The Beatles

If I Needed Someone

Composed by George Harrison

Song Review by

Although George Harrison had written a few songs on Beatles albums prior to Rubber Soul, that LP's "Think for Yourself" and "If I Needed Someone" were the first of his compositions to really make people sit up and notice. Folk-rock in structure, as were many Rubber Soul tunes, the guitar work on this track was specifically reminiscent of the Byrds in its 12-string electric circular ring. Harrison even wrote a letter to publicist Derek Taylor once in which he asked Taylor to tell the Byrds' Roger McGuinn and David Crosby "that 'If I Needed Someone' is the riff from 'The Bells of Rhymney' and the drumming from 'She Don't Care About Time,' or my impression of it." (Both tracks Harrison cited had recently been recorded by the Byrds.) It wouldn't be quite right to accuse Harrison of imitation, since the Byrds and other folk-rockers had taken much of their inspiration from the Beatles, and Harrison's pioneering use of the 12-string electric guitar in rock music, before Harrison started borrowing from them. George Harrison's writing, as opposed to most of Lennon-McCartney's, often had a morose, moody, almost "leave me alone" tone, and that's certainly true of "If I Needed Someone." Harrison is adamant that he doesn't need someone, going as far as telling the someone in the song, probably a girl, to carve her number on his wall, after which he might call her. What girl could resist that come-on, eh? The tune, however, is quite pleasant, and the three-part harmonies are superb, particularly in the final verse, and also in the instrumental breaks, where the group moan-sighs in a wordless, angelic fashion. One vital lesson Harrison did seem to learn from Lennon and McCartney was the importance in contrasting moods of light and shade between the verses and the bridges, as he does here. The bridge takes a far moodier melodic tone than the verses; interestingly, it's the bridge that contains the most positive sentiments of the lyric, in which he declares that he can't get back to the person in question because he's too much in love (with another woman, presumably; that isn't spelled out exactly). "If I Needed Someone," incidentally, was the only Harrison original to be performed live by the Beatles after they became stars, on their final tours in late 1965 and 1966. It also attracted the first cover version of a Harrison composition to meet with some commercial success, as the Hollies took it to the British Top 20 in early 1966, just after Rubber Soul was released. Actually, the Hollies did an atypically listless, unimaginative job with the song, and Harrison himself was not all that pleased, calling it "roobbish" in NME.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Rubber Soul 1965 Apple Records / Capitol 2:22
Yesterday...and Today 1966 Capitol 2:23
The Best of George Harrison 1976 Capitol / EMI Records 2:23
No Image 1984 MGM
The Ultimate Box Set 1995 Capitol 2:23
The Beatles: Stereo Box Set 2009 Capitol 2:22
The Beatles USB 2009 Capitol / EMI 2:22
The U.S. Albums 2014 Capitol / Universal 2:23
No Image