In the studio

George Harrison brought ‘Something’ to The Beatles during the Get Back/Let It Be sessions. On 28 January 1969 they played five versions of the song, which still lacked some lyrics and final chords.

Harrison can be heard on the tapes asking for help finishing it off. “Just say what comes into your head each time,” John Lennon tells him. “‘Attracts me like a cauliflower’. Until you get the word.” The Beatles also played ‘Something’ twice the following day, although it was still far from ready to record.

Following Harrison’s 25 February 1969 solo demo, The Beatles began recording ‘Something’ again on 16 April 1969, at EMI’s Studio Two. Ringo Starr was unavailable due to recording commitments for The Magic Christian.

The Beatles taped 13 instrumental takes in this initial session, with Harrison on rhythm guitar, Paul McCartney on drums, Lennon on bass guitar, and George Martin on piano.

A re-make of ‘Something’ was begun on 2 May, with Starr back on drums.

This time 36 takes were recorded. McCartney’s bass guitar was on track one; Starr’s drums on track two; Harrison’s guitar on three; and Lennon’s piano on track four. From take nine onwards, a second output from Harrison’s guitar amplifier was fed through a Leslie speaker, which was recorded onto track six.

On takes 27-36, at the song’s close, Lennon led the band into a jam. This four-chord sequence in 6/8 time was later re-recorded faster by Lennon as the basis for the song ‘Remember’, which appeared on his 1970 album Plastic Ono Band.

The tape machines were switched off after a few seconds of these jams, apart from on the final attempt, take 36. The additional playing extended the song’s running time by nearly five minutes, to a running time of 7:48.

On 5 May, at Olympic Sound Studios, McCartney overdubbed another bass part, and Harrison taped his guitar solo. An organ part by Billy Preston was also added at an unknown date.

‘Something’ was then left until 11 July, when Harrison recorded his lead vocal, and the song was edited down to 5’32’.

Paul started playing a bass line that was a little elaborate, and George told him, ‘No, I want it simple.’ Paul complied. There wasn’t any disagreement about it, but I did think that such a thing would never happened in years past. George telling Paul how to play the bass? Unthinkable! But this was George’s baby, and everybody knew it was an instant classic.
Geoff Emerick
Music Radar

It was later reported that Harrison re-recorded his lead guitar part during the 15 August orchestral overdub session. However, the take 37 reduction mix made on 11 July contains Harrison’s final solo, indicating that it was in fact recorded on 5 May.

Handclaps and McCartney’s backing vocals were added on 16 July. Recording was finally finished almost a month later, on 15 August, when the strings were overdubbed.

The final multitrack tape of ‘Something’ – named take 39 after various reduction mixes were made to free up space – included the following:

  • Track one: lead guitar and descending piano notes
  • Track two: drums and overdubbed percussion
  • Track three: orchestra
  • Track four: orchestra
  • Track five: bass guitar
  • Track six: guitar fed through Leslie speaker
  • Track seven: Harrison’s double-tracked lead vocals, and McCartney’s harmony vocals
  • Track eight: Hammond organ

‘Something’ was completed on 19 August, when the extended instrumental jam was finally edited from the end.

Chart success

Initially released on the Abbey Road album, the song was subsequently issued in the US and UK as a double a-side single, along with ‘Come Together’, on 6 October 1969. In the UK it was the only time that a single was taken from an already-released Beatles album; previously they had either released songs ahead of their albums, or on the same day.

‘Something’ was George’s first single, released in October. It was a great song, and frankly I was surprised that George had it in him.
George Martin

‘Something’ peaked at number four in the UK. In America it fared better, topping the Billboard chart for a week. It also marked the first time a George Harrison song was the a-side of a Beatles single.

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Next song: ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’
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