Originally included on the Abbey Road album, released in 1969. The track was never a single by the Fab 4, but it was a Hit for Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel in Summer 1976.Surprising enough to see one Beatles track on here, but two is really generous. This does of course differ in that it's a George Harrison song rather than a Lennon/McCartney one. Indeed John Lennon, who sang lead on 'All You Need Is Love' doesn't appear on this track at all. Given that the Beatles never released the track as a single themselves, it's slightly surprising there was never a hit with a cash-in cover version, as was the case with many of their earlier popular album tracks, but perhaps the increasing importance of the album format reduced the market for such covers by the end of the Sixties? Certainly, the officially endorsed cover of 'Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight' by Trash, which was even released on Apple, failed to chart. So it was that Steve Harley's cover was the first version of the song to grace the chart, and indeed the only one until the original got a defacto single release when the Beatles catalogue was loaded onto iTunes. Since then Gary Barlow has also made the Top 75 with a version I never had the misfortune to hear.
Anyway, it's the original that concerns us here, and it's something of a late bloom as one of the last tracks most of the Beatles recorded together, albeit that by this point deteriorating band relationships and Harrison's increasing assertiveness mean this is almost a solo track with Paul and Ringo playing on it. In some ways it feels closer to the music on his first few post-Beatles albums than to his earlier contributions to the group. he was perhaps justified in feeling that Lennon and McCartney had given insufficient assistance with his earlier compositions but by now he probably wouldn't have taken any anyway. Whilst George Martin has also said in retrospect that he didn't put enough care into Harrison's songs, there's little sign of it here, where he supplies a luxurious orchestral arrangement, although it's not especially prominent in the mix. In fact, whilst they're clearly taking advantage of the improved technical facilities on offer in the studio, the track retains a crisp arrangement the better to focus on the song's sunny optimism. It's an upbeat message that Harrison clearly thought he needed as much as anyone while the band and their business empire dissolved into endless meetings. By the time he wrote this song in the spring of 1969 he'd already stormed out of the Beatles at least once and had been suffering difficult times in his personal life. Apparently the weather in early 69 had been particularly poor too, so when spring finally did show up he must have been genuinely pleased to see it. That's the universal message he manages to convey in deceptively simple language, which is probably why the song barely seems to have aged. Even the use of a Moog synthesiser has left it less dated than it should, perhaps because it's only incorporated as a texture. In reality I suspect it's mostly there as another sign of Harrison's assertiveness: as with the Indian music a couple of years earlier, it was something he brought to the group, something the others could consult him about. EDIT 24th June: somebody has uploaded the isolated Moog/strings/handclaps track to YouTube. Still, when the finished product is this good, I won't begrudge him any motivation and this is certainly a more summery track than 'All You Need Is Love' as well as a better one.
NB: I have now updated the Spotify and Deezer playlists up to the end of Side 3. At time of writing the Beatles tracks are unavailable although with the increased popularity of streaming, and last night's announcement that it will be incorporated into the singles chart, this may be only a matter of time.
Available on: Abbey Road