Why John Lennon Didn’t Sing or Play on George Harrison’s ‘Here Comes the Sun’
After the ugliness of the early ’69 Let It Be sessions, The Beatles declared something of a truce to record Abbey Road later in the year. For his part, George Harrison got into the spirit with two of his best (and most upbeat) songs of his Beatles years.
“Something,” the first of these the group tackled, became George’s only Beatles single (only A-side, to be precise). In July ’69, work began on the second Harrison track to appear on the record, “Here Comes the Sun.”
“It seems as if winter in England goes on forever,” George said about writing the song at Eric Clapton’s house in May ’69. “By the time spring comes you really deserve it.” And you can hear the joy in his voice as he sang the lyrics.
Paul McCartney (bass, backing vocals) and Ringo (drums) did their best to make “Here Comes the Sun” work in the studio. (Both also contributed handclaps to the track.) But the song got recorded with only three Beatles. John Lennon didn’t participate at all.
‘Here Comes the Sun’ work began with John Lennon recovering from a car crash
When George and his bandmates started work on the track (July ’69), John had not returned from vacation. While away, he and Yoko Ono had suffered injuries in a serious car crash. So both needed extra time to mend as John worked his way back into the sessions.
During the first day of work on “Here Comes the Sun,” John was still recuperating. George played acoustic guitar along with Paul’s bass and Ringo’s drums for the backing track. Then George recorded more guitar parts the following day.
During that second day of work, George also recorded the lead vocal while Paul added backing vocals. At that point, with the song’s fundamentals down, George could focus on embellishing the track. He planned to add orchestration, and did so the following month.
George also added a Moog synthesizer part to “Here Comes the Sun” in August, completing the track’s sparkling arrangement. Since John missed the early days, he mostly took himself out of the recording. However, there was one day John was in the studio when he could have contributed.
John apparently opted out of a minor part on ‘Here Comes the Sun’
The day John arrived for the Abbey Road sessions, the band was working on Paul’s “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” which was a consensus pick for the Song Most Hated by The Beatles. When Paul asked if he wanted to jump in on backing vocals, John declined and left the studio soon after.
In the following days (the second week of July), the band continued working on “Something” and a song for the Abbey Road medley on side 2. John didn’t seem particularly engaged with those sessions, either. (At this point, Yoko was resting on a bed that had been brought into the studio.)
On July 16, George led the band through handclaps he wanted added to “Here Comes the Sun.” According to engineer Alan Parsons (via beatlesebooks.com), engineer-producer Glyn Johns struggled to lend a hand on the intricate handclaps and dropped out of the recording.
George did eventually get them down on the record with help from Paul and Ringo. But John, who’d been appearing at the sessions by then, didn’t take part in this session either. It’s possible he still wasn’t feeling up to it. He’d perk up, though, for the recording of “Come Together” five days later.