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The Beatles cover George Harrison knew wasn’t a hit

George Harrison had to fight to get his voice heard during the early days of The Beatles. Part of that was metaphoric, considering how his first only self-written song on the first three Beatles albums was ‘Don’t Bother Me’ from With The Beatles. Part of it was literal, considering how Harrison usually only got one lead vocal for each album/live performance.

Even worse, several of Harrison’s early lead vocal turns were written by his bandmates instead of himself. Both ‘Do You Want to Know a Secret’ from Please Please Me and ‘I’m Happy Just to Dance With You’ from A Hard Day’s Night were written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, and both singers had to veto their own desire to sing lead on the tracks before they were shoved onto Harrison.

“We wrote ‘I’m Happy Just To Dance With You’ for George in the film. It was a bit of a formula song,” McCartney unflatteringly explained in the book Many Years From Now. “We knew that in E if you went to an A flat minor, you could always make a song with those chords; that change pretty much always excited you. This is one of these. Certainly ‘Do You Want To Know A Secret’ was”.

He added: “This one anyway was a straight co-written song for George. We wouldn’t have actually wanted to sing it because it was a bit… The ones that pandered to the fans in truth were our least favourite songs but they were good. They were good for the time. The nice thing about it was to actually pull a song off on a slim little premise like that. A simple little idea. It was songwriting practice”.

When his bandmates weren’t writing for him, Harrison would sing cover songs. He actually managed to get three lead vocal turns on With The Beatles, but two of them were covers: Chuck Berry’s ‘Roll Over Beethoven’ and an obscure girl group track called ‘Devil In His Heart’ by the Donays. A quick change in pronouns made it ‘Devil In Her Heart’; not that many fans could track down the original song in the first place.

“Brian [Epstein] had a policy of buying at least one copy of every record that was released,” Harrison explained in Anthology. “If it sold, he’d order another one, or five or whatever. Consequently, he had records that weren’t hits in Britain, weren’t even hits in America. Before going to a gig, we’d meet in the record store after it had shut, and we’d search the racks like ferrets to see what new ones were there… ‘Devil In Her Heart’ and Barrett Strong’s ‘Money’ were records that we’d picked up and played in the shop and thought were interesting”.

Harrison didn’t get much mileage out of ‘Devil In Her Heart’, preferring to play ‘Roll Over Beethoven’ with his one lead vocal spotlight during early Beatles concerts. That spot was eventually taken over by Carl Perkins’ ‘Everybody’s Trying to Be My Baby’ before Harrison finally put his foot down and demanded his own composition fill the spot. That’s how, during The Beatles’ final tour, Harrison wound up singing ‘If I Needed Someone’ from Rubber Soul.

Check out ‘Devil In Her Heart’ below.

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