For Millennials. By Millennials.
By the time The Beatles broke up, George Harrison had transformed into an exceptional musician. And with his groundbreaking solo album All Things Must Pass, he showed his songwriting skills. But, the silent Beatle never got his due credit as part of The Beatles. However, that all changed with this one particular song he wrote.
How hard it was for George Harrison in The Beatles
At the start, George’s contributions weren’t as significant. He was mainly focused on his guitar, and his first song was Don’t Bother Me in their first album With The Beatles. Moreover, he composed the tune while he was sick and had this to say about it:
“At least it showed me that all I needed to do was keep on writing, and then maybe eventually I would write something good.”
However, cementing a place in the presence of songwriters like John Lennon and Paul McCartney was a tall order for George Harrison. As Bob Dylan summed it up:
“George got stuck with being the Beatle that had to fight to get songs on records because of Lennon and McCartney. Well, who wouldn’t get stuck?”
It must have been extremely hard for George Harrison to work on his songwriting in the presence of the two giants. But, instead of giving up, he stuck it out. And along the journey, he learned a few tricks up his sleeves too. Those tricks and his talents made themselves prominent with this particular song that George wrote.
George Harrison’s Taxman changed The Beatles forever
This is the song that announced George Harrison to the world and transformed the fab four forever. Taxman was the opening track of the album ‘Revolver‘ and was the first time George used his own life experience to write a song. He recalled in the Anthology series:
“I had discovered I was paying a huge amount of money to the taxman. You are so happy that you’ve finally started earning money – and then you find out about tax.”
The song has a strong anti-socialist message and was very different to what The Beatles regularly wrote. But in terms of music, it was very rich. George further recalls:
“In those days we paid 19 shillings and sixpence [96p] out of every pound, and with supertax and surtax and tax-tax it was ridiculous – a heavy penalty to pay for making money. That was a big turn-off for Britain. Anybody who ever made any money moved to America or somewhere else.”
And a lot of British musicians and rock stars actually moved to America as well. Taxation laws were far loose in America, compared to how the British government targetted them. It was like a self-imposed exile. Now, this song didn’t manage to change England’s tax laws. But, it did manage to change the band forever. This is because it established George Harrison as a serious songwriter, someone who John and Paul have to take seriously. George was finally catching up.
Lennon helped him with the song too
While talking to David Sheff in his last iconic interview in 1980, John Lennon revealed that he helped George Harrison write Taxman. He was, however, reluctant at first to help him:
“I remember the day he called to ask for help on ‘Taxman’, one of his first songs. I threw in a few one-liners to help the song along, because that’s what he asked for. He came to me because he couldn’t go to Paul, because Paul wouldn’t have helped him at that period. I didn’t want to do it. I thought, Oh, no, don’t tell me I have to work on George’s stuff. It’s enough doing my own and Paul’s.”
But, John accepts that he loved George a lot to not help him. He said:
“But because I loved him and I didn’t want to hurt him when he called that afternoon and said, ‘Will you help me with this song?’ I just sort of bit my tongue and said OK. It had been John and Paul for so long, he’d been left out because he hadn’t been a songwriter up until then.”
After Taxman, George Harrison and his songs were taken more seriously. He now had the license to experiment with his songs. This includes Here Comes The Sun, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, and many others. But, despite this breakthrough, he did not get the attention he deserved. For instance, he had to bring Eric Clapton into the studios for John and Paul to take him seriously while recording While My Guitar Gently Weeps. And this eventually did contribute to the breakup of The Beatles.