"Something" is a song by the Beatles, featured on their 1969 album Abbey Road. It was released that same year as a double A-sided single with another track from the album, "Come Together". "Something" was the first Beatles song written by lead guitarist George Harrison to appear as an A-side, and the only song written by him to top the US charts while he was in the band. The single was also one of the first Beatles singles to contain tracks already available on an LP album.

John Lennon and Paul McCartney, the band's principal songwriters, both praised "Something" as one of the best songs Harrison had written, or that the group had to offer.[3] As well as critical acclaim, the single achieved commercial success, topping the Billboard charts in the United States and making the top five in the United Kingdom. The song has been covered by over 150 artists, making it the second-most covered Beatles song after "Yesterday". Artists who have covered the song include Elvis PresleyFrank SinatraRay CharlesJames BrownShirley BasseyTony BennettAndy WilliamsIke & Tina TurnerThe MiraclesEric ClaptonJoe CockerIsaac HayesJulio IglesiasMina, and Phish.[4] Harrison is quoted as saying that his favourite version of the song was James Brown's, which he kept in his personal jukebox.

Composition[edit source | editbeta]Edit

During the 1968 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 were adapted from the title of 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.[6] The song's second line, "Attracts me like no other lover," was the last to be written; during early recording sessions for "Something", Harrison alternated between two placeholder lyrics: "Attracts me like a cauliflower" and "Attracts me like a pomegranate."[7]

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."[3] A demo recording of the song by Harrison from this period appears on the Anthology 3collection, released in 1996.

Many believe that Harrison's inspiration for "Something" was his wife at the time, Pattie Boyd. Boyd also claimed that inspiration in her 2007 autobiography, Wonderful Tonight, where she wrote: "He told me, in a matter-of-fact way, that he had written it for me."[8]

However, Harrison has cited other sources of inspiration to the contrary. In a 1996 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."[9]

The original intention had been for Harrison to offer the song to Apple Records signing Jackie Lomax, as he had done with a previous composition, "Sour Milk Sea". When this fell through, "Something" was given to Joe Cocker (who had previously covered the Lennon−McCartney song "With a Little Help from My Friends" with great success); his version came out two months before 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.[10]

Recording and production[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Main article: Abbey Road (album)

"Something" was recorded during the Abbey Road sessions. It took 52 takes in two main periods, the first session involved a demo take on Harrison's 26th birthday (featured on Anthology 3), 25 February 1969, followed by 13 backing track takes on 16 April. The second main session took 39 takes and started on 2 May 1969 when the main parts of the song were laid down in 36 takes, finishing on 15 August 1969 after several days of recording overdubs.[11]

The original draft that the Beatles used lasted eight minutes, with an extended coda with Lennon on the piano. The middle also contained a small counter-melody section in the draft. Both the counter-melody and Lennon's piano piece were cut from the final version. Still, Lennon's piano was not erased totally. Some bits can be heard in the middle eight, in particular the line played downwards on the C major scale, i.e. the connecting passage to Harrison's guitar solo. The erased parts of Lennon's piano section is similar to the style on Lennon's song "Remember".[12]

Musical structure[edit source | editbeta]Edit

The lead vocalist for "Something" was 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.[13] 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]

Simon Leng said the song's theme is doubt and uncertainty.[15] 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".[14]

Promotional video[edit source | editbeta]Edit

The promotional video for "Something" was shot shortly before the break-up of the band. By this time, the individual Beatles had drawn apart and so the film consisted of separate clips of each Beatle walking around his home, accompanied by his wife, edited together. The film was directed by Neil Aspinall.[16]

Reception[edit source | editbeta]Edit

The Abbey Road album was the first Beatles release to feature "Something"; it was released on 26 September 1969 in the United Kingdom, with the United States' release following on 1 October, and performed well, topping the charts in both countries.[17][18]

A few days later on 6 October, "Something" was nominally released as a double A-side single with "Come Together" in the United States, becoming the first Harrison composition to receive top billing on a Beatles' single.[19] In actuality, it was the A-side in both form and cataloguing: it appears on the side displaying the outer skin of Apple's logo, and is listed first in Apple's catalog. In many other countries, it was explicitly labeled as the A-side.[20]

Although it began charting a week 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, which allowed for separate chart positions. With "Come Together" rivaling "Something" in popularity, it was hardly certain that either side of the single would reach number one. However, on 29 November, Billboardstarted factoring the combined performance of both A- and B-sides into their calculations, as one single. The result was that "Come Together"/"Something" topped the American charts for a week, before eventually falling out of the charts about two months later (on the concurrent Cash Box singles chart, which continued to measure the performance on both sides of a single separately, "Something" peaked at number two while "Come Together" spent three weeks at number one). The single was certified Gold just three weeks after its initial release, but was not heard of again in terms of sales until 1999, when it was declared Platinum.[19] "Something"/"Come Together" became the 18th number one hit for the band in the US, surpassing Elvis Presley's record of 17 number one songs in the US. The band would go on to tally a record 20 #1 songs in the US before disbanding.

In the UK, "Something" came out on 31 October. It was the first Beatles' single to have a Harrison song on the A-side, and it was also the Beatles' first single to feature songs already available on an album.[21] "Something" first entered the chart on 8 November, eventually peaking at number four, before falling out of the charts three months after its initial release. In the UK Shirley Bassey's version also reached #4.[22]

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'"[23]—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."[3] 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.[24]

Awards[edit source | editbeta]Edit

In 1970, the same year the Beatles announced they had split, "Something" received the Ivor Novello Award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically.[25] "Something" continues to garner accolades from the musical establishment decades after its release, with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) website naming it as the 64th-greatest song ever. According to the BBC, the song "shows more clearly than any other song in The Beatles' canon that there were three great songwriters in the band rather than just two."[23] The Beatles' official website itself said that "Something" "underlined the ascendancy of George Harrison as a major song writing force".[26] 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 written by Paul McCartney (though attributed to Lennon and McCartney).[27] In 2004, "Something" was ranked number 273 on Rolling Stone's list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". In 2010, the magazine ranked it #6 on The Beatles' 100 Greatest Songs.[28] [29]

Cover versions[edit source | editbeta]Edit

With more than 150 versions, "Something" is the second most covered Beatles' song after "Yesterday".[4] It began accumulating cover versions from other artists almost immediately after its release by the Beatles. Lena Horne recorded a cover version in November 1969 for the album she recorded with guitarist Gabor SzaboLena and Gabor. Other cover versions soon appeared, including versions from Elvis Presley (who included it in his Aloha from Hawaii TV special),PhishFrank SinatraIke & Tina TurnerThe O'JaysJames BrownSmokey Robinson and Ray Charles. Despite having written the song with Charles in mind, Harrison's favorite version was Brown's. Of Brown's recording, Harrison said:

My personal favourite is the version by James Brown. It was one of his B sides. I have it on my jukebox at home. It's absolutely brilliant.[5]

Sinatra was particularly impressed with "Something", calling it "the greatest love song of the past 50 years".[30] Apart from performing "Something" numerous times in concert, Sinatra recorded the song twice: in the late 1960s as a single for Reprise (this version later appeared on Frank Sinatra's Greatest Hits, Vol. 2), and in 1980 for Trilogy: Past Present Future. During live performances, the singer was known to mistakenly introduce "Something" as a Lennon–McCartney composition, however, by 1978, had begun correctly citing Harrison as its author.[31] Harrison would go on to adopt Sinatra's minor lyrical change (the song's bridge, "you stick around now, it may show" was changed to "You stick around, Jack, she might show") for his own live performances.[32]

A successful version was recorded by Shirley Bassey, released in 1970 as the title single to her album, of the same name. It was her biggest UK hit for many years, reaching No.4 and spending 22 weeks on the chart. It also reached No.6 on the US AC Chart.

A version by country singer Johnny Rodriguez reached the top 10 of the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart in the spring of 1974.[33] Barbara Mandrell covered the song on her 1974 album This Time I Almost Made It.

In 2002, after Harrison's death, McCartney performed the song using just a ukulele on his "Back in The US" and "Back in the World" tours. McCartney and Eric Clapton performed "Something" at the Concert for George on 29 November 2002, a performance which was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals.[34] The song was also performed as a tribute to Harrison by McCartney in 2008 at the Liverpool Sound Concert, performing the song in a similar fashion to that of the Concert for George: starting off with only a ukulele for accompaniment, then after the bridge, being joined by the full band to conclude the song similarly to that of the original recording.[35][36][37] Bob Dylan likewise played the song live as a tribute to Harrison following his death.[38][39] Bruce Springsteen opened his first show after Harrison's passing by playing an acoustic version of "Something" with violinist Soozie Tyrell (followed by a rendition of Harrison's hit "My Sweet Lord.") [40]

Musiq Soulchild also covered the song from 2002's Juslisen album.

Live performances (by Harrison)[edit source | editbeta]Edit

In 1971, Harrison played this song in The Concert for Bangladesh with Eric Clapton, Starr, and many others. Although the guitar solo differed from the studio version, it was in the key of C#, while the lyrics remained the same. The new guitar solo was very similar to the guitar intro to the Live in Japan version of this song. In 1991, Harrison and Clapton played "Something" live in Japan and in London, such that the third verse gets repeated after the bridge is played again, but without the guitar solo. This was also done in the Concert for George.

Personnel[edit source | editbeta]Edit

The Beatles
Additional personnel
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