How the waltz inspired George Harrison in two Beatles songs

George Harrison wasn’t particularly known as a dancer. While he cuts up a rug during the club scene of The Beatles’ film A Hard Day’s Night, it isn’t like Harrison had any kind of formal training. In fact, if you asked him to tango, Harrison probably couldn’t have put his best foot forward if he tried. But over the 1960s, Harrison was twice inspired by one of the most famous dances of all: the Waltz.

The term “waltz” has come to describe both the dance and the music that accompanies the dance. Traditionally, a waltz is in 3/4 time, slightly off from the 4/4 time signature that most pop music is written in. This distinct triplet came to Harrison’s mind when The Beatles were recording their 1965 single ‘We Can Work It Out’.

“I had the idea, the title, had a couple of verses and the basic idea for it, then I took it to John to finish it off and we wrote the middle together,” Paul McCartney claimed in the book Many Years From Now. “Which is nice: ‘Life is very short. There’s no time for fussing and fighting, my friend.’ Then it was George Harrison’s idea to put the middle into waltz time, like a German waltz. That came on the session, it was one of the cases of the arrangement being done on the session.”

It’s a relatively minor addition, but one that adds a unique edge to ‘We Can Work It Out’. Strangely enough, Harrison would be confronted with the waltz once again while watch the BBC one night in early 1969. After tuning in to see a sci-fi movie, the following programme that night was Europa – The Titled and the Untitled, described as “a look at pomp and circumstance through European eyes.”

The waltz returned to Harrison’s life, and having been inspired by the 3/4 time once again, Harrison wrote a new song that directly confronted the stilted communication and territorial behaviour of The Beatles at the time, ‘I Me Mine’. The following day, Harrison brought a rough draft of the song into the group, which can be seen in Peter Jackson’s The Beatles: Get Back.

“Some music was just playing, music like a 3/4 thing,” Harrison told Ringo Starr on the day. “And so I just had that in me head, the waltz thing, and it was fitting ‘I Me Mine’. There was no words to it.” Harrison then shows off the song to the crew assembled, with director Michael Lindsay Hogg commenting that the new song is “lovely”.

When John Lennon arrives, he is noticeably less interested in the song. The rejection, which Harrison had become accustomed to at that point, eventually leads him to claim, “I don’t care if you don’t want it. I don’t give a fuck. It can go in me musical.”

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