George Harrison Knew That A Beatles Cover Won’t Be A Hit

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During the early years of The Beatles, George Harrison had to struggle to be recognized. Given that ‘Don’t Bother Me’ from With The Beatles was his first and only original song included on the first three Beatles albums, some of it was metaphorical. Given that Harrison often only received one lead vocalist for each record or live performance, part of it was literal.

Even worse, Harrison’s colleagues wrote a number of his early lead vocal turns rather than him. John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote the songs “Do You Want to Know a Secret” from Please Please Me and “I’m Happy Just to Dance With You” from A Hard Day’s Night, and both vocalists had to refuse their own wish to sing lead on the songs before they were pushed upon Harrison.

“We wrote ‘I’m Happy Just To Dance With You’ for George in the film. It was a bit of a formula song,” McCartney recounted in the book Many Years From Now in an unfavorable manner. “We knew that in E if you went to an A flat minor, you could always make a song with those chords; that change pretty much always excited you. This is one of these. Certainly ‘Do You Want To Know A Secret’ was”.

He added: “This one anyway was a straight co-written song for George. We wouldn’t have actually wanted to sing it because it was a bit… The ones that pandered to the fans in truth were our least favourite songs but they were good. They were good for the time. The nice thing about it was to actually pull a song off on a slim little premise like that. A simple little idea. It was songwriting practice”.

Harrison would perform cover songs when his mates weren’t penning new material for him. He also had three lead vocal appearances on With The Beatles, but two of them were versions of songs by other artists, including the Donays’ “Devil In His Heart” and Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven.” It was quickly changed to “Devil In Her Heart” by adding pronouns; few fans were able to locate the opening song in the first place.

“Brian [Epstein] had a policy of buying at least one copy of every record that was released,” in Anthology, Harrison explains. “If it sold, he’d order another one, or five or whatever. Consequently, he had records that weren’t hits in Britain, weren’t even hits in America. Before going to a gig, we’d meet in the record store after it had shut, and we’d search the racks like ferrets to see what new ones were there… ‘Devil In Her Heart’ and Barrett Strong’s ‘Money’ were records that we’d picked up and played in the shop and thought were interesting”.

Harrison performed “Roll Over Beethoven” using just his lead voice in the early Beatles performances rather than frequently using “Devil At Her Heart.” After that, Carl Perkins’ “Everybody’s Trying to Be My Baby” occupied that spot until Harrison requested his own song take its place. Harrison ended up singing “If I Needed Someone” from Rubber Soul on the last tour with The Beatles as a result.