The Beatles song George Harrison found “difficult to sing”

One of the defining elements of most great Beatles songs comes with the harmonies. Although there was the odd collection of songs where one member of the Fab Four sang by himself, the band’s core sound came from hearing John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison break out into vocal harmony together. While the band had refined their chops as a vocal group, one of their final outings contained one of their most difficult passages.

Despite not coming together for the album sessions that would turn into Let It Be, McCartney helped convince the rest of the band to assemble one last time for a final album. While not knowing that it would be their final musical piece together, Abbey Road captured everything that The Beatles were all about in one final package, featuring some of Lennon and McCartney’s finest melodies.

When assembling the model for ‘Because’, though, Lennon found inspiration from classical music to complete the piece. Based on the famous ‘Moonlight Sonata’ by Beethoven, Lennon claimed that the chord progression came from playing those same chords backwards, creating a looping atmosphere that makes the audience feel like they’re floating on air as they listen.

Although the band’s harmonies would be ideal for the song, it needed something more than the traditional approach to vocals. Rather than stick to the occasional harmony vocal here and there, the ‘Threetles’ created a choir with their voices, gently sliding between notes to create a tapestry of sound while Ringo Starr played a steady rhythm in their headphones to keep time.

Once the band had finalised the initial take, George Martin suggested layering the song. Recording over it twice, the final version comprises nine voices singing the song, offset brilliantly by the sparkling sounds of harpsichord and synthesiser throughout the back half of the track.

When talking about the final recording, Harrison would remember how much labour went into getting the final take, saying, “I think this is possibly my favourite one on the album. The lyrics are so simple. The harmony was pretty difficult to sing. We had to really learn it. But I think that’s one of the tunes that will impress most people. It’s really good”.

While the final track is spellbinding, the proper way to experience the vocals didn’t come out until decades later. When working on the compilation album Love, Martin and his son Giles created a version of the track that only includes the vocals amid various nature sounds. Rather than the different piano arpeggios, the song in this state wouldn’t be out of place in a massive concert hall, sounding like the kind of arias from centuries prior updated for the modern age.

The song would also be the warmup for the album’s grand finale on the back half of the record, comprised of different snippets of songs thrown together into one 17-minute suite that gives the listener a sense of closure that The Beatles had finally come to an end. Harrison would prove himself to be a songwriting force of nature in his own right on songs like ‘Something’ and ‘Here Comes the Sun’ from the same album, but ‘Because’ captured a moment of bliss amid the final days of The Beatles.

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