When was it recorded? Oct. 16 & 18, 1965
When was it first released, and on which album? Dec. 3, 1965 on “Rubber Soul”
Who wrote it? Harrison
Have I heard this song before? Yep
What my research dug up:
Before we can talk about “If I Needed Someone,” we need to talk about The Byrds. Formed in Los Angeles in 1964, the American quintet “are today considered by critics to be one of the most influential bands of the 1960s. Initially, they pioneered the musical genre of folk rock, melding the influence of The Beatles and other British Invasion bands with contemporary and traditional folk music” (Wikipedia).
The admiration was mutual. According to Rolling Stone, Paul and John attended one of the Byrds’ first British concerts. Paul and George attended one the Byrds’ LA recording sessions in Apr. 1965.
Quoth Wikipedia, “The [Byrds] underwent multiple line-up changes throughout its existence, with frontman Roger McGuinn, a.k.a. Jim McGuinn, remaining the sole consistent member, until the group disbanded in 1973.” The original five members performed together for the last time at their 1991 induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The Byrds’ debut album, “Mr. Tambourine Man,” was released Jun. 21, 1965 and featured the song “The Bells of Rhymney.” Written and originally recorded by America folk singer Pete Seeger, the tune was based on part of the Welsh poem “Gwalia Deserta” by Idris Davies. According to Wikipedia, “The work was inspired by a local coal mining disaster and by the failure of the 1926 General Strike.” Here’s the Byrds’ version since that’s all I care about for now (my sincerest apologies, Pete).
Quoth Rolling Stone, “Two months [after attending their recording session], Harrison paid McGuinn the ultimate compliment with ‘If I Needed Someone,’ a striking blend of cool dismissal and crystalline riffing adapted from McGuinn’s lead lick.”
“George was very open about it. He sent [the record] to us in advance and said, ‘This is for Jim’ — because of that lick.” – Jim (Roger) McGuinn
According to Wikipedia, “If I Needed Someone” is about meeting the right person at the wrong time. The Beatles Bible noted, “The song also revealed Harrison’s burgeoning interest in Indian music. The song is based largely around a single chord, which anticipated the droning styles of later songs such as ‘It’s All Too Much’ and ‘Blue Jay Way.’”
The rhythm track for “If I Needed Someone” was recorded in a single take on Oct. 16, 1965. Quoth Wikipedia, it was “squeezed in just before midnight in a session that had primarily been spent recording their next single, ‘Day Tripper.’” The vocals and Ringo’s tambourine part were added two days later.
“If I Needed Someone” was the only song written by George to be performed during the Beatles’ live concerts. According to the Beatles Bible, “It is believed to have been performed at every Beatles concert in 1966, and was played at their final show at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park on 29 August.”
British beat band The Hollies covered “If I Needed Someone.” Recorded Nov. 17, 1965, the single was oh-so-awkwardly released Dec. 3, 1965… the exact same day the Beatles released “Rubber Soul.”
Even more strangely, the Hollies’ version charted in Britain at #20, making it the first George Harrison-penned song to be a hit. However, Wikipedia noted, “[By The Hollies’] standards it was one of their least successful singles. Many in the public perceived the song as the Hollies attempting to ride on the Beatles’ coattails.” George also later called their version “rubbish” in NME magazine, which started a fight between the two bands.