Hear the Beautiful Isolated Vocal Harmonies from the Beatles’ “Something”

How many songs did Pat­tie Boyd — fash­ion mod­el, pho­tog­ra­ph­er, muse, and wife of George Har­ri­son and Eric Clap­ton — inspire? It’s hard to say, since some of the lyrics pur­port­ed­ly writ­ten for her, like those in Harrison’s break­out “Some­thing,” may have been for some­one else, then diplo­mat­i­cal­ly attrib­uted to Boyd. Or, in the case of “Some­thing” — the first Har­ri­son song to come out as a Bea­t­les A‑side sin­gle and the song that con­vinced the world of his for­mi­da­ble song­writ­ing tal­ents — they might have been about a big, blue super­nat­ur­al some­thing.

Accord­ing to Joe Taysom at Far Out mag­a­zine, Har­ri­son “became obses­sive in his stud­ies of Krish­na Con­scious­ness when he wrote the song, and more specif­i­cal­ly, its orig­i­nal intent was as a devo­tion to Lord Krish­na.” Har­ri­son “insist­ed that the orig­i­nal lyric was ‘some­thing in the way HE moves,’ but he changed it.”

The mas­cu­line pro­noun would have removed all spec­u­la­tion about Boyd but also would have con­fused lis­ten­ers in oth­er ways. In any case, Some­thing’s ambi­gu­i­ty, inher­ent in the title, made it a clas­sic. Frank Sina­tra once called it “the great­est love song ever writ­ten.”

Har­ri­son, as usu­al, demurred: “The words are noth­ing real­ly,” he said in 1969. “There are lots of songs like that in my head. I must get them down.” The song first came togeth­er dur­ing the 1968 White Album ses­sions. “There was a peri­od dur­ing that album,” he remem­bered, “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.’” Lack­ing con­fi­dence in his abil­i­ty to per­suade the band to record it, he first tried to give the song to Apple Records artist and old Liv­er­pool friend Jack­ie Lomax. The song, he felt, came too eas­i­ly and might not be good enough, and he had lift­ed the open­ing line direct­ly from James Tay­lor.

Lomax went with anoth­er Har­ri­son tune for his first sin­gle, and the Bea­t­le con­tin­ued to work on “Some­thing,” record­ing a demo of the fin­ished song in Feb­ru­ary of 1969. But he still didn’t think of it as Bea­t­les-wor­thy and gave it to Joe Cock­er instead, who released his ver­sion that year, with Har­ri­son on gui­tar. (Har­ri­son lat­er claimed to have writ­ten the song with Ray Charles in mind.) What­ev­er his reser­va­tions, he did, of course, final­ly record “Some­thing” with his band­mates, with results famil­iar to all and every­one. But you’ve prob­a­bly nev­er heard the song as you can hear it here, with iso­lat­ed vocal har­monies “you can’t put a cig­a­rette-paper between,” writes Julian Dut­ton on Twit­ter. “Total­ly in sim­pati­co; a syn­er­gy that began I sup­pose all those years ago on the school bus.”

At the top, hear the mul­ti­track vocals that made the Bea­t­les’ “Some­thing” such an incred­i­ble record­ing (includ­ing a fun, yelp­ing sing-along to the gui­tar solo at around 1:50). Fur­ther up, hear the whole song decon­struct­ed into its parts (with time­stamps for each one at the video’s YouTube page.) And just above, hear the band fig­ure out the har­monies in a stu­dio demo of the song. It was, John Lennon con­ced­ed after Abbey Road came out, “about the best track on the album, actu­al­ly.” Paul McCart­ney said of the Har­ri­son clas­sic that “it’s the best he’s writ­ten.” And Bob Dylan lat­er remarked that “if George had had his own group and was writ­ing his own songs back then, he’d have been prob­a­bly just as big as any­body,” a the­sis Har­ri­son got to prove the fol­low­ing year with his sur­pris­ing­ly amaz­ing All Things Must Pass.

via Julian Dut­ton

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

How “Straw­ber­ry Fields For­ev­er” Con­tains “the Cra­zi­est Edit” in Bea­t­les His­to­ry

A Vir­tu­al Tour of Every Place Ref­er­enced in The Bea­t­les’ Lyrics: In 12 Min­utes, Trav­el 25,000 Miles Across Eng­land, France, Rus­sia, India & the US

When the Bea­t­les Refused to Play Before Seg­re­gat­ed Audi­ences on Their First U.S. Tour (1964)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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