The Beatles Song John Lennon Said Was Written to Give George Harrison ‘a Piece of the Action’
During their run together in the The Beatles, John Lennon and Paul McCartney didn’t just write songs they sang themselves. Along the way, the famed songwriting team passed off songs to Peter and Gordon, The Rolling Stones, and, of course, fellow Beatle Ringo Starr.
While most music fans know “With a Little Help My Friends” is a Lennon-McCartney song featuring Ringo on vocals, it’s easy to overlook songs bearing the same songwriting credit that went to George Harrison in the Fab Four’s early years.
That’s because George became famous for writing his own material, including classics such as “Something” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” But George’s run as a songwriter didn’t start until August ’63.
By then, The Beatles’ busy schedule was already kicking into gear. As of 1964, they had to record multiple albums per year. So for A Hard Day’s Night John and Paul wrote one to keep a spot on the record for George.
‘I’m Happy Just to Dance With You’ is a Lennon-McCartney written specifically for George Harrison
After landing “Don’t Bother Me” on the Beatles’ second album, George didn’t seem to have anything for the group’s third LP (the Hard Day’s Night soundtrack). But John and Paul had cooked up something for him to sing: “I’m Happy Just to Dance With You.”
“We wrote [it] for George in the film,” Paul recalled in his biography Many Years From Now. “It was a bit of a formula song. We knew that in E if you went to an A flat minor, you could always make a song … and this is one of these.”
At that point, John and Paul had already moved on from such formulaic material. “We wouldn’t have actually wanted to sing it,” Paul said. “The ones that pandered to the fans in truth were our least favorite songs.”
In All We Are Saying, John told Playboy’s David Sheff that “I’m Happy Just to Dance With You” differed from songs they wrote and later gave away to other performers. “That [song] was written for George to give him a piece of the action,” John said.
John gave George ‘Do You Want to Know a Secret’ the previous year
On the Fab Four’s first album (1963’s Please Please Me), John and Paul took a similar approach to the song George would sing. However, in this case, John had a song around he’d written that he didn’t want to perform on the record: “Do You Want to Know a Secret.”
“Well, I can’t say I wrote it for George,” John told Sheff in All We Are Saying. “I thought it would be a good vehicle for him because it only had three notes and he wasn’t the best singer in the world.”
While those might sound like harsh words coming from John, he quickly softened it. “He has improved a lot since then, but in those days [George’s] singing ability was very poor because (a) he hadn’t had the opportunity, and (b) he concentrated more on the guitar.”
Looking back on those days for Beatles Anthology, George seemed to agree with John’s assessment. “I didn’t like my vocal on it,” George said of the track. “I didn’t know how to sing, and nobody told me how to.”