George Harrison’s first original song, ‘Don’t Bother Me’, was written on tour in August 1963.
‘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.
‘Don’t Bother Me’ was not 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.
‘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’.
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 John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr added percussion. Lennon played a tambourine, McCartney hit a woodblock, and Starr played an Arabian bongo.
‘Don’t Bother Me’ was later featured in a nightclub scene in the A Hard’s Day’s Night film.
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.