Don’t Bother Me - The Beatles

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"Don’t Bother Me" - The Beatles (1964)

George Harrison wrote “Don’t Bother Me” while sick in bed at a hotel room in Bournemouth, England where The Beatles were playing some shows during the summer of 1963. He never regarded it highly, stating on one occasion, "'It was a fairly crappy song. I forgot all about it completely once it was on the album."

He considered it an exercise in whether he could write a song, adding, "At least it showed me that all I needed to do was keep on writing and then maybe eventually I would write something good."

The song is moody, exotic sounding- even quirky in the extreme that features odd percussion effects, stop-start rhythm guitar, and George’s strained, droning vocal. It’s notable for its compositional individualism as George’s voice is desperate without being compelling. There are a lot of crisp breaks- places where the band suddenly stops playing- and although they had only been recording for less than a year, the Beatles already seemed like old hands at making their musical breaks sound sharp. 

The singing is strained and flat, but you barely hear it. The music leaps, then stops cold. It was one of the very first Beatle songs were the singer was not happy at all. In fact, he was hurt- and quite angry- and couldn’t have cared less what people thought. In addition to all that anger and pain, the song was fueled by a powerful driving rhythm.

The sullen mood and desolate lyrics were unusual for The Beatles at the time but would become characteristic for Harrison. Like his other early songs it embodies a guarded narcissism that contrasts with the expressions of rage and lust in other Beatle songs. More than anything else the track established Harrison as the embodiment of the Beatles’ deeper, darker and far more mysterious side. It was a great song by a very strong songwriter who needed the support of his two band mates to have made “Don’t Bother Me” into a great song. 

Commenting on the meaning behind the words,  Professor Ken Womack says:

“The speaker contends that his wayward’s lover absence is plunging himself into a self-imposed isolation in order to wallow in his all-encompassing pain. On the one hand, his love remains unconditional- involuntary, unexplainable- yet on the other, his broken heart can only be mended by the highly individualized expression of her particular love.”

The eerie atmosphere was due in large part of the manipulation of the lead guitar. This track marked an important watershed moment in the early tone-color history as it is here that George’s sound is first manipulated electronically. Late 1963. Throughout the next albums, A Hard Day’s Night, Beatles For Sale, Help! and Rubber Soul- represented the peak of George Harrison’s contributions as lead guitarist of the group.

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