On February 6, 1958, George Harrison, son of Harry, was accepted into the Liverpool skiffle group known as The Quarrymen, headed by the then-unknown team of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Little was this (nearly) fifteen-year-old lad to realise the effects this would have over the next few crazy years.
The Quarrymen (later known as Johnny and The Moondogs, then The Silver Beatles, and finally simply as The Beatles) spent the next four years getting all the experience they could muster. Sometimes they played in their hometown of Liverpool, and at other times travelled as far abroad as Hamburg, Germany. The lads were put through their paces, and the many hours of performing for noisy crowds provided their schooling for the Beatlemania that was about to sweep the world.
During this time, John and Paul had composed many songs together, most of which remain unheard. George, however, was content just to play along and cover other people's songs (which he did very well).
When the Beatles (featuring John on rhythm guitar, Paul on bass, George on lead guitar and Ringo on drums) released their first LP, Please Please Me, George provided lead vocal on two of the fourteen tracks: Chains and Do You Want To Know A Secret.
Harrison's debut as a songwriter was Don't Bother Me, a track from the Beatles' second album, With The Beatles (released November 22, 1963). He wrote this song while sick in bed, and this song probably reflects exactly the emotions George was feeling at the time. While not up to the standard of his later compositions, this song did prove that George had potential as a songwriter.
Another stand-out track from this album is George's famous rendition of Roll Over Beethoven (written by Chuck Berry). Nearly thirty years later at George's concerts in Japan, this song was still a popular request.
1964 was a very eventful year for the Beatles. As well as filming their new movie, A Hard Day's Night, the Beatles undertook a massive world tour. As you could imagine, their busy schedule didn't allow too much time for writing songs. But somehow, the Fabs managed to come up with two LP's (A Hard Day's Night and Beatles For Sale), an EP (Long Tall Sally) and a single (I Feel Fine). Of this set, George sang lead vocal on only two songs: I'm Happy Just to Dance With You (Lennon/McCartney), from the Hard Day's Night soundtrack; and Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby (Perkins), from Beatles For Sale.
There was one song that year, however, that George wrote, demo'd and promptly forgot about. This was You Know What To Do, and featured in 1995's Anthology One compilation album.
1965 was another very big year for the Beatles, and a very significant year for George in particular. The Beatles made their second movie, Help! in 1965, appearing for the first time in brilliant colour. The Beatles made the most of their movie-star status, trekking through Austria and the Bahamas to film their new movie. It was on the set of this new movie that George first encountered the sitar, an Indian stringed instrument that was to feature in many of his later songs.
George started to bloom as a songsmith in 1965, with two songs on the Help! soundtrack album (I Need You, and You Like Me Too Much), and another two songs on the album, Rubber Soul (If I Needed Someone and Think For Yourself).
I Need You was the first song the Beatles used an effects-pedal on. The distinctive "Wah-Wah" sound is definitely one of this song's many essential charms. (Would I be alone in saying George's guitar was "gently weeping" in I Need You?). George's emotional singing, combined with the weeping guitar indeed paint a picture of a man lamenting his lost lover.
You Like Me Too Much didn't actually make it onto the movie, but was included on Side B of the Help! album. It's a brighter song than I Need You, but just as intelligent. George may not have been writing many songs at this stage, but the quality of his song-writing (IMO) was definitely on a par with that of Lennon and McCartney.
Our first glimpse of George's new-found talent as a sitar-player also appeared in 1965, when he played on John's song, Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown), that appeared on the album Rubber Soul in December that year.