I heard recently the studio demonstration recording of George Harrison’s “Something”. It is wonderful!
It is also out of meter in some few spots, out of tune (the guitar is close, but not in tune with the piano), and the groove that Mr. Harrison creates on the guitar is, well—let’s just say, not very groovy. (OK, Beatles fans, my e-mail is at the end of this article. Give me what you got!)
There are, of course, many truly remarkable things baked into the structure of the song. Among them are: the song’s melody; Mr. Harrison’s tremendously powerful, yet extremely subtle, singing; and several instrumental hooks, like the now-iconic instrumental melody in the introduction, and the instrumental lick between the lines, “I don’t know” and “You stick around now it may show.”
But, despite all its essential goodness, it is difficult for me, a true mega-Beatles fan, to imagine the song in this demonstration production form becoming a chart-topper in 1969 or at any other time. I think we love this demo recording today out of feelings of reverence and nostalgia for this lost musical lion, gone too quickly from our lives.
The song had very good bones. Beatles Producer George Martin heard that it did and he certainly recognized the heartfelt beauty of Mr. Harrison’s singing. He recognized what was great about the song, used those things, fixed what needed fixing, and added some of himself in the way of orchestration, quality control, coaching, and general record production polish.