George Harrison: vocals, lead guitar
John Lennon: piano
Paul McCartney: backing vocals, bass guitar
Ringo Starr: drums
Billy Preston: Hammond organ
Unknown: 12 violins, 4 violas, 4 cellos, double bass
Perhaps George Harrison’s finest moment on the Abbey Road album, ‘Something’ was one of the record’s undisputed highlights, and showed him finally leaving the songwriting shadow of Lennon and McCartney.
‘Something’ was written during the 1968 sessions for The Beatles (White Album), though it wasn’t finished until the following year.
I had written ‘Something’ on the piano during the recording of the White Album. There was a period during that album when we were all in different studios doing different things trying to get it finished, and I used to take some time out. So I went into an empty studio and wrote ‘Something’.
A demo version of ‘Something’, recorded by Harrison on 25 February 1969, his 26th birthday, was included on Anthology 3. It was also remixed and reissued on some formats of the 50th anniversary version of Abbey Road.
Although originally offered to Jackie Lomax, the guitar-and-vocals demo was given to Joe Cocker. Cocker’s version was recorded before The Beatles’, but not released until November 1969.
In her autobiography Wonderful Tonight, Harrison’s former wife Pattie Boyd claimed the song was written about her. Harrison downplayed the sentiment, saying it was, in fact, written with Ray Charles in mind.
It has probably got a range of five notes, which fits most singers’ needs best. When I wrote it, in my mind I heard Ray Charles singing it, and he did do it some years later. At the time I wasn’t particularly thrilled that Frank Sinatra did ‘Something’. I’m more thrilled now than I was then. I wasn’t really into Frank – he was the generation before me. I was more interested when Smokey Robinson did it and when James Brown did it. But I’m very pleased now, whoever’s done it. I realise that the sign of a good song is when it has lots of cover versions.
I met Michael Jackson somewhere at the BBC. The fellow interviewing us made a comment about ‘Something’, and Michael said: ‘Oh, you wrote that? I thought it was a Lennon/McCartney’.
The song took its first line from the James Taylor song ‘Something In The Way She Moves’.
I could never think of words for it. And also because there was a James Taylor song called ‘Something In The Way She Moves’ which is the first line of that. And so then I thought of trying to change the words, but they were the words that came when I first wrote it, so in the end I just left it as that, and just called it ‘Something’.
John Lennon and Paul McCartney both rated the song highly. Lennon said, “I think that’s about the best track on the album, actually,” while McCartney said “For me I think it’s the best he’s written.”
George had a smugness on his face when he came in with this one, and rightly so – he knew it was absolutely brilliant. And for the first time, John and Paul knew that George had risen to their level.
‘Something’ has been recorded by a range of performers, including Elvis Presley, Shirley Bassey, Frank Sinatra, James Brown and Smokey Robinson. It has become the second-most covered Beatles song after ‘Yesterday’. Sinatra called it “the greatest love song ever written,” and made it a fixture of his live set.
I thought it was George’s greatest track – with ‘Here Comes The Sun’ and ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’. They were possibly his best three. Until then he had only done one or two songs per album. I don’t think he thought of himself very much as a songwriter, and John and I obviously would dominate – again, not really meaning to, but we were ‘Lennon and McCartney’. So when an album comes up, Lennon and McCartney go and write some stuff – and maybe it wasn’t easy for him to get into that wedge. But he finally came up with ‘Something’ and a couple of other songs that were great, and I think everyone was very pleased for him. There was no jealousy. In fact, I think Frank Sinatra used to introduce ‘Something’ as his favourite Lennon/McCartney song. Thanks Frank.