The Beatles’ musical repertoire was largely made up of songs written by the leading songwriting duo, John Lennon and Paul McCartney. However, on a few occasions throughout the Fab Four’s career, Ringo Starr and George Harrison had the opportunity to include some of their own tracks on the records. One of Harrison’s biggest and best known was Taxman, which was included on his seventh studio album, Revolver. But the recording process got bogged down in politics.
Taxman was written and performed by Harrison on the record. However, he just couldn’t figure out how to finish the song perfectly. He felt that he needed a solo, but he couldn’t find anything good enough for the song.
According to Geoff Emerick, a music producer who was there at the time, the rest of The Beatles did not want to spend too much time on Harrison’s song. He wrote about the awkward moment in his book Here, There, and Everywhere. This conflict eventually led the band’s producer, George Martin, to suggest a way out of the guitar solo problem.
He pointed at McCartney and suggested that he give it a try. Emerick said, “This was a Harrison song, after all, and therefore not something anyone was prepared to spend a lot of time on.”
However, he knew instantly that it was not something Harrison wanted.
Emerick said, “I could see by the look on Harrison’s face that he didn’t like the idea one bit, but he reluctantly agreed and disappeared for a couple of hours.”
In those couple of hours, McCartney wrote and recorded the guitar solo that is on Taxman’s final recording. But you wouldn’t be criticized for thinking it was Harrison who played the piece, as Beatles biographer Robert Rodriguez claimed Harrison and McCartney worked together on the solo.
Whether Harrison worked with McCartney on the solo or not, the result was a guitar playing by McCartney that was heavily influenced by Harrison’s playing style.
Years later, Harrison, The Quiet Beatle, recanted how he felt about the guitar solo debacle.
Harrison said: “I was pleased to have [McCartney] play that bit in Taxman. If you notice, he kind of liked India for me.” This was in reference to Harrison’s love and reverence for Indian culture and his devotion to the Hare Krishna movement.
Lennon later revealed that, before McCartney took over the solo, Harrison had already approached the Imagine singer for help.
Lennon told David Sheff in 1980 that he was not willing to help. He said: “I remember the day that [Harrison] he called for help on Taxman, one of his early songs. I threw in some clever lines to help move the song along because that’s what he asked for. He came to me because he couldn’t go to Paul. Paul would not have helped him in that period.”
Lennon confessed, “I didn’t want to do it. I just bit my tongue and said it was okay. It had been John and Paul for so long that it had been left out because I hadn’t been a songwriter until then.”
The Beatles never released Taxman as a single, so it didn’t chart.
However, it marks the continuation of Harrison’s emergence as a prominent songwriter within the band.
Taxman’s lyrics criticize the government for its ruthless tax laws. The idea followed the band being forced to pay more than 90 percent of their profits into the UK treasury.
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