Home » Steven Van Zandt’s Insight: Reevaluating George Harrison’s Impact, Overlooked by Paul McCartney

Steven Van Zandt’s Insight: Reevaluating George Harrison’s Impact, Overlooked by Paul McCartney

In a recent post on X, Steven Van Zandt delved into the topic of George Harrison’s underappreciation by Paul McCartney, prompted by a follower’s question. The user shared the Beatles’ ‘Only a Northern Song’ and queried Van Zandt: “Today marks the anniversary of losing George [Harrison]. I noticed ‘Only a Northern Song’ is, in part, George criticizing Paul [McCartney] for downplaying George’s songs. Is this your interpretation as well?”

Steven Van Zandt’s Perspective on the Real Significance of ‘Only a Northern Song

The guitarist responded, stating: “We don’t commemorate ‘death days’; everyone lives forever in the Underground Garage. Also, I’ve never read that. George was referring to the fact that they all lost their publishing ownership (Northern Songs) since no artist even knew what that was when they started in the ’60s.” ‘Only a Northern Song’ is a Beatles track penned by Harrison. Recorded in 1967 during the sessions for their album ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,’ the song didn’t make it onto the album but was later released in 1969 as part of the soundtrack for the animated film ‘Yellow Submarine.’

Harrison’s Discontent with the Music Business and Northern Songs Ltd

The song’s lyrics echo George Harrison’s discontent with the music industry, specifically directed at the band’s publishing company, Northern Songs Ltd. The title itself serves as a direct nod to this company, as Harrison explained in 1979: “‘Only a Northern Song’ was a jest related to Liverpool, the Holy City in the North of England. Additionally, the song was copyrighted by 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.'”

Despite his lack of significant involvement in creating the Beatles’ album ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,’ Harrison used his composition ‘Only a Northern Song’ as a lighthearted means to express his disappointment in not being a primary songwriter like John Lennon and McCartney, and being limited to recording only a few songs annually. In a 1999 interview with Billboard, the guitarist reflected on being misled by Dick James into signing away his song copyrights as a young adult, mistakenly thinking he was merely securing a publisher. The creation of ‘Only a Northern Song’ served as a humorous outlet for Harrison to vent his frustration upon witnessing the financial success of the songs he had relinquished.

You can check out the tweet below.


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