If I Needed Someone

Rubber Soul album artworkWritten by: Harrison
Recorded: 16, 18 October 1965
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Norman Smith

Released: 3 December 1965 (UK), 20 June 1966 (US)

George Harrison: vocals, 12-string electric guitar
John Lennon: harmony vocals, rhythm guitar
Paul McCartney: harmony vocals, bass
Ringo Starr: drums, tambourine

Available on:
Rubber Soul

Inspired by Roger McGuinn's guitar work for The Byrds, If I Needed Someone was written by George Harrison and first appeared in the UK on the Rubber Soul album.

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If I Needed Someone is like a million other songs written around a D chord. If you move your finger about you get various little melodies. That guitar line, or variations on it, is found in many a song, and it amazes me that people still find new permutations of the same notes.
George Harrison, 1980

In 1965 The Beatles' publicist Derek Taylor started his own public relations company, moving to America and representing, among others, The Byrds. George Harrison asked Taylor to pass a message on to McGuinn to acknowledge the debt If I Needed Someone owed to The Byrds' She Don't Care About Time and The Bells Of Rhymney.

McGuinn was already aware of the similarity. It is, additionally, interesting that Harrison's own 12-string guitar work on 1964's A Hard Day's Night album had played a key role in the development of The Byrds' own Rickenbacker-led jangling sound.

The song also revealed Harrison's burgeoning interest in Indian music. The song is based largely around a single chord, which anticipated the droning styles of later songs such as It's All Too Much and Blue Jay Way.

If I Needed Someone was the only one of George Harrison's songs to have become a part of The Beatles' live repertoire. It is believed to have been performed at every Beatles concert in 1966, and was played at their final show at San Francisco's Candlestick Park on 29 August.

In the studio

The Beatles recorded If I Needed Someone over two sessions. In the first of these, on 16 October 1965, they recorded just the basic rhythm track, nailing it in a single take.

Two days later they completed the song with a number of overdubs. These included Harrison's lead vocals, harmonies from Lennon and McCartney, and tambourine by Starr.

28 responses on “If I Needed Someone

  1. DoBotherMe

    It may be that Roger McGuinn was inspired for Rhymney by George’s circular guitar riff at the close of “A Hard Day’s Night,” the phrasing is quite similar. Dana ; )

      1. alex

        Like chuck berry? Or buddy holly? Or elvis? Or zappa and what about beefheart? Or Smokey Robinson….or Brian wilson…etc. What I’m trying to say is you have no clue at all what you’re talking about. Tons of Americans had a heavy affect of the Beatles. They were mostly influenced by Americans, actually. America is, and has been for a while, the creative center of the world, The Beatles knew it.

  2. winston o'boogie

    i though that the hollies got in an argument with the beatles about this song because their cover version didnt do well in the charts or something like that.. is there any info on that?

    1. Joseph Brush

      Wikipedia has some info about this single cover version.
      It was a comparitive failure for the Hollies reaching #20 in the UK whereas some previous Hollies singles reached top 10 UK.
      Boo-hoo those poor Hollies.

      1. Joe Post author

        George Harrison publicly criticised the song, saying: “They’ve spoilt it. The Hollies are all right musically, but the way they do their records, they sound like session men who’ve just got together in a studio without ever seeing each other before.”

        The Hollies’ Graham Nash countered by saying: “Not only do these comments disappoint and hurt us, but we are sick of everything The Beatles say or do being taken as law. The thing that hurts us most is George Harrison’s knock at us as musicians. And I would like to ask this. If we have made such a disgusting mess of his brainchild song, will he give all the royalties from our record to charity?”

        For the record, I don’t generally mention Beatles cover versions in these articles as there are simply too many out there.

          1. Joseph Brush

            Maybe George would have donated royalties from this song to charity if Graham Nash and the rest of the Hollies led by example.
            History has proven that George gave more to charity by INVENTING large scale rock and roll benefits.
            Everyone, including a Beatle, is entitled to their opinion.

              1. Joseph Brush

                What do you want–perfection?
                I guess George Harrison was the only person in the U.K. in 1966 complaining about paying supertax to Inland Revenue.

              2. Deadman

                The line in Taxman–“one for you, nineteen for me”–was the tax-rate The Beatles were paying: 95%.
                Would you be happy paying 95% of your earnings as tax?

          2. Kelvin

            Harrison is allowed to say that the hollies took one of his first songs and destroyed it. Graham Nash (who i am a fan of) probably regrets his charity remark now that Harrison is the pioneer of rock benefits. Go Beatles

            1. vonbontee

              Of course he’s *allowed* to criticize anybody’s performance of one of his songs, notwithstanding how big or small a hit it is, or how much or little he earns in songwriting royalties from that hit. I’m saying he could’ve been less dickish about his opinions, and more diplomatic, like Paul probably would’ve done. If Bob Dylan had complained to the press about George’s version of “If Not For You” in a similarly imperious fashion, I’d have been equally offended (and so would you).

              1. Kelvin

                1. Dylan taught Harrison if not for you
                2. Dylan co- wrote 2 songs for all things must pass
                3. Harrison didn’t ruin a classic like the hollies
                Harrison didn’t sugar coat his public statements. He didn’t say things to please the press
                He spoke THE TRUTH

            2. Mike Gargrave

              For George to complain about The Hollies spoiling his song is simply petulance, and his comment that The Hollies were ‘alright’ musically is ridulous! Harrison was never more than an average guitarist and was very lucky that Paul introduced him to John. Harrison and Starr couldn’t compete with Tony Hicks and Bobby Elliott as musicians. As for ‘If I needed someone’ – the only criticism I can make of The Hollies record is their choice of material! They usually went for much stronger songs!!

              1. Fargoguy54

                Mr. Hargrave, Mr. Clapton disagrees with your assessment of George’s skills on the guitar. Since I’ve never heard any of your guitar work, I’ll have to side with Mr. Clapton.

  3. vonbontee

    You seem to have missed my point. I KNOW Dylan wrote “If Not For You”, obviously; that’s why I’m using it for an example. And I’m saying that IF George recorded Dylan’s song, and IF Dylan didn’t like George’s version, and IF Dylan decided to declare his displeasure to some widely-circulated music magazine rather than to his friend & colleague’s face…well, that’s a supremely dickish move, and you’d probably recognize it as such. And as for “not saying things to please the press”, that’s ridiculous – what paper would prefer a headline like “Harrison: ‘Everything’s Fine!'” to “Harrison: ‘Hollies Suck!'”

    1. Joseph Brush

      Hey they were only 23 years old at the time!
      George must have been severely disappointed at the first important cover of one of his own songs!
      Since Graham appeared in the All You Need Is Love broadcast, they must have made amends by that time.

      1. vonbontee

        I guess you’re right. And speaking of making amends, let me apologize for acting fairly dickish myself on this page. Bottom line is: I’ve never heard the Hollies’ version myself, but I have no doubt it doesn’t compare to the original, one of my absolute favourite Harrisongs.

  4. BeatleCharlie

    Listen to this song from the Tokyo concerts in ’66. McCartney throws a harmony not on the original that is so awesome it’s a shame they didn’t record it that way. Surprisingly, it is a very Indian flavored change, from Paulie. Amazing! It’s the little things.

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