Although originally given a composer credit to George Harrison, the song takes its melody from Cliff Richard’s 1968 hit ‘Congratulations’. In December 1970, that song’s composers Bill Martin and Phil Coulter filed a claim for royalties, and subsequent pressings of the album had the credits amended to acknowledge Martin and Coulter’s contributions.
‘It’s Johnny’s Birthday’ was the only one of the five Apple Jam tracks to feature vocals. The backing track features a fairground organ and percussion backing, although no performer credits are known.
The recording was made at EMI Studios, Abbey Road, on 7 October 1970, two days before John Lennon’s 30th birthday. It was the last of the All Things Must Pass songs to be taped.
Lennon spent much of his birthday at EMI, where he was recording the John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band song ‘Remember’. Earlier that day, at Tittenhurst Park, he saw his father Alf Lennon for the final time.
Harrison visited Lennon at the studio during the ‘Remember’ session, arriving in his dark blue Ferrari 330 GTC. He presented Lennon with a plastic flower and the pair hugged one other.
George Harrison had a Ferrari, a 330 GTC, which was dark blue with a cream interior, and it was parked out the front of the studio. And stuck to his windscreen he had a little vase holder with a little plastic flower in it. He took it out, walked into Studio 3 and said, ‘Happy birthday, John.’ He gave him the plastic flower and they had a hug. Yoko had brought in this present for John, which was a sensory box. It was about twice the size of a shoebox, with lots of holes in it. You had to put your finger in – one hole would be warm and mushy, one would be wet, one would have a pin in it. John had such a ball with it.
— George Harrison (@GeorgeHarrison) October 9, 2014