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The Beatles- Something
February 14, 2010
Another one of George's best songs, and one of my favourite in the entire Beatles catalogue. Happy Valentine's Day!
"Something" is a song released by The Beatles in 1,969. It was featured on the album Abbey Road, and was also the first song written by George Harrison to appear on the A-side of a Beatles single. It was one of the first Beatles singles to contain tracks already available on a long playing (LP) album, with both "Something" and "Come Together" having appeared on Abbey Road. "Something" was the only Harrison composition to top the American charts while he was in The Beatles.
John Lennon and Paul McCartney—the two principal songwriting members of the band—both praised "Something" as among the best songs Harrison had written. As well as critical acclaim, the single achieved commercial success, topping the Billboard charts in the United States, and entering the top 10 in the United Kingdom. The song has been covered by over 150 artists including Elvis Presley, Shirley Bassey, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, James Brown, Radiohead, Julio Iglesias, Smokey Robinson and Joe Cocker, and is the second-most covered Beatles song after "Yesterday".
During the 1,968 recording sessions for The Beatles (also referred to as the White Album), Harrison began working on a song that eventually became known as "Something". The song's first lyrics ("Something in the way she moves/Attracts me like no other lover") were adapted from an unrelated song by fellow Apple artist James Taylor called "Something In The Way She Moves" and used as filler while the melody was being developed.
Harrison later said that "I had a break while Paul was doing some overdubbing so I went into an empty studio and began to write. That's really all there is to it, except the middle took some time to sort out. It didn't go on the White Album because we'd already finished all the tracks." A demo recording of the song by Harrison from this period appears on the Beatles Anthology 3 collection, released in 1,996.
Many believe that Harrison's inspiration for "Something" was his wife at the time, Pattie Boyd. Boyd also claimed that inspiration in her 2,007 autobiography, Wonderful Tonight, where she wrote: "He told me, in a matter-of-fact way, that he had written it for me."
However, Harrison has cited other sources of inspiration to the contrary. In a 1,996 interview he responded to the question of whether the song was about Pattie: "Well no, I didn't [write it about her]. I just wrote it, and then somebody put together a video. And what they did was they went out and got some footage of me and Pattie, Paul and Linda, Ringo and Maureen, it was at that time, and John and Yoko and they just made up a little video to go with it. So then, everybody presumed I wrote it about Pattie, but actually, when I wrote it, I was thinking of Ray Charles."
The original intention had been for Harrison to offer the song to Jackie Lomax, as had been done with the previous Harrison composition, "Sour Milk Sea." When this fell through, the song was given to Joe Cocker (who had previously covered The Beatles' "With a Little Help from My Friends"); his version came out two months before that of The Beatles. During the Get Back recording sessions for what eventually became Let It Be, Harrison considered using "Something," but eventually decided against it due to his fear that insufficient care would be taken in its recording; his earlier suggestion of "Old Brown Shoe" had not gone down well with the band. It was only during the recording sessions for Abbey Road that The Beatles began seriously working on "Something."
The lead vocalist for "Something" was George Harrison. The song runs at a speed of about sixty-six beats per minute and is in common time throughout. The melody begins in the key of C major. It continues in this key throughout the intro and the first two verses, until the eight-measure-long bridge, which is in the key of A major. After the bridge, the melody returns to C Major for the guitar solo, the third verse, and the outro. Although The Beatles had initially attempted an edgier acoustic version of the song, this was dropped along with the counter-melody. A demo of the acoustic version with the counter-melody included was later released as part of Anthology 3. On the final release, the counter-melody was replaced by an instrumental break, and the song was given a softer tone with the introduction of a string arrangement by George Martin, The Beatles' producer.
Simon Leng said the song's theme is doubt and uncertainty. Richie Unterberger of Allmusic described it as "an unabashedly straightforward and sentimental love song" at a time "when most of the Beatles' songs were dealing with non-romantic topics or presenting cryptic and allusive lyrics even when they were writing about love".