John Lennon taught George Harrison something important in the songwriting process. George used the technique for years until he began working with ELO frontman Jeff Lynne in 1987 on his album Cloud Nine. Lynne showed the former Beatle that he didn’t have to write songs as John taught him.
What John Lennon taught George Harrison about the songwriting process
In Peter Jackson’s The Beatles: Get Back, fans found out that John taught George something potentially valuable to the younger Beatle’s songwriting process. George began writing songs in 1963; his first was “Don’t Bother Me.” After that, George tentatively increased his songwriting. Whether he could get those songs on Beatles albums was another issue.
To help his bandmate, John taught George always to finish a song once he started writing it.
In Jackson’s documentary, George tells John that he went to bed late. He had to finish writing a song. George explained that he kept hearing John’s voice “from about 10 years ago, saying, ‘finish ’em straight away, as soon as you start ’em, finish ’em.’” John replied, “But I never do it, though. I can’t do it, but I know it’s the best.”
George often took John’s advice and finished his songs for one crucial reason. He’d likely lose his initial inspiration if he didn’t finish them.
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Jeff Lynne showed George something ‘mystical’ in the songwriting process
When George began working on his 1987 album, Cloud Nine, his co-producer, Jeff Lynne, taught him new techniques in the songwriting process. Lynne showed him that he didn’t always have to finish his songs before he recorded them.
George used this technique on “When We Was Fab.” Initially, George felt strange.
“Anyway, every so often we took the tape of ‘Fab’ out and overdubbed more, and it developed and took shape to where we wrote words,” George told Musician Magazine. “This was an odd experience for me; I’ve normally finished all of the songs I’ve done–with the exception of maybe a few words here and there-before I ever recorded them. But Jeff doesn’t do that at all. He’s making them up as he goes along.
“That to me is a bit like, ‘Ohh nooo, that’s too mystical. I wanna know where we’re heading.’ But in another way it’s good because you don’t have to finalize your idea ’till the last minute.”
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The former Beatle said it was interesting working on songs with Lynne
George and Lynne only worked on a couple of songs for Cloud Nine, but they were all an adventure for the former Beatle.
He told MuchMusic, “Normally, I don’t write with other people, but we worked on three songs together, and it was quite interesting because normally, the way I work is I write the song and the melody and the lyrics, have it more or less completed. Maybe, occasionally, I’ve got one or two lyrics that need finishing but more or less completed before I put the track down.
“With Jeff, we tend to figure out the tune and the chords but have no idea how the melody or the lyrics are going to be and just see what happens that way. That was quite interesting. Like, we had completed backing tracks with no melody and no lyrics.”
George said that Jeff had pieces of songs that they could use any way they wanted. It was a very creative process and showed George there was more than one way to write a hit song. John’s way of doing things wasn’t wrong, but Jeff’s technique brought George out of his comfort zone, which was good. It gave Cloud Nine a fresh sound.
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