George Harrison, Songwriter


But for George Harrison, The Beatles would never have existed.
He'd been a part of John Lennon's skiffle group the Quarry Men along with Paul McCartney, but the group ceased to exist in January 1959. George joined another band called the Les Stewart Quartet while John and Paul occasionally got together to write songs, but had ceased to play as musicians.
George's new group were offered a residency at a coffee club the Casbah, which was opening in August 1959, but group leader Les Stewart turned it down.
George then approached club owner Mona Best and asked if he could take over the residency with some mates. He next contacted John and Paul and the Quarry Men reformed.
But for that act, the world would have been deprived of The Beatles' talents.
Along with Paul McCartney, George attended Liverpool Institute, Liverpool's leading grammar school, although in a lower class, because he was younger.
I attended Liverpool College of Art, next door to the Institute, along with Lennon and Stuart Sutcliffe, the group's original bass guitarist. George and Paul used to come into the college and rehearse and we began to book them for our Saturday night dances, referring to them as the college band.
Stuart and I were on the Student's Union Committee and we used student funds to buy p.a. equipment, which they could use. John, Stuart and I took a vow to make Liverpool famous: John with his music, Stuart with his painting and myself with my writing, calling ourselves the Dissenters.
I coined the phrase "Mersey Beat" and launched a newspaper of that name on a borrowed £50 while still at college.
In July 1961, I devoted the entire front cover to the story "Beatles Record in Hamburg." In it, I wrote that The Beatles had made their first professional recordings with Bert Kaempfert, backing a musician called Tony Sheridan.
I pointed out that the only original Beatle number they recorded was "Cry For a Shadow" by George Harrison (and Lennon). I was also to discover that when the group were called the Quarry Men they recorded two numbers at a small studio in Liverpool - Buddy Holly's "That'll Be the Day" and an original number called "In Spite of All the Danger".
"In Spite of All the Danger", the only original copy of which now belongs to McCartney, was a composition by McCartney-Harrison.
So the first original Beatles number ever to be recorded was not by Lennon & McCartney, but by George and Paul and it was a number by George and John that was recorded at their first professional session.
At the time George was regarded as the baby of the group, although there was some strain in the relationship between George and John. John had reluctantly let him join the group on the insistence of Paul. George was to say, "I remember being very impressed by John's big, thick sideboards and trendy Teddy Boy clothes. He was a terribly sarcastic bugger from day one, but I never backed down from him."
John was to say, "I couldn't be bothered with him when he first came around. He used to follow me around like a bloody kid, hanging around all the time. I couldn't be bothered. He was a kid who played guitar, and he was a friend of Paul's, which made it easier. It took me years to come around to him, to start considering him as an equal or anything."
Once Beatlemania began to take over the world, all the original songs they initially recorded were by the Lennon & McCartney team. In the early days I would join George regularly for drinks in the Liverpool clubs and would remind him that he was the first Beatle to be mentioned in print as a songwriter. I asked him why he wasn't writing songs like Paul and John were. He seemed reluctant to discuss it, but I persevered. Each time I saw him I badgered him about songwriting, telling him he must get down to writing songs. I even suggested he should try and co-write a song with Ringo.
When I went to visit the group backstage at the ABC Blackpool in July 1964, George came up to me and thanked me. I asked him what he was thanking me for. He said that he'd been about to come down to a Liverpool club one night and realized that I'd be there and would be harassing him again about writing songs, so he decided to write a number called "Don't Bother Me".
I asked him if he would continue to write songs and he told me, "I'm still interested in trying my hand at songwriting and I've a couple of further numbers. Trouble is, I can't write lyrics. If I could write lyrics as easily as I could write melodies I would be turning them out like Paul and John.
"I almost did a number with Ringo. He was playing my guitar and I had the tape on, so we tried something. We played it back fast and we had a song."
"Don't Bother Me" was the start of his songwriting activities and he told me that he'd already received several thousand pounds in royalties.
However, George had great difficulty in getting his songs recorded by The Beatles because of the power struggle between John and Paul to have their numbers as the A side of singles and the main tracks on albums.
George felt frustrated because he believed that the others weren't taking his work seriously. He was later to say that he considered his songs equal to those written by John and Paul.
Events seemed to prove him right. Although he had difficulty in talking the others into recording his numbers, when Allen Klein took over the reins as Beatles manager he insisted on a Harrison song as a Beatles single. "Something" became George's one and only A-side (shared with "Come Together") while he was with The Beatles - and Frank Sinatra was to call it the greatest love song of the 20th century.
Then, when The Beatles disbanded, it was George who had the greatest initial success, becoming the first ex-Beatle to top the charts with a single, "My Sweet Lord", and also an album, "All Things Must Pass".
The McCartney-Harrison partnership, which created the first number recorded by John, Paul and George, was almost reborn in 1988 when Paul said that he'd like to begin writing songs with George.
George commented, "Yes, Paul has suggested that maybe he and me should write something again. I mean, it's pretty funny really. I've only been there about thirty years in Paul's life and now he wants to write with me. But maybe it would be quite interesting to do that."
Sadly, they never got around to it.
Bill Harry