Song facts: Only a Northern Song

Only a Northern Song was written by George Harrison and recorded by The Beatles in 1967, during the sessions for Sgt Pepper. The song was rejected for inclusion on that album; and instead saw release on Yellow Submarine in 1969. The song also featured in the Yellow Submarine animated film, when The Beatles travel through the Sea of Science.

Origins

Harrison wrote the song because of his dissatisfaction with The Beatles' publishing company and the band's financial arrangement; whereby Lennon and McCartney would stand to make more money off his songs than he would.

"Only A Northern Song was a joke relating to Liverpool, the Holy City in the North of England. In addition, the song was copyrighted Northern Songs Ltd, which I don't own, so: 'It doesn't really matter what chords I play... as it's only a Northern Song'." - George Harrison

Recording  

The Beatles taped the basic track at Abbey Road on February 13th 1967, under the working title Not Known. With Harrison on Hammond organ, Lennon on tambourine, McCartney on bass and Starr on drums the band recorded nine takes, eventually choosing take 3 for further work. Harrison added two tracks and lead vocals the following day on February 14th.

The song was completed on April 20th 1967, after most of the work was finished on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. 

"[The filmmakers] wanted some new songs from us, so we recorded Only A Northern Song in Abbey Road. I remember playing a silly trumpet. My dad used to play. I can't, but I can mess around a lot - and that song gave me the perfect framework. It was very tongue in cheek." - Paul McCartney

Personnel

  • George Harrison – vocal, organ, tape effects, noises
  • John Lennon – piano, glockenspiel, tape effects, noises
  • Paul McCartney – bass guitar, trumpet, tape effects, noises
  • Ringo Starr – drums 

Release

Only a Northern Songwas released on The Beatles' Yellow Submarine album on January 19th 1969, one of only four new Beatles' compositions on that album.

An outtake was also released in 1996 on Anthology 2. This take is slightly sped up and appears without the April 1967 overdubs. There's also some alternate lyrics.

 Yellow Submarine album, 1969. 

Yellow Submarine album, 1969. 

 George Harrison 1967. 

George Harrison 1967. 

Share this post