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"I NEED YOU"

(George Harrison)

Proudly, despite being new at songwriting, George Harrison was able to offer two new compositions for consideration of being included in The Beatles second motion picture, which was eventually to be titled “Help!”  With eleven songs being submitted for inclusion in the film, and seven spots open, the odds were quite good that George would achieve getting at least one of his songs on the big screen.

And that’s exactly what happened.  Director Richard Lester chose songs that he thought would work in the film and George’s “I Need You” proved suitable.  As he had done in their first movie “A Hard Day’s Night,” Lester decided that a vocal contribution from George would show a degree of equality within the abilities of the group.  “I’m Happy Just To Dance With You” showed off his vocal talents in the previous film, but this was a Lennon/McCartney composition.  This time around, both of his offerings were his own compositions, “You Like Me Too Much” being the other song.

Proof of how proud he was at having an original composition in the film is in the closing credits.  During The Beatles goofy vocal rendition of “The Barber Of Seville,” George verbally reads the credit to his song, “’I Need You’ by George Harrison” when those words appear in print.  Being only the second original song to have been officially recorded by The Beatles, George Harrison had every good reason to be proud.

 

Songwriting History

George never appeared to have commented about “I Need You” in any interviews, so the songwriting history is left to speculation.  During an interview in 1965, as contained in the book “Ticket To Ride” by journalist Larry Kane, he gives a hint as to his songwriting pattern.  “If I get something going, then I’ll tape it.  I’ll leave it for about five weeks, then I’ll suddenly remember.  Then I add a bit more to it, so it will probably take me about three months before I finish one song.”

Using this as a gauge, we can reliably say that George wrote “I Need You” in the three month time period of December, 1964 through February, 1965, which is just before The Beatles recorded the song.  Their touring schedule during a good portion of this time was focused in their current home base of London while they were presenting their month-long production “Another Beatles Christmas Show.”  This would have given ample opportunity to George for refine the details to this song.

Some writers claim that the song was written in late February and early March while The Beatles were filming the movie “Help!” in the Bahamas.  They say that he was missing his current girlfriend Pattie Boyd, which resulted in the lyrical content of "I Need You."  There’s only one problem with this theory:  The song was already recorded before they left for the Bahamas!  These theorists also fail to realize that the song is about a girlfriend breaking up with the singer.  It seems quite improbable that Pattie told George that she ‘don’t want his lovin’ anymore’ just before he left for the Bahamas!

 

EMI Studios, London

Recording History

“I Need You” was recorded during their first recording session for 1965 on February 15th at EMI Studio Two.  This was the first of six consecutive days of sessions to produce songs to be included in their upcoming second movie.  The earlier of two sessions on this day, from 2:30 to 5:45 pm, saw “Ticket To Ride” started and finished, while the later session, from 7 to 10:30 pm, was utilized to start two new songs.  The first two-and-a-half hours were spent on Paul’s new song “Another Girl,” and then at about 9:30 pm they began work on George’s “I Need You.”

Since the relatively new procedure of recording the rhythm track first and overdubbing the vocals later was instituted on this day, The Beatles spent the last hour of this day recording a simple rhythm track for George’s song.  Both George and John played acoustic guitar, Paul played bass and Ringo played drums.  Five takes of the song were recorded before everyone was satisfied, “take five” being deemed as best.  This ended the night at 10:30 with overdubs planned for the next day.

The next day, February 16th, 1965, began exactly where they left off.  They entered EMI Studio Two at 2:30 pm to record all of the overdubs to “I Need You.”  First on the agenda was for George to record his lead vocals and then double-track them.  The double-tracked take also included Paul harmonizing with George on the last phrase of each verse, which usually was the phrase “I need you.”  However, at the end of the second verse, the words were “you told me,” which Paul hesitated on, no doubt, because he was unsure of what the words were.  John and Paul then overdubbed background "aahs" during parts of the verses as well as the bridges.

Another important overdub occurred next, which was George’s lead guitar work throughout the song.  He used a foot-controlled volume pedal which was hooked up to the volume of the guitar.  (This devise would be more commonly used as a wah-wah pedal very soon afterward by various artists.)  Finally, Ringo tapped out a beat on a cowbell during the bridges.  By about 4 pm, the song was complete and they then worked to complete the other unfinished song from the day before, namely “Another Girl.”  The later session on this day was used to record the song “Yes It Is,” which also featured George’s tone pedal.

The mono mix of “I Need You” was made two days later on February 18th, 1965 in the control room of EMI Studio Two by producer George Martin and engineers Norman Smith and Ken Scott.  This mix appeared in the film as well as the mono version of the British “Help!” album.

The stereo mix was created on February 23rd, 1965 in the control room of EMI Studio Two by Norman Smith and 2nd engineer Malcolm Davies, George Martin not feeling he was needed for this relatively unnecessary task (since mono mixes were deemed the priority).  This mix made it on the stereo versions of both the British and American “Help!” albums.  The mono version of the US album also utilized this mix by Capitol creating a “type B” mix from combining both channels of the stereo mix to form their own mono mix.  Therefore, the true mono mix of this song, as similar as it may be, was only to be heard in the early copies of the movie until many decades later.

Not to be forgotten is the 1986 stereo mix created by George Martin for the 1987 release of the entire "Help!" album on compact disc. 

Song Structure and Style

As if following the established pattern set by Lennon and McCartney (although, in fact, it was established way before then), George imitates the ‘verse/ verse/ bridge/ verse’ format for this song.  With a repeat of the bridge and final verse, we end up with a usual aababa structure without the need of a solo of any kind.  Although Harrison is the group’s lead guitarist, he wisely realizes that an instrumental section would only hamper the flow of the song.

A simple two-measure introduction gets the ball rolling which establishes the home key of A.  Basically, the acoustic rhythm guitars and overdubbed electric tone-pedal guitar are the only things heard in this short intro.  George begins his guitar chord/riff, which is heard in various forms three times in each verse, directly on the downbeat of this introduction.  Although a little rushed, it is emphasized exactly as it will be in the conclusion of the song.  Paul introduces his bass guitar in the second half of the second measure as a segue into the first verse.

The first verse is an unusual fourteen measures long because the last of the four melodic phrases that make up this verse is cut in half.  The simple subdued drums kick in on the downbeat of this section as do George’s lead vocals, which pronounce the first line as “you don’t re-o-lize how much I need you.”  Each melodic vocal phrase ends with the first two notes of the “four chord/riff” (for example, on the words “need you”) that George plays with his tone-pedal guitar.  If it wasn’t for the guitar finishing these phrases, the lyrics would leave us ‘hanging in the air,’ so to speak.

The third melodic phrase, starting with “please come on back to me,” breaks away from the home key and raises the emotional level of the song as well as the note range George is singing.  Another difference is the introduction of John and Paul’s background harmonies on this section which adds a nice backwash to the arrangement.  The final phrase actually only consists of three words, “I need you,” which Paul harmonizes on.  Once again, we see the established Beatles pattern of ending the verses with the title of the song, driving it home for all listeners as George had already caught on with on 1963’s “Don’t Bother Me.”

After a structurally identical second verse (with George’s interesting lyrical flow of “a thing or two to tell me”), we enter the bridge.  We can see here a pattern developing in these current ‘Harrisongs’ in the form of continuing a thought, and the actual sentence, from the verse right into the bridge.  In this case, George starts a new thought by singing “you told me” at the end of the verse and then finishing the sentence in the bridge with “oh, yes, you told me you don’t want my lovin’ anymore.”  (See “You Like Me Too Much,” which was recorded the next day, for similar lyric writing.)

This bridge also has an unusual number of measures, this time being nine.  The usual eight measures is extended by one at the end as if he needed to take a breath before the third verse began, which wasn’t the case.  We can easily imagine the song flowing nicely without this extra measure, especially since no one is doing anything extraordinary musically in this extra measure either.  But as is the case, George wanted the extra measure and, although unnecessary, it works well.

As far as arrangement goes in the bridge, we see the addition of Ringo’s cowbell throughout all nine measures as well as John and Paul’s background vocals.  In actuality, the seventh and eighth measures of this bridge contain the gut-wrenching emotional highlight of the song, accentuated by George’s outcry “I just can’t go on anymore.”  (Maybe that’s why he wanted the extra measure in the bridge…he wanted this desperate proclamation to sink in as well as gain his composure before beginning his plea for her return.)

As the cowbell disappears, the third verse begins which is also structurally identical to the first two.  After a repeat of the bridge, this third verse is heard again but in an extended twenty-measure form to work as a fitting conclusion to the song.  The final statement “I need you” is repeated identically two more times with Paul’s harmonies as the chords change strategically underneath.  We then arrive at the home key of A again as we hear a repeat of the guitar chord/riff, the last chord becoming the final strident chord of the song.

Of course, George is the primary focus of this folksy-arranged song, delivered in perfect singer/songwriter fashion.  His tone-pedal work, while occasionally not in perfect time, gives a weeping affect which convincingly portrays the sad lyrics.  His lead vocals are also done professionally well, seeing that he has come to master the art of double-tracking with little overlapped accentuations.

Paul is always there to add what is necessary to make a good recording, this time jumping in with nice vocal harmonies.  His bass work is done simply so as not to detract from the emotional effect of the lyrics.  John stays even more low-keyed, playing rudimentary acoustic rhythm guitar and singing affective background “aahs” when required.  Ringo plays no bigger of a role than metronome on his drums and cowbell, but more than that would only detract from the sentiment of the song.

It’s somewhat perplexing that many authors explain this song away as simple a love song to girlfriend Pattie Boyd.  The first two lines of the song may make you think this could be the case, but from the third line on it is obvious that the storyline focuses on George being dumped by his girl, which wasn’t the case with Pattie.  “Please come on back to me, I’m lonely as can be” is the true gist of the song as a whole, as explained in this verse.

The second verse begins to give us the intricate details of this sad fictional story, telling us how his girl “had a thing or two to tell” him, which left him “upset.”  The bridge reveals what she told him, namely, “you don’t want my lovin’ anymore,” which now left him “hurt.”  After proclaiming that he “just can’t go on anymore,” the third verse begins his pleading for her to “come on back and see just what you mean to me.”

Obviously, this is not a current personal experience, but “projecting myself into a situation and writing a nice story about it,” as Lennon would explain about early Beatles songs.  John and Paul may have been writing more autobiographically by this time, but George was just developing as a songwriter and was well behind his fellow band members in this category.  This having been said, “I Need You” has found a definite place in the hearts of a lot of Beatles’ fans because of its simply stated melancholic feel and charming delivery.

 

American Releases

The song was first available in America on August 13th, 1965 on the “Help!” soundtrack album.  Since the mono version of this album as released by Capitol Records actually contained a “type B” combination of both channels of the stereo version of most of the songs, the original mono mix of “I Need You” was not available in the US for a long time.  This soundtrack album was released on an individual compact disc on January 21st, 2014, both the mono and the stereo mixes being contained on a single CD.

Sometime in 1967, Capitol released Beatles music on a brand new but short-lived format called "Playtapes." These tape cartidges did not have the capability to include entire albums, so two truncated four-song versions of the "Help!" Soundtrack were released in this portable format, "I Need You" being on one of these releases.  These "Playtapes" are highly collectable today.

In order for George Harrison to be duly represented on the double-compilation album “Love Songs,” released on October 21st, 1977, Capitol included both his classic 1969 smash “Something” and his melancholy 1965 composition “I Need You.”

On April 30th, 1987, the long-awaited Beatles catalog was finally released on compact disc.  The entire British “Help!” album was now available in America and was the first CD to be released in stereo.  The new 1986 George Martin stereo mix was used here, which is virtually identical to the original 1965 Norman Smith mix.  This disc was then re-mastered and re-released on September 9th, 2009.

April 11th, 2006 saw the second Capitol box set of early Beatles material released, namely “The Capitol Albums, Vol. 2.”  It contained the four Capitol albums released in 1965, including the “Help!” soundtrack with all the Ken Thorne instrumentals, as well as “I Need You.”

Around November 6th, 2007, Capitol released a “7 Song Radio Sampler” in promotion of the latest DVD release of their movie “Help!”  All seven Beatles songs from the film were contained on this handsomely packaged disc, including “I Need You.”

For those enthusiasts who are eager to hear that original mono mix made in 1965, it finally saw an American release on the box set “The Beatles In Mono” on September 9th, 2009.  Not only was the mono mix included but the original Norman Smith stereo mix of 1965 was added as a bonus.

 

The Beatles at Cow Palace, San Francisco, August 31st, 1965

Live Performances

Even though George Harrison had two new compositions released by the end of summer 1965, they didn’t think to include either “I Need You” or “You Like Me Too Much” as George’s vocal contribution in their live concerts that year.  Their American tour of 1965 still featured their rendition of Carl Perkins’ “Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby,” while their December British tour featured George’s newly written “If I Needed Someone.”

Conclusion

Many will be quick to point out that for the first few years of George Harrison’s songwriting career he focused primarily on dark subjects or negative aspects of relationships.  “Don’t Bother Me” certainly fits this bill, as does “If I Needed Someone,” “Taxman” and the sneering “Think For Yourself.”

While “I Need You” does depict the loss of a relationship, the sincerity brought forward in the melody as well as the vocal delivery and arrangement, right down to the weeping tone-pedal guitar sighs, convincingly display the proper sentiment.  Other Harrison songs, such as “I Want To Tell You” and “Only A Northern Song” may appear to have been written with a haphazard “I don’t care” attitude to songwriting, but “I Need You” comes across as completely genuine and well-thought out.  His songwriting craft was yet to be developed fully by early 1965, but this song shows that, when he really tried, he could write like the best of them.

Song Summary

I Need You

Written by:  George Harrison

  • Song Written: December, 1964 - February, 1965
  • Song Recorded: February 15 & 16, 1965
  • First US Release Date: August 13, 1965
  • First US Album Release: Capitol #SMAS-2386 “Help! Soundtrack
  • US Single Release: n/a
  • Highest Chart Position: n/a
  • British Album Release: Parlophone #PCS 3071 “Help!
  • Length: 2:28
  • Key: A major
  • Producer: George Martin
  • Engineers: Norman Smith, Ken Scott, Jerry Boys

 Instrumentation (most likely):

  • George Harrison – Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitar (1962 Gibson J-160E), Lead Guitar (1961 Sonic Blue Fender Stratocaster)
  • John Lennon - Rhythm Guitar (1964 Ramirez A-1 Segovia), Backing Vocals
  • Paul McCartney -  Bass Guitar (1963 Hofner 500/1), Harmony and Backing Vocals
  • Ringo Starr – Drums (1964 Ludwig Super Classic Black Oyster Pearl), cowbell

 Written and compiled by Dave Rybaczewski 

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