Something

Something single - United KingdomWritten by: Harrison
Recorded: 16 April; 2, 5 May; 11, 16 July; 15 August 1969
Producers: George Martin, Chris Thomas
Engineers: Jeff Jarratt, Glyn Johns, Geoff Emerick, Phil McDonald

Released: 26 September 1969 (UK), 1 October 1969 (US)

George Harrison: vocals, lead guitar, handclaps
John Lennon: guitar, piano
Paul McCartney: backing vocals, bass, handclaps
Ringo Starr: drums, handclaps
Billy Preston: Hammond organ
Unknown: 12 violins, 4 violas, 4 cellos, double bass

Available on:
Abbey Road
1
Anthology 3
Love

George Harrison's finest moment on the Abbey Road album was one of the record's undisputed highlights, and showed him finally leaving the songwriting shadow of Lennon and McCartney.

Abbey Road - The Beatles



Something was written during the 1968 sessions for The Beatles (White Album), though it wasn't finished until the following year.

I had written Something on the piano during the recording of the White Album. There was a period during that album when we were all in different studios doing different things trying to get it finished, and I used to take some time out. So I went into an empty studio and wrote Something.
George Harrison
Anthology

A demo version of Something, recorded by Harrison on 25 February 1969, his 26th birthday, was included on Anthology 3. Although originally offered to Jackie Lomax, the guitar-and-vocals demo was given to Joe Cocker. Cocker's version was recorded before The Beatles', but not released until November 1969.

In her autobiography Wonderful Tonight, Harrison's former wife Pattie Boyd claimed the song was written about her. Harrison downplayed the sentiment, saying it was, in fact, written with Ray Charles in mind.

It has probably got a range of five notes, which fits most singers' needs best. When I wrote it, in my mind I heard Ray Charles singing it, and he did do it some years later. At the time I wasn't particularly thrilled that Frank Sinatra did Something. I'm more thrilled now than I was then. I wasn't really into Frank - he was the generation before me. I was more interested when Smokey Robinson did it and when James Brown did it. But I'm very pleased now, whoever's done it. I realise that the sign of a good song is when it has lots of cover versions.

I met Michael Jackson somewhere at the BBC. The fellow interviewing us made a comment about Something, and Michael said: 'Oh, you wrote that? I thought it was a Lennon/McCartney'.

George Harrison
Anthology

The song took its first line from the James Taylor song Something In The Way She Moves.

I could never think of words for it. And also because there was a James Taylor song called Something In The Way She Moves which is the first line of that. And so then I thought of trying to change the words, but they were the words that came when I first wrote it, so in the end I just left it as that, and just called it Something.
George Harrison

John Lennon and Paul McCartney both rated the song highly. Lennon said, "I think that's about the best track on the album, actually," while McCartney said "For me I think it's the best he's written."

George had a smugness on his face when he came in with this one, and rightly so - he knew it was absolutely brilliant. And for the first time, John and Paul knew that George had risen to their level.
Geoff Emerick
Music Radar

Something has been recorded by a range of performers, including Elvis Presley, Shirley Bassey, Frank Sinatra, James Brown and Smokey Robinson. It has become the second-most covered Beatles song after Yesterday. Sinatra called it "the greatest love song ever written," and made it a fixture of his live set.

I thought it was George's greatest track - with Here Comes The Sun and While My Guitar Gently Weeps. They were possibly his best three. Until then he had only done one or two songs per album. I don't think he thought of himself very much as a songwriter, and John and I obviously would dominate - again, not really meaning to, but we were 'Lennon and McCartney'. So when an album comes up, Lennon and McCartney go and write some stuff - and maybe it wasn't easy for him to get into that wedge. But he finally came up with Something and a couple of other songs that were great, and I think everyone was very pleased for him. There was no jealousy. In fact, I think Frank Sinatra used to introduce Something as his favourite Lennon/McCartney song. Thanks Frank.
Paul McCartney
Anthology

In the studio

Following the 25 February solo demo, recording for Something began properly on 16 April 1969. The Beatles recorded 13 takes, with George Harrison on guitar, Paul McCartney on bass, Ringo Starr on drums and George Martin on piano. Although John Lennon was in the studio on the day, he didn't play on the recording, which also featured no vocals.

A re-make of Something was begun on 2 May. This time 36 takes were recorded, forming the basis of the eventually-released version. Again, on this day no vocals were recorded, but Lennon played piano, and Billy Preston contributed an organ part.

At this point the song was 7'48" long - a four-chord coda in 6/8 time, led by John Lennon on piano, nearly doubled the song's length. The chord pattern was later sped up by Lennon and used as the basis for the song Remember, which appeared on his 1970 album Plastic Ono Band.

On 5 May McCartney overdubbed another bass part, and Harrison taped his guitar solo. Something was then left until 11 July, when Harrison recorded his lead vocal, and the song was edited down to 5'32'.

Paul started playing a bass line that was a little elaborate, and George told him, 'No, I want it simple.' Paul complied. There wasn't any disagreement about it, but I did think that such a thing would never happened in years past. George telling Paul how to play the bass? Unthinkable! But this was George's baby, and everybody knew it was an instant classic.
Geoff Emerick
Music Radar

It was later reported that Harrison re-recorded his lead guitar part during the 15 August orchestral overdub session. However, the take 37 reduction mix made on 11 July contains Harrison's final solo, indicating that it was in fact recorded on 5 May.

Handclaps and McCartney's backing vocals were added on 16 July. Recording was finally finished almost a month later, on 15 August, when the strings were overdubbed.

Something was completed on 19 August, when the extended instrumental jam was finally edited from the end.

Chart success

Initially released on Abbey Road, the song was issued in the US and UK as a double a-side single, along with Come Together, in October 1969. In the UK it was the only time that a single was taken from an already-released Beatles album; previously they had either released songs ahead of their albums, or on the same day.

Something was George's first single, released in October. It was a great song, and frankly I was surprised that George had it in him.
George Martin
Anthology

Something peaked at number four in the UK. In America it fared better, topping the Billboard chart for a week. It also marked the first time a George Harrison song was the a-side of a Beatles single.

59 responses on “Something

    1. Joe Post author

      True, but take 36 was, as I wrote, the basis of the version which ended up on the album. The Beatles did some reduction mixes to free up some extra space on the eight-track tapes; these were numbered 37-39 and contained a range of overdubs.

  1. Andy

    Oh, you’re right, I’m sorry ;)

    By the way Ringo also overdubbed along with handclaps some percussions, like more toms and cymbals, and piano track was dropped from the master tape, there’re only a little bits of piano which are left in the tape.

  2. Joseph Brush

    I have heard that John gave George some advice on the writing of this song and this advice was captured on tape during the recording sessions. Lennon also apparently insisted that Something should be the A side of the upcoming single when confering with manager Allen Klein.

    1. Von Bontee

      I love the bootleg in which George is still working out the final lyric and is laughing at the ridiculousness of his temporary substitution of “…attracts me like a pomegranate”!

    2. Bill

      John did not give George advice on the writing of Something, he gave him advice on songwriting in general. He told him to try and finish a song in one sitting if he can. He had nothing to do with writing or advising on Something. Something is Harrison’s “baby” alone.

      1. Joseph Brush

        My comment on the writing of Something is based on what I heard or read some time ago.
        There are numerous comments on the Beatles Bible website that begin with “I have read…” or “I have heard…” without providing a source.
        I believe George wrote the song in question, no doubt in my mind whatsoever.

  3. Jimmy

    My absolute favorite song of all time.

    I’m a little put off by George Martin’s comment that he was surprised George had it in him. By 1967 George was writing songs as good as or even better than Lennon/McCartney, just my opinion of course. Not sure why he’d be surprised that George could write a great song in 1969.

        1. Tobias Talock

          Yes, George was starting to get good. Still, my favourite of his is his Lennon tribute: All those years ago. Although I’m not really much of a Lennon fan.

    1. Rob Reid

      I also feel this is my favourite song of all time. My parents also love this song, and around the time it came out I used to lie in bed as a child and listen as it repeated on the record player in the lounge. 1969 was a magical year.

  4. Joseph Brush

    George had been writing good songs prior to 1967 but perhaps George Martin did not notice the gradual improvement that Harrison was making. Yes, Within You, Without You is a great song and so is Something but one or two great songs per album does not an album make. He admitted his frustrations at not being prolific in the Hunter Davies book. Lennon and McCartney were writing album after album of great songs. It was just as well that George had a backlog after the Beatles were finished or else All Things Must Pass would not have been the great album that it was. George Harrison had to put up with several years of “toeing the line” but on the other hand he was learning the craft of songwriting by witnessing the workings of the greatest songwriting team ever in pop music.

    1. Mads Nørregård

      The original basictrack take 37 can be found on youtube.You’ll hear Lennons piano
      all the way through. Many of Ringos fills are played with Lennon, so his ideas are still on the record, you might say.

      1. paulsbass

        To be honest, I don’t care much for that piano part.
        The deep notes are perfect before the solo, but all in all it’s an out of tune “saloon” piano and doesn’t fit.
        Also his fast chords over the “I don’t want to leave her now” part don’t fit the rhythmic feeling, imo.
        The final mix is just PERFECT!!

  5. TP

    “Something” is the only song I have ever heard that I can replay over & over again and still have the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. What a shame I was born in 1973.All the concerts I missed!!!!

  6. DarioFortuna

    Did Geoff say that the solo is in the same track of orchestra?

    As I’m hearing Rock Band multitracks, I can say that the solo has his own track and there are two orchestra tracks.

  7. Gaura Das

    George said about Something. “Actually, it’s about Krishna. But I couldn’t say he could I ? I had to say she, adding with a twickle in his eye, or they’d think I ws a poof ( British slang for Gay ).

    A reporter once noted his inability to to tell if George was singing about Krishna or a woman. “That’s good” , George replied, “I like that. I think individual love is just a little of universal love…Singing to the Lord, or an individual is, in a way, the same. I’ve done that consciously in some songs”

    ~ from Here Comes The Sun – The Spiritual and Musical Journey of George Harrison by Joshua M Greene p. 142

    Another song that is about separation from Krishna which sounds like a love song to a woman is “Long , Long, Long”

    1. Joe Post author

      In the UK (where I am, and where Pattie is from) it was published as Wonderful Today. Elsewhere it was published as Wonderful Tonight, though I’m not sure why. Incidentally, she’s called Pattie not Patti.

  8. JP

    As a kid I had thought this was a Lennon/McCartney song sung by John or Paul. When I finally read the Abbey Road cover and saw George as the composer it peaked an interest in Harrison that I still have today. He is my favorite Beatle in part due to this classic song. Every bit deserving of the praise lauded on to it over the years. George’s masterpiece!

  9. Mean_Mr_Mustard

    Best song on Abbey Road. The best song on the White Album was “While my guitar gently weeps.” Not bad considering Harrison was working with just the two greatest songwriters in the history of man.

  10. Ryan

    What I don’t understand is, if John played piano on the basic track. Who played the flanged guitar strumming on the verses? Is that just Harrison? Because I thought John and George both played guitar on this track. George being all the lead notes we hear and John being the wobbly “flanged” guitar strums we hear in the verses… Correct me if I’m wrong.

    1. mike50

      I always thought the same thing; Lennon on rhythm guitar and George on lead … one of the greatest mysteries in life… the question of who plays the rhythm guitar…

      1. Mathew

        George Harrison’s guitar on You Never Give Me Your Money has some sort of rotating Leslie Speaker thing on it. Could that be also the case here? My thinking is, the rhythm guitar part on Something was played by George.

  11. Sam

    I laugh out loud at the comment about one take on the solo. George had never played any tone like this , feel like this or licks like this. It is one of the great solos of all time and is masterfully arranged. Every nuance is planned and carried out. Listen to some of his guitar work and solos and outakes, there is nothing close to this. He has never played it live and his couple attempts failed. I wish they would stop lying to us and admit that it’s Clapton playing this solo , and surely not one take.

    1. paulsbass

      In fact, the sound is very much George’s, for example that certain thin and whimsical tone and the fast vibrato.
      But keep laughing, that’s healthy! ;-)

    2. Joe - The Beatles Bible

      It probably wasn’t a single take. It’s been written that Harrison redid the solo on the day the orchestra was added, but this is unlikely to be true – it was present in its final form in much earlier rough mixes. Also, there are possibly two punch-ins on the track, indicating it was recorded in stages. The punch-ins can be heard at around 1:56 and 2:03, but are much more audible in the 5.1 surround mix of Love.

    3. robert

      So I know this is going to really tick some people off, but I’m going to say this anyway only because from the first moment I read this comment above from Sam, from over a year ago, it has stuck in my head – and so even though I don’t have definitive proof, or even any “proof” I now suspect that the solo on Something was played by Eric Clapton.

      OK breathe.

      It’s just my opinion so relax – but here’s why I think it.

      It doesn’t sound like George – it’s sounds like Eric trying to sound like George (just as Eric said he tried to sound like George on WMGGW).

      In any George live version that I’ve heard of this song – George doesn’t even come close to playing the solo in a way that feels like the record. It doesn’t flow off him.

      There’s no definitive final statement of when the solo was recorded.

      The edits (actually they’re punches) surround the solo.

      I’m only talking about the actual solo not the rest of the leads parts.

      Ok – now you can hate me.

  12. GeorgeTSimpson

    When does john’s piano play, I just hear billy’s organ. And does john play guitar too, yes lewissohn says he did but lewissohn also said it was billy on piano so he wasn’t very informed about these takes. I read nowhere about a guitar overdub by john and i read many times that it was george on guitar, paul on guitar, ringo on drums, john on piano and billy on organ

  13. Bottom End

    Despite the comment from Harrison, it doesn’t sound or feel like McCartney on bass. Listen to the isolated track on youtube. That bottom F isn’t characteristic of McCartney, even given his propensity for chameleonism!

  14. John

    After decades of listening to this song, finally I noticed how beautifully George’s and Paul’s voices blend together in harmony, especially on the line in the final verse, “and all I have to do is think of her.” For a long time I’ve said my favorite Beatles voice is John and Paul in unison or harmony, but that line makes me not so sure.

  15. cdesim

    Absolutely astounding guitar solo! Emerick claimed that it was performed with a slide but because of the perfect pitch I found that hard to believe (after all the story about layimg it down simultaneously with the orchestra is baloney). But George Harrison was an amazingly accurate slide guitarist and the evident punch-ins support the suggestion that it was performed with a bottleneck. Incidently the solo from the Bangla-Desh concert is equally soulful and heartfelt ‘though played in the standard manner.

  16. brian

    Funny that it mentions Paul being asked to simplify his bass line..because of the reason stated. Unusual to see George that assertive over Paul (and a sign of reaching higher maturity). But also because the bass line that is used, is, well, really intricate and not obvious or simple. It is one of the things that attracts me to the song quite a lot and brings out some of the intended harmonies and the notes that change and stay the same from chord to chord. Although George’s guitar solo does the same.
    I will say that I also think that George gets insulted sometimes even when complimented. That is not to say that his songs on this album are not more epic and show more of the sophistication to come in his later recordings… but I like a lot of his stuff since the song “I need you” as someone mentioned. And Long, Long, Long is a favorite. But these songs are at least compositionally a little more complicated/mature, so I get the acknowledgement too.
    The song is great because of how well it works as a whole. But I think that the first several chords are not some brilliant innovation in songwriting or anything. Unless this is the first song to use that progression. But I think I hear the same first 4 chords in lots of songs. Kind of like how stairway to heaven or Michelle follow similar voice leadings. It sounds complicated, yet, it is just using basic existing tried and true ideas, that just happen to be a little more complicated than I IV V. Still, it is the way that it is used that makes it so memorable, and the way it is followed up by the rest of the chords of the A section (actually the two chords after the first four are what make it for me… love that dominant II chord) and the bridge.

  17. Pan1701

    Why does Paul McCartney say, during his recent tours, (last 10 years or so…check Utube) come out with a Ukulele and say he came over to George’s house (He says George gave him the ukulele) and gave George this idea for a song… and then says it was his idea and sings “Something”? Paul came up with the idea and then George wrote it? What’s the truth?

  18. BillJanis

    It doesn’t say so in this article, but John did INDEED sing on this song. You can clearly hear him at 2:17, when he says the word “knows.” The harmonies at that moment (between 2:13 and 2:18) are arguably the best part of the song. All three beatles harmonize, with each voice having it’s own split second of emphasis.

  19. Julie

    “Paul started playing a bass line that was a little elaborate, and George told him, ‘No, I want it simple.’ ”

    So, Paul played the most noodley and elaborate bass line he’s ever done on anything. lol wtf is emerick talkin’ about him complying? Has he heard the song lately?

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