While the Beatles are in general a very highly rated band, one area of their career that I feel occasionally gets passed over is their earliest years, performing at clubs in Hamburg and Liverpool and covering songs by a wide range of artists, while also introducing some of their original songs that would later become classics. To hear many of these early songs, I recommend Anthology 1 and Live at the BBC. I noticed while listening to these songs that George sings lead on many of them, which made me very happy, of course! He seemed to be almost as featured a singer as John and Paul back in those days. Here are some highlights of the two afore-mentioned albums that I think are generally overlooked:
1. Three Cool Cats
I don’t know if I can accurately describe how much I love George’s voice on this song. So I’ll just say it: I LOVE HIS VOICE ON THIS SONG!!! He was really a fantastic singer and could rock out with the best of them, including John and Paul. Also, hearing George say “cats,” “chicks,” “candy bar,” “swinging their hips,” and “potato chips” all in one song, in his adorable Liverpudlian accent, is enough to make me fall in love with him. Never mind everything else about George; just hearing his voice is enough! On a different note, hearing John say “Hey man, save one chick for me!” always makes me laugh.
2. The Sheik of Araby
Another song sung by George, with John and Paul doing some funny background vocals. I think this song dates from the 1920s. No, I don’t know what the “unghhungh” sound at 0:24 and 1:03 is supposed to be, but it’s pretty funny!
3. Cry For A Shadow
This song is notable mainly because it’s the only song known to be credited Lennon/Harrison, and it’s one of the few released instrumentals in the Beatles’ catalog. I really like this song because of the cool guitar sound throughout, and to think that George was only about 17 or 18 when this was recorded, and already playing guitar at such a high level, is amazing.
4. Like Dreamers Do
This song, contrary to the previous three, features Paul on lead vocals, and I think he’s trying to do some sort of Elvis impression. In any event, he sounds great, and I love the intro.
I was pleasantly surprised to find there was a Beatle version of this song, since I had heard it before sung by different artists. The energy here is wonderful, and it’s a great song that the Beatles made even greater by covering. Well done lads!
6. I’ll Be On My Way
I think this is a really great song from the early years that could have easily been a hit single. It’s got everything a great Beatles song should have: catchy melody, lovely lyrics, and well performed vocals and harmonies. All in all, a pretty good effort for a bunch of teenagers. (of course, even when they were just starting out, the Beatles were WAY more than just a bunch of teenagers!)
7. Don’t Ever Change
I couldn’t go more than a few songs without stopping to talk about George again, so here he is singing with Paul. I wish they sang lead together more often, as they sound perfectly lovely harmonizing together. This is such a sweet song, and I wish there was a video of them singing it live. Unforunately, there is no surviving footage of the Beatles from the Cavern, apparently, except for this…
8. Some Other Guy
This rendition of “Some Other Guy” is just outstanding. This could have easily had a place on “Please Please Me” and no one today would think twice about it. One of my favorite Beatle covers for sure. I love it! Plus, they look so young and cute in this video. George was probably 18 or 19 here… Only 3-4 years older than I am now! If only… 🙂