As much as I’ve grown to appreciate Paul McCartney’s solo and Wings work over the last few years, George Harrison will probably always be my favorite Beatle. He really started to emerge as a songwriter in the group’s later years, and his 1970 triple LP All Things Must Pass is the finest solo album by any of the Fab Four. That said, not all of his 22 Beatles compositions can be winners, and the worst is “Only a Northern Song,” a tedious excursion that takes every psychedelic cliche you can think of, tosses them into a blender, and purees them into a headache-inducing mess.
Much like my famous rum and coke and Chloraseptic cocktail.
George sounds almost as bored singing this song as the listener inevitably will be hearing it. Recorded nearly two years earlier as a Sgt. Pepper outtake, it finally popped up on the Yellow Submarine soundtrack, a project the Beatles barely regarded–George Martin despised “Only a Northern Song,” and John Lennon apparently shrugged it off with a terse, “It’ll do for the film.” The title is a “guess you had to be there” inside joke about Harrison’s song publishing, an agreement far less ideal than Lennon’s and McCartney’s.
The song itself is hardly great, but it’s unfortunate that it’s overwhelmed by so much oddness and indifference. It could have been a passable track with a little more effort on the performance end and a little more restraint on the production side. I do like that bizarre, random harmony on the word “brown” though.