It is one of a handful of post-Beatles songs to be solely composed by Starr.
The song’s lyrics chronicle the break-up of The Beatles and Starr’s relationship with the other band members. The verses discuss Paul McCartney, John Lennon, and George Harrison in turn, and how Starr hopes to play with them again.
I keep looking around and thinking where are they? What are they doing? When will they come back and talk to me?
Look magazine, February 1970
The song notes Starr’s hopes for a reconciliation between the band members. Although he remained close to Lennon and Harrison, McCartney was at the time planning to formally end The Beatles’ partnership, which resulted a lawsuit and years of acrimony.
Yeah, but one of them wasn’t gonna play [nervous chuckle]. At that point, I felt that when John comes to town, I know he’s gonna play with me, and if George comes to town, I know he’ll play with me, and if Paul comes to town, I ‘wonder’ if he’s gonna play. We were going through that Apple nonsense, where Paul was suing the three of us. And he was angry, and we were angry, and I was wondering when that would stop.
Billboard, 26 May 2001
‘Early 1970’ had the working titles ‘When I Come To Town (Four Nights In Moscow)’ and ‘When Four Nights Come To Town’. Starr began recording the song during sessions for John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, and it was later completed with Harrison.
The basic track was taped at Abbey Road on 3 October 1970. Starr played rhythm acoustic guitar and overdubbed a dobro part, plus brief snippets of piano and bass in the final verse.
‘It Don’t Come Easy’ was issued as a single on 9 April 1971, with ‘Early 1970′ on the b-side. By the time of its release, McCartney had won his lawsuit to dissolve The Beatles’ partnership.
The single was a commercial success, topping the Canadian chart and the US Cash Box Top 100 Singles, and making the top ten in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and West Germany. It peaked at number four on the US Billboard Hot 100.
Both sides of the single were bonus tracks on the compact disc edition of Starr’s 1973 album Ringo.