For all that “Only A Northern Song” devolves into aimless free jazz noodling and one of George Harrison’s most dirgy melodies (I think it’s really his particularly flat vocal that makes it feel that way; it almost sounds as if it was recorded and then slowed down, oddly enough), there are two things that make his song worth keeping on your digital music device of choice. The lyrics, obviously, are one; somewhere between sarcastic good natured ribbing and bitter meanness about the Lennon/McCartney dominance of the band’s songwriting chores (“Northern Songs” being the publishing company that took care of songs by the two during their Beatles output, for those who didn’t make the connection through the lyrics alone). Suddenly, lines like “If you’re listening to this song/You may think the chords are going wrong/But they’re not/He just wrote them like that” and the much more bitter “It doesn’t really matter what chords I play/What words I say or time of day it is/When it’s only a Northern Song” make a little more sense, right…?
Less meta and more groovy is the second reason: Listen to that spectacular opening.
Man, work that organ. Both of Harrison’s original contributions to the Yellow Submarine soundtrack have this same thing going on: Unworked, somewhat ramshackle songs with absolutely blinding openings. And as great as “Only A Northern Song” is, I’m seriously not sure if many other Beatles song had an opening quite as wonderful as “It’s All Too Much”:
Seriously. The first 45 seconds of that song.