If I Needed Someone

Rubber Soul album artworkWritten by: Harrison
Recorded: 16, 18 October 1965
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Norman Smith

Released: 3 December 1965 (UK), 20 June 1966 (US)

George Harrison: vocals, 12-string electric guitar
John Lennon: harmony vocals, rhythm guitar
Paul McCartney: harmony vocals, bass
Ringo Starr: drums, tambourine

Available on:
Rubber Soul

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.

Download on iTunes
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.
George Harrison, 1980

In 1965 The Beatles' publicist Derek Taylor started his own public relations company, moving to America and representing, among others, The Byrds. George 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 George 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.

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 Harrison's lead vocals, harmonies from Lennon and McCartney, and tambourine by Starr.

41 responses on “If I Needed Someone

  1. DoBotherMe

    It may be that Roger McGuinn was inspired for Rhymney by George’s circular guitar riff at the close of “A Hard Day’s Night,” the phrasing is quite similar. Dana ; )

      1. alex

        Like chuck berry? Or buddy holly? Or elvis? Or zappa and what about beefheart? Or Smokey Robinson….or Brian wilson…etc. What I’m trying to say is you have no clue at all what you’re talking about. Tons of Americans had a heavy affect of the Beatles. They were mostly influenced by Americans, actually. America is, and has been for a while, the creative center of the world, The Beatles knew it.

  2. winston o'boogie

    i though that the hollies got in an argument with the beatles about this song because their cover version didnt do well in the charts or something like that.. is there any info on that?

    1. Joseph Brush

      Wikipedia has some info about this single cover version.
      It was a comparitive failure for the Hollies reaching #20 in the UK whereas some previous Hollies singles reached top 10 UK.
      Boo-hoo those poor Hollies.

      1. Joe Post author

        George Harrison publicly criticised the song, saying: “They’ve spoilt it. The Hollies are all right musically, but the way they do their records, they sound like session men who’ve just got together in a studio without ever seeing each other before.”

        The Hollies’ Graham Nash countered by saying: “Not only do these comments disappoint and hurt us, but we are sick of everything The Beatles say or do being taken as law. The thing that hurts us most is George Harrison’s knock at us as musicians. And I would like to ask this. If we have made such a disgusting mess of his brainchild song, will he give all the royalties from our record to charity?”

        For the record, I don’t generally mention Beatles cover versions in these articles as there are simply too many out there.

          1. Joseph Brush

            Maybe George would have donated royalties from this song to charity if Graham Nash and the rest of the Hollies led by example.
            History has proven that George gave more to charity by INVENTING large scale rock and roll benefits.
            Everyone, including a Beatle, is entitled to their opinion.

              1. Joseph Brush

                What do you want–perfection?
                I guess George Harrison was the only person in the U.K. in 1966 complaining about paying supertax to Inland Revenue.

              2. Deadman

                The line in Taxman–“one for you, nineteen for me”–was the tax-rate The Beatles were paying: 95%.
                Would you be happy paying 95% of your earnings as tax?

          2. Kelvin

            Harrison is allowed to say that the hollies took one of his first songs and destroyed it. Graham Nash (who i am a fan of) probably regrets his charity remark now that Harrison is the pioneer of rock benefits. Go Beatles

            1. vonbontee

              Of course he’s *allowed* to criticize anybody’s performance of one of his songs, notwithstanding how big or small a hit it is, or how much or little he earns in songwriting royalties from that hit. I’m saying he could’ve been less dickish about his opinions, and more diplomatic, like Paul probably would’ve done. If Bob Dylan had complained to the press about George’s version of “If Not For You” in a similarly imperious fashion, I’d have been equally offended (and so would you).

              1. Kelvin

                1. Dylan taught Harrison if not for you
                2. Dylan co- wrote 2 songs for all things must pass
                3. Harrison didn’t ruin a classic like the hollies
                Harrison didn’t sugar coat his public statements. He didn’t say things to please the press
                He spoke THE TRUTH

            2. Mike Gargrave

              For George to complain about The Hollies spoiling his song is simply petulance, and his comment that The Hollies were ‘alright’ musically is ridulous! Harrison was never more than an average guitarist and was very lucky that Paul introduced him to John. Harrison and Starr couldn’t compete with Tony Hicks and Bobby Elliott as musicians. As for ‘If I needed someone’ – the only criticism I can make of The Hollies record is their choice of material! They usually went for much stronger songs!!

              1. Fargoguy54

                Mr. Hargrave, Mr. Clapton disagrees with your assessment of George’s skills on the guitar. Since I’ve never heard any of your guitar work, I’ll have to side with Mr. Clapton.

  3. vonbontee

    You seem to have missed my point. I KNOW Dylan wrote “If Not For You”, obviously; that’s why I’m using it for an example. And I’m saying that IF George recorded Dylan’s song, and IF Dylan didn’t like George’s version, and IF Dylan decided to declare his displeasure to some widely-circulated music magazine rather than to his friend & colleague’s face…well, that’s a supremely dickish move, and you’d probably recognize it as such. And as for “not saying things to please the press”, that’s ridiculous – what paper would prefer a headline like “Harrison: ‘Everything’s Fine!'” to “Harrison: ‘Hollies Suck!'”

    1. Joseph Brush

      Hey they were only 23 years old at the time!
      George must have been severely disappointed at the first important cover of one of his own songs!
      Since Graham appeared in the All You Need Is Love broadcast, they must have made amends by that time.

      1. vonbontee

        I guess you’re right. And speaking of making amends, let me apologize for acting fairly dickish myself on this page. Bottom line is: I’ve never heard the Hollies’ version myself, but I have no doubt it doesn’t compare to the original, one of my absolute favourite Harrisongs.

  4. BeatleCharlie

    Listen to this song from the Tokyo concerts in ’66. McCartney throws a harmony not on the original that is so awesome it’s a shame they didn’t record it that way. Surprisingly, it is a very Indian flavored change, from Paulie. Amazing! It’s the little things.

    1. Freschcookies21

      @BeatleCharlie. Thanks for your rec on the Tokyo concert. Those harmonies are a thing of beauty! And you’re right, what a shame it’s not on the album (or LP as a 24 year-old Paul would say, bless him).

  5. Louie

    In defense of The HOLLIES, Tony Hicks, is without question a legendary guitar wizard. And Bobby Elliott, is a world class drummer, but to be fair, The Hollies version by comparison sounds well, a bit ” tinny”, if you will, and not quite as rich & full as The Beatles recording. The Hollies Producer Ron Richards, is probably the culprit here. Additionally, I do believe it has been revealed that George, never made those comments and that they were issued by a publicist to create a stir and sell periodicals. Graham Nash, is known to have been present at subsequent Beatles endeavors. George’s son Dhani and Tony Hicks, son Paul, are long time childhood friends who grew up across the street from each other They are in a band together called The Newno2 Additionally, Paul Hicks has won Grammy awards for his work remastering the Beatles catalog. Don’t buy into the hype. It’s only hype. 😉

  6. Ed

    I really don’t think George Harrison would have said anything bad about anyone’s musicianship , I think he would have been happy that someone was playing his music.

  7. Free_Phi

    One of the few tracks of the era where the stereo mix bests the mono. The biggest advantage in stereo is during the instrumental break: there is a great deal of intricate mid-range guitar work, as well as a great low part by John in the three-part harmonized wash of “aaaaah”s that get completely wiped out in mono by the overly-bright and -loud top strings of the electric guitar.

  8. Jeff

    For the record – it was Beatles producer George Martin who suggested The Hollies cover George’s ‘If I Needed Someone’ (Martin & Hollies producer Ron Richards were close colleagues at EMI)
    Graham Nash opposed The Hollies covering the song (like ‘Sing Dylan’ a few years later) but was out voted

    The Hollies ‘rocked it up’ where as The Beatles version was a gentler ‘Byrds-ish’ approach purely an album track

    George Harrison (then just prior to his wedding to Patti) was caught by a UK music paper writer just prior to going onstage in Glasgow (so George may have had both pre-wedding nerves & pre-show ones too) he said he disliked the way The Hollies had done his song because the guy asked if he had written if FOR The Hollies (which annoyed George)

    George’s ‘souless sessionmen’ remark WAS out of order (Bobby Elliott could blast Ringo offstage, Hicks was as good a guitarist as George, Eric Haydock was a faster bass player than Paul using a six string bass !)

    Clarke-Hicks-Nash harmonies were even more powerful vocally than The Beatles (hence The Hollies not Beatles were tagged ‘Britain’s answer to The Beach Boys’ by the press – that might have miffed the very ‘touchy’ John Lennon – who used to vocally ‘attack’ anyone he perceived as being a “threat” – as both Paul & Yoko later felt: ‘How Do You Sleep ?’ / ‘Move Over Ms. L’ !)

    The Hollies worked in the studio a more ‘workmanlike’ manner – often nailing a hit single in a few takes (unlike The Beatles) which might have given George a wrong impression re their musical ability

    whatever George’s negative remarks STOPPED The Hollies single selling (it stalled at no.20 in the UK chart)

    – tho’ The Hollies had, nevertheless, put a Harrison song into the UK Top Twenty in 1965 (George never managed that himself until ‘Something’ in 1969 !)

    The Hollies Top Twenty hit hit cover DID give George’s songwriting a big boost in the eyes of George Martin (he got to lead off ‘Revolver’ with ‘Taxman’) and John & Paul must have taken note

    at his wedding press conference George had a ‘dig’ at the music press writer (who asked if he’d invited The Hollies ? – to press laughter) saying he wished the guy hadn’t written what he’d said (George learning a lesson as he cut off his own royalties from the single !)

    Paul healed any lingering ‘friction’ between the EMI groups when he praised up ‘I Can’t Let Go’ the next Hollies single – Lennon invited Nash to singalong on ‘All You Need is Love’ (they remained friends with the designers of The Hollies LP ‘Evolution’ sleeve Simon & Marjike then doing ‘Sgt Pepper’ cover with Peter Blake in 1967)

    Later John praised up The Hollies single ‘Hey Willy’ (1971) when he did a disc review saying ‘it will shoot up the charts like a rocket’ (which proved wrong as that one stalled at no.22 !)

    Paul & Linda loaned The Hollies their ‘Band on The Run’ synth’ for ‘Another Night’ (1975) so there was no real ‘rift’ between them after 1965…

    Later Hollie Terry Sylvester from Liverpool once worked for George’s brother

    George lived near to Tony Hicks later & their sons Dhanni & Paul Hicks are good friends

  9. Jeff

    re charity work:

    The Hollies were doing charity shows for children along with fellow artists back in 1965-66….

    Graham Nash’s final sixties Hollies concert at The London Palladium was ‘The Save Rave’ on 8 December 1968….
    that was a charity concert for the underprivileged children’s charity

    both Beatles ‘Across The Universe’ (original version) and Hollies ‘Wings’ were included on the budget charity LP;
    ‘No One’s Gonna Change Our World’ released in November 1969 by EMI’s Starline label, to raise funds for The World Wildlife Fund.

    The Hollies also donated ‘Stop Stop Stop’ to a follow up EMI Charity LP too.

    Later they wrote & recorded ‘Find Me A Family’ (1989) as theme song for the TV show; ‘Find A Family’ that sought homes for orphaned children

    while a branch of the New York Fire Dept later adopted The Hollies version of ‘He Ain’t Heavy…He’s My Brother’ as their anthem post 9/11

    So The Hollies have “done their bit” for charities too, and were doing charity concerts at the same time as The Beatles did in the early sixties.

  10. Wilhelm

    Love this song but feel that the production is a bit under-done here. I think this song would have benefited from a heavier, more psychedelic approach similar to “rain” or “paperback writer”. In fact I think IINS mIght count as the first psychedelic song by the Beatles, although the production is too understated.

  11. Graham Paterson

    Another great song off the classic”Rubber Soul ” album. George Harrison really blossomed as a songwriter in this period.From the moment I first heard “Rubber Soul” I loved this song, especially the harmonies and guitar.

  12. Rembert

    This song is a fine example for the “bass-revolution” that happened, when the bassist and the producer stuck their heads together. For a direct comparison play a “Harrisong” form “Help!” e.g. “I need you” and try to get as much bass as possible from your equipment. Then with the same adjustment play this song. It also works for “In my life”. Kind regards!

  13. Graham Paterson

    This is one of my favorite of George Harrison Beatles songs.Great harmonies and lyrics. George’s 12 string electric guitar work is brilliant. This would have been a big hit if released as a single, but adds just another great song to the brilliant “Rubber Soul” album. The Byrds were very influenced by The Beatles and in turn The Beatles were similarly influenced by the Byrds as this song proves.

  14. Semolina Pilchard

    “The Hollies”? Really? All these characters wasted on thebeatlesbible.com on “The Hollies”? How “The Turtles”? Anyone want to drone on about how “talented, yet misunderstood” that paedophile monster John Philips was (seeing as someone through in the “McGuinn and McGuire…” lyric above)? Some of the Monkees were invited to sit in on Beatles sessions, maybe we could create a new daily subsection on groups fronting actual work performed by the Wrecking Crew?

    Can we stick to Beatles?

Leave a reply