don’t Bother Me

  1. Razor

    I liked the song from the very first time I heard it. Funny, even George didn’t care for it, but if you listen to all the songs on With The Beatles it ranks right up there.

    Razor

    1. JP

      So did I. But I liked all of George’s Beatles songs from the first time I heard them. I remember the first times I heard Only A Northern Song and It’s All Too Much and wondered why they were so obscure. Great songs. VERY underated.

  2. Robert

    always one of my favorite Beatle songs – regardless of who wrote/sang it – precisely because it was so out of character with their other tunes.

    Years later I was in a punk band and we did a cover of Don’t Bother Me – most people thought we wrote it. It was still that fresh 17 years later.

  3. David

    Very good effort for a first song–and I think it stacks up well against the other songs on “Meet the Beatles”. I detect some Yardbirds/Clapton influence on the song and the guitar sound George achieves. If I haven’t heard it in a while, I make a point of listening to it.

  4. Anne

    Dont Bother Me , hands down one of my all time fav songs , the haunting guitar style amazes me , something i have not heard since , and how George did that eludes me to this day , and i hate when George is looked down upon , in fact its always Georges songs on any Beatle album that stands out for me , i so miss the man ,, Love you George

    1. JP

      Yes – George’s guitar is, as always, superb. Haunting is a good description for this first full Harrison composed song. Not sure if this is one of the songs George wrote that George Martin claimed were “dead boring”, but I was fond of it, and most of Harrison’s other songs, long before I heard what their producer felt about them. There are many qualities to Harrisongs that make them anything but dead boring to fans. I am glad Martin, McCartney and Lennon “permitted” George to have a go at singing lead and writing songs (no matter how few) for the Beatles. Harrison definitely made valuable and worthy contributions to the band that made him famous.

  5. Tangerine

    It’s a good song, though not one of my favourites. At the same time as The Beatles release, Gregory Phillips released a single of Don’t bother me, but it never charted. I kind of wished that Ringo had sung this song in the Tribute To George Concert at the Albert Hall, instead of Carl Perkin’s Honey Don’t. I think that song would have suited him very well.

  6. john barnes

    like everyelse I love this song .I remember in Hard Days Night it was so cool with the extra bass ,sounded great, what else could we expect from the worlds Mo 1 group . still .

  7. xiij

    I love that the comments here are all so appreciative of this song. As I was getting to know With The Beatles recently it kept leaping out at me. To my ears the moodiness might have influenced some of the mid-60s American garage tracks I know (totally unprovable I know)

    Someone else very taken by it is Alan W Pollack:
    http://www.recmusicbeatles.com/public/files/awp/dbm.html

    “As a premiere effort, it is technically quite polished, yet even more notable for its compositional individualism…I believe that the wordiness of the song enhances and accentuates its impact”

    1. David

      I’ve never understood why this song is so maligned, either. Even before the Indian influence began, George was capable of writing songs that were very distinct from the Lennon/McCartney mainstream material, while at the same time contributing greatly to the Beatles sound through his playing and harmony singing.

  8. rock cowles

    Written in a minor mode, and having a negative lyrical message made it different than the others. The latin percussion on it adds to the uniqueness of this one. George’s doubled vocal and no harmonies also make it different than most of the other early Beatles songs.

  9. Brandon A

    I love Georgie Boy and his songs. As someone said earlier, his comps don’t have the same mainstream sound as the Lennon-McCartney’s do.

    Aside from that, does anyone else hear the very faint voice at around 0:03 into the song? Also, does the song seem to get off-beat near the end around 2:16?

  10. toonguy225

    I don’t know what his fellow Beatles thought of George’s songwriting at this stage, but they worked very hard to make this track a good one. The instrumental backing is very rich. In fact, if possible, turn off the vocals and just listen to the backing track. It really rocks, almost like surf music! Pay particular attention to Paul’s excellent bass playing in the “middle eight”.

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