While The Beatles were on tour in 1963, George Harrison got sick. While recovering, George wrote his first song, “Don’t Bother Me.”
However, George’s illness could have taken a dangerous turn because of a doctor’s prescribed medicine.
Doctors prescribed George Harrison medicine that contained morphine
In the summer of 1963, The Beatles were doing a week of shows at the Gaumont Theatre in the seaside town of Bournemouth, England. George got sick with the flu or a bug of some kind. They sent for a doctor. However, he did more harm than anything else.
In 1992, George told Timothy White (per George Harrison on George Harrison: Interviews and Encounters), “I had some kind of flu, some kind of bug, and I was sick.
“And so I was staying in bed all day long. The doctor had been called, and he gave me this medicine; in those days they had this medicine that had morphine in it, this medicine that you would drink, swallow, that had a morphine base.
“You could buy it over the counter; I’m sure it must’ve got banned over the years. But I remember he prescribed it.”
Medicine is supposed to make you feel better, but George’s medicine only made him more tired. The morphine made him exhausted and unable to get better quicker. It’s amazing what kind of medicines there were back then.
“I was taking that stuff and in bed, all feeling weak and tired but trying to reserve my energy so I could get out of bed each night to do the concert,” George continued. But at least the downtime allowed George to write his first song, “Don’t Bother Me.”
George wrote ‘Don’t Bother Me’ while in bed sick
“To get it straight, if I hadn’t been with John and Paul I probably wouldn’t have thought about writing a song, at least not until much later,” George explained. “They were writing all these songs, many of which I thought were great. Some were just average, but, obviously, a high percentage were quality material. I thought to myself, ‘If they can do it, I’m going to have a go.'”
Although the doctor was mistreating George’s illness with a potentially deadly controlled substance, his rest time allowed him to think about his first song.
George told White that he wrote “Don’t Bother Me” in about an hour. He said the title came about because he didn’t want to be bothered while sick.
The Beatle wasn’t impressed by ‘Don’t Bother Me’
“Don’t Bother Me” was George’s first song. In his 1980 memoir, I Me Mine, George wrote, ‘”Don’t Bother Me.’ The first song that I wrote — as an exercise to see if I could write a song.” Still, George was critical of his songwriting debut.
“I don’t think it’s a particularly good song, it mightn’t even be a song at all but at least it showed me that all I needed to do was keep on writing and then maybe eventually I would write something good,” George continued in I Me Mine.
“I still feel now ‘I wish I could write something good.’ It’s relativity. It did, however, provide me with an occupation.”
After “Don’t Bother Me,” George flexed his songwriting muscles whenever he could. However, The Beatles and their producer, George Martin, were less-than-thrilled when George started writing songs. John and Paul wanted to keep the band at two songwriters.
Thankfully, that didn’t deter George from writing more songs. Years later, he left The Beatles with a stockpile of songs that the group didn’t want. Most of them ended up on George’s multi-platinum album, All Things Must Pass.