When was it recorded? Jul. 7 – Aug. 19, 1969
When was it first released, and on which album? Sept. 26, 1969 on “Abbey Road”
Who wrote it? Harrison
Have I heard this song before? Yes
What my research dug up:
Early 1969 was a tough time for George. According to Wikipedia, “he had quit the band temporarily [in Jan.], he was arrested for marijuana possession [in Mar.], and he had his tonsils removed.” Of course, the Beatles were on the brink of breaking up and tensions were rising in the studio.
“’Here Comes The Sun’ was written at the time when Apple was getting like school, where we had to go and be businessmen: ‘Sign this’ and ‘Sign that’. Anyway, it seems as if winter in England goes on forever; by the time spring comes you really deserve it. So one day I decided I was going to sag off Apple and I went over to Eric Clapton’s house. The relief of not having to go and see all those dopey accountants was wonderful, and I walked around the garden with one of Eric’s acoustic guitars and wrote ‘Here Comes The Sun.’” — George Harrison (Anthology)
For those who don’t know who Eric Clapton is, Clapton is God. Seriously though, Clapton is a highly influential English musician noted for his work, both solo and with bands like the Yardbirds and Cream. Rolling Stone ranked him #2 in their list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. He was one of George’s best friends and a frequent collaborator until George’s death.
According to Clapton, George wrote “Here Comes the Sun” in April 1969. David Rowley did the footwork in his book All Together Now: The ABCs of The Beatles’ Song and Albums to prove that
- April 1969 set a record for sunlight hours for the 1960s (approx. 189 hours) in the UK
- February 1969 and March 1969 “were much colder than the norm for the 1960s, which would account for Harrison’s reference to a ‘long, cold, lonely winter’” (Wikipedia)
The More You Know.
”Here Comes the Sun” makes notable use of a Moog synthesizer, which George had to have specially made and shipped since they were then only available in America. This song is another “Abbey Road” track that doesn’t feature John, who was absent due to his recuperation from a car accident. George, Paul, and Ringo recorded the rhythm track Jul. 7 and their vocals Jul. 8. The timeline of how everything else shakes out:
- Jul. 16 = Harmonium and handclaps added
- Aug. 6 = George Harrison’s electric guitar part added
- Aug. 15 = George Martin’s orchestra score added
- Aug. 19 = George Harrison’s synthesizer part added
George also recorded a guitar solo on Aug. 6 that was left out of the final mix. A scene from Martin Scorsese’s 2011 documentary “George Harrison: Living In The Material World” shows George’s son, Dhani, George Martin, and his son, Giles, listening to the “lost” solo on the multi-track tapes. The actual guitar part kicks in around 1:00 in if you’re in a hurry.
Here’s the final version, which I’ve had stuck in my head since I read the title this morning.
Here’s the final version PLUS the “lost” guitar solo, if you were curious to hear it without three dudes talking over it.
“Here Comes the Sun” was the B-side of the single “Oh! Darling” in Japan only. Never a single in its own right, the song has nevertheless had enduring popularity. Quoth Pollack, “The song is surely George’s ‘Pastoral.’ Its happy and relaxed mood is a wonderful new point of departure for the composer. It also effectively set a tone of fresh, new beginnings for the second side of the album.”
Reviewer Richie Unterberger hypothesizes the tune’s reception is partially due to how dissimilar it is to George’s other solo Beatles songs. According to Unterberger, “Most of Harrison’s Beatles songs were fairly noted for their dour, brooding qualities. One reason ‘Here Comes the Sun’… attracted so much more attention than his usual efforts was that it displayed a much brighter and livelier attitude than much of his previous work. ”
David Rowley, All Together Now: The ABCs of The Beatles’ Song and Albums