How the Beatles’ Engineer Knew George Harrison Was Ultra-Confident by ‘Abbey Road’
When you look at his time in The Beatles, you can say George Harrison really broke through during the sessions for The White Album (1968). On that release, George delivered “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “Long, Long, Long,” songs which rank among the finest of his career.
But that didn’t mean George started being treated as an equal by Paul McCartney and John Lennon. In early ’69, during the sessions for Let It Be (originally called Get Back), George still had a hard time convincing the famed Beatles songwriters to give Harrison tracks the time of day.
That’s how George ended up with some 4 minutes’ worth of material on that album. And it wasn’t for lack of trying. Prior to recording “For You Blue” and “I Me Mine,” George debuted “All Things Must Pass,” “Let It Down,” and “Hear Me Lord” for The Beatles. (They basically ignored all three.)
When it came time to record Abbey Road in mid-’69, George wouldn’t be denied. Geoff Emerick, the longtime Beatles engineer, noticed an entirely different George in the studio those sessions.
George Harrison insisted Paul McCartney do his songs his way
If you want a peek inside the Beatles’ studio days, the Geoff Emerick book Here, There and Everywhere (2006) will take you there. Though scholars have contradicted some points in book, there’s no denying Emerick offered a unique and highly valuable perspective on the Fab Four dynamic.
You see it right away in the section Emerick devotes to Abbey Road. “A lot of time and effort went into ‘Something,'” Emerick noted. “Which was very unusual for a Harrison song.” In short, by the time of the sessions for the final Beatles album, George’s songs were still considered beneath John and Paul’s.
But Emerick noticed that George wasn’t budging the way he had in the past. It started with George giving Paul directions on the bass part for “Something.” That blew Emerick’s mind. “It was a first in all my years working with the Beatles,” he wrote. “George had never dared tell Paul what to do.”
And while George might have settled for simple arrangements on his songs in the past, her insisted on orchestral parts for both “Something” and “Here Comes the Sun.” And a session for the latter song really got Emerick’s attention.
George didn’t mind recording the ‘Something’ solo live with an orchestra
By late in the Abbey Road sessions, Emerick had formed an entirely different opinion of George Harrison. But George impressed him again when he decided to take another pass at his guitar solo for “Something.” At that point, they’d used up all the available tracks for the song.
To solve the problem, Emerick told George he’d have to play his solo live with the orchestra. According to Emerick, George didn’t flinch. “OK, let’s do it,” he recalled George saying. Then he recorded the solo in front of the orchestra needing just a few takes.
“It took a lot of nerve and self-confidence [for George] to be willing to put himself under that kind of pressure,” Emerick wrote. And though others claim George used an earlier solo on the record, it’s unlikely Emerick made the episode up. Without question, George was ready to embark upon his solo career.