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.
‘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.
In 1965 The Beatles’ publicist Derek Taylor started his own public relations company, moving to America and representing, among others, The Byrds. 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 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 1966.
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 George Harrison’s lead vocals, harmonies from John Lennon and Paul McCartney, and tambourine by Ringo Starr.
There’s no harmonium on the record. George plays his Rickenbacker 12-string electric guitar.