George Harrison was a songwriter par excellence, even if his bandmates in The Beatles were loathed to admit it at points. But in a tone that was almost Partridge like in its motion, he had the last laugh when All Things Must Pass skyrocketed to the top of the US charts. But The Beatles cast a shadow over the guitarist, and he returned to them at varying points in his trajectory. His debut album featured a collection of Beatle outtakes, two of them written specifically about the band themselves.
The first, ‘Wah Wah’ was written during the Get Back sessions, written as a dig at Paul McCartney. “At that point in time, Paul couldn’t see beyond himself,” Harrison told Guitar World in 2001 about ‘Wah Wah’. “He was on a roll, but…in his mind, everything that was going on around him was just there to accompany him. He wasn’t sensitive to stepping on other people’s egos or feelings.”
The gnarly rocker was written as a pulsating guitar instrumental, but ‘Run of The Mill’ was an altogether softer affair. It stemmed from the closing days of The Beatles, featuring a chiming arpeggio that seeped into the work. It featured one of Harrison’smost vulnerable vocals and may have stemmed from the heartbreak he felt when he realised that the band that had brought him headfirst into adulthood had ended. “During the whole Apple period, I was always mainly interested in working in the studio, recording,” Harrison recalled. “I couldn’t be bothered to follow through [with business ideas]. I suppose my attitude didn’t help.”
Apple in question referred to the offices, industry and studios The Beatles had formed in their image. When McCartney brought manager Allen Klein and his bandmates to court in 1970, the end result led to a series of lawsuits that were tidily summarised in Peter Doggett’s excellent You Never Give Me Your Money.
“Around that time we had millions of suits flying here, flying there,” McCartney recalled. “George wrote the ‘Sue Me, Sue You Blues’ about it. I’d kicked it all off originally, having to sue the other three Beatles in the High Court, and that opened Pandora’s box. After that everybody just seemed to be suing everybody”
‘Sue You Sue Me Blues’ featured on Living In The Material World, being the most overtly Beatle-oriented number on the album, but the record also holds a sneaky reference to the three bandmates on the towering title track. “John and Paul here in the material world,” Harrison screams, the power surging through his veins. “Though we started out quite poor, we got ‘Richie’ on a tour.”
Out of the entries to make this list, this one is the closest to an out and out rock number, creating a fiery vocal exhibition bolstered over a colossal selection of instruments. Harrison would return to the Beatle milieu in 1979, by cleaning up the song John Lennon dropped from The White Album in 1968. The 1968 original featured a bouncy harpsichord pattern, that was replaced by a more sedate keyboard hook on the George Harrison album.
“The lyrics are a bit passé – all about upsetting “Apple carts” and stuff – but it’s a bit about what was happening at the time … the Maharishi and going to the Himalayas and all that was said about that.” Harrison would return to the Beatles in the worst case possible, when he heard about Lennon’s senseless murder.
In an effort to reconcile with past grievances, he invited McCartney to sing harmony on a track that featured Ringo Starr on drums. The song featured references to some of Lennon’s greatest works, although the “always looked up to you” showed how tender his feelings were for the band.
By 1987, Harrison was in more euphoric mode, and released ‘When We Was Fab‘, which featured a startling music video that was littered with Beatle references. There was a walrus playing bass; a jaunty piano that seemed destined to bring viewers back to the promotional video of ‘Hey Jude’; and the video also featured a clip of a man who looked strikingly like Paul Simon, but director Kevin Godley denied the songwriter’s presence. But the song was so fresh with Beatle references, it made up for any shortcomings a viewer might have.
The seven songs George Harrison wrote about The Beatles:
‘Run of The Mill’
‘Sue You Sue Me Blues’
‘Living The Material World’
‘All Those Years Ago’
‘When We Was Fab’