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"Something" is a single released by British band The Beatles in 1969, and featured on the album Abbey Road. "Something" was the first song written by George Harrison to appear on the A-side of a Beatles single, sharing top billing on the double A-side single with "Come Together" in the United Kingdom. In the United States, "Something" alone was featured on the A-side, while "Come Together" was relegated to the B-side. It was the first Beatles single 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 a Beatle.

Although John Lennon and Paul McCartney — the two principal songwriting members of the band — both praised "Something" as among the best songs Harrison had written, the recording of the song was marked by acrimonious spats; The Beatles officially dissolved a year after the song's release. Despite this, the single managed to top the Billboard charts in the United States, and also entered the top 10 in the United Kingdom. After the breakup of The Beatles, the song was covered by many artists including Shirley Bassey, Frank Sinatra, James Brown, Smokey Robinson; becoming the second-most covered Beatles song after "Yesterday".

Writing and recording

During the 1968 recording sessions for The Beatles (also referred to as the White Album), Harrison began working on a song that eventually became "Something". Initially based on a James Taylor song entitled "Something In The Way She Moves", the song's first lyrics ("Something in the way she moves/Attracts me like no other lover.") were used as filler while the melody was being developed. [1] 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." [2]

It is commonly believed that Harrison's inspiration for "Something" was his wife at the time, Pattie Boyd.[citation needed] However, Harrison himself later denied this, saying that "Everybody presumed I wrote ["Something"] about Pattie, but actually when I wrote it I was thinking of Ray Charles." [3]

The original intention had never been for The Beatles to release the song. Instead, Harrison had planned to offer the song to Jackie Lomax, as had been done with a 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 a full 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. [4] It was only during the recording sessions for Abbey Road that The Beatles began seriously working on "Something".

The original draft that The Beatles used lasted eight minutes, with John Lennon on the piano towards the end. The middle also contained a small counter-melody section. Both the counter-melody and Lennon's piano piece were cut from the final version. The piano section later became the basis for Lennon's song "Remember". [1] Harrison remained dissatisfied with the bass section of the song, complaining that he would rather have "Willie Weeks [a session player] play bass for me than [The Beatles' bassist] Paul McCartney." [1] [5] Nevertheless, after the recordings had been touched up, it was decided to release take 39 as a single. [6]

Release and acclaim

Abbey Road was released on 26 September 1969 in the United Kingdom, with the United States release following on 1 October. It was the first official Beatles release to feature "Something", and performed well, topping the charts in both countries. [7][8] A few days later on 6 October, "Something" was released as a single in the United States, becoming the first Harrison composition to receive top billing on a Beatles single. [9]

Although it began charting two weeks after its release on 18 October, doubts began to arise over the possibility of "Something" topping the American charts. It was the prevailing practice at the time to count sales and airplay of the A- and B-sides separately, and with "Come Together" rivalling "Something" in popularity, it was hardly certain that the single would reach number one. However, on 29 November, Billboard started factoring the performance of both A- and B-sides into their calculations. The result was that "Something" topped the American charts for a week, before eventually falling out of the charts about two months later. The single was certified Gold just three weeks after its initial release, but was not heard of again sales-wise until 1999, when it was declared Platinum. [9]

The release of "Something" as a single was George Harrison's first time as the writer of a song on the A-side of a Beatles single.
The release of "Something" as a single was George Harrison's first time as the writer of a song on the A-side of a Beatles single.

In the United Kingdom, "Something" came out on 31 October. It was not only the first Beatles single there to have a Harrison song on the A-side, but also the first to feature songs already available on an album; all prior Beatles singles in the United Kingdom had been original performances. Although "Something" began to chart on 8 November, it was not a major hit with the British public. It eventually peaked at number four in the charts, before eventually falling out three months after its initial release. In the UK Shirley Bassey's version also reached #4. [10]

Although Harrison himself had been dismissive of the song — he later said that he "put it on ice for about six months because I thought 'that's too easy'" [11] — Lennon and McCartney both stated that they held "Something" in high regard. 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." [12] Both had largely ignored Harrison's compositions prior to "Something", with their own songs taking much of the limelight. Lennon later explained: "There was an embarrassing period when George's songs weren't that good and nobody wanted to say anything. He just wasn't in the same league for a long time — that's not putting him down, he just hadn't had the practice as a writer that we'd had." [10]

Despite this, things were not going well for the band. The recording of Abbey Road had been marked by numerous arguments among the band members, and their last album — Let It Be — comprised abandoned recordings from the Get Back sessions instead of any original work. By the time the promotional video for "Something" was being shot, the individual Beatles had drawn apart; the film consisted of separate clips of each Beatle walking around his home, accompanied by his wife, edited together. [10] Shortly after the release of Let It Be in 1970, The Beatles announced their break-up.

That same year, "Something" received the Ivor Novello Award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically. [13] It also began accumulating cover versions from other artists, including Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, The O'Jays, and even Ray Charles, who Harrison originally had in mind as the singer when he wrote "Something". More recently, the song has been covered by R&B sensation Musiq Soulchild. [14] Harrison nevertheless later said that his favourite cover versions were those of James Brown (B-Side of 45 Think ['73]/Something; Polydor PD-14185; 1973) and Smokey Robinson. [1]

Frank Sinatra was particularly impressed with "Something", the only Beatles song he ever performed. Calling it "the greatest love song ever written", he sang it hundreds of times at various concerts. However, he frequently introduced it erroneously as a Lennon/McCartney composition. Harrison did not appear to mind this, and instead borrowed an alteration to the lyric that Sinatra had made. Where the original song was "You stick around now it may show", Sinatra sang "You stick around, Jack, she might show." This change was eagerly adopted by Harrison, who used the same lyrics whenever he performed "Something" as part of his touring repertoire. [15]

"Something" continues to garner accolades from the musical establishment years after its release, with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) website naming it as the 64th-greatest song ever. According to the BBC, "'Something' shows more clearly than any other song in The Beatles canon that there were three great songwriters in the band rather than just two." [11] The Beatles' official website itself said that "Something" "underlined the ascendance of George Harrison as a major song writing force". [16] In 1999, Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI) named "Something" as the 17th-most performed song of the 20th century, with five million performances in all. Other Beatles songs on the list were "Yesterday" and "Let It Be", both attributed to Lennon and McCartney. [17] In 2002, after Harrison's death, McCartney and Eric Clapton performed "Something" at the Concert for George. Their performance was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals. [18] Bob Dylan also played the song live as a tribute for Harrison following his death.

Structure and lyrics

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. [19] 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. [14]

The theme of the song is the singer's affection for his beloved, and his uncertainty about the direction of the relationship. One reviewer 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". [14] A sample from the song is available.

Notes and references

  1. ^ a b c d Cross, Craig (2004). "Beatles songs - S". (From the Internet Archive.) Retrieved June 3, 2004.
  2. ^ "Album: Abbey Road". Retrieved March 30, 2006.
  3. ^ Hammond, Ian (2001). "Old sweet songs". Retrieved March 30, 2006.
  4. ^ Cross, Craig (2006). "Beatles History - 1969". Retrieved April 1, 2006.
  5. ^ Alroy, John & Wilson, David Bertrand. "Rhythm Section Session Players". Retrieved April 1, 2006.
  6. ^ "Something". (From the Internet Archive.) Retrieved February 6, 2003.
  7. ^ Cross, Craig (2006). "British Albums". Retrieved April 2, 2006.
  8. ^ Cross, Craig (2006). "American Albums". Retrieved April 2, 2006.
  9. ^ a b Cross, Craig (2006). "American Singles". Retrieved March 30, 2006.
  10. ^ a b c Cross, Craig (2006). "British Singles". Retrieved March 30, 2006.
  11. ^ a b "Something". Retrieved April 2, 2006.
  12. ^ "Album: Abbey Road". Retrieved March 30, 2006.
  13. ^ "The Ivor Novello Awards for the Year 1970". Retrieved April 2, 2006.
  14. ^ a b c Unterberger, Richie (2006). "Something". Retrieved March 30, 2006.
  15. ^ Marck, John T. (2006). "Oh Look Out! Part 12, Abbey Road". Retrieved April 1, 2006.
  16. ^ "Something". (From the Internet Archive.) Retrieved February 6, 2003.
  17. ^ "Awards: The BMI Top 100 Songs". (From the Internet Archive.) Retrieved February 11, 2004. (From the Internet Archive.) Retrieved June 3, 2004.
  18. ^ "Grammy Win For 'The Concert For George'". Retrieved April 2, 2006.
  19. ^ Pollack, Alan W. (1999). "Notes on 'Something'". Retrieved March 30, 2006.
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