Arts/Literature

I’m Happy Just to Dance with You: one for George…

“This one anyway was a straight co-written song for George.” – Paul McCartney

“That was written for George to give him a piece of the action.” – John Lennon

George Harrison in ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ (image courtesy NY Daily News)

Like most old musicians, my friend and lead guitarist Steve and I spend a good deal of conversation on our favorite bands. The Beatles are a frequent topic of discussion, as they were on a recent occasion, and we talked about how the presence of three superb songwriters – Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison – gave the band a distinct edge over their main competitors such as The Rolling Stones (2), The Kinks (1), and the Who (1).  That led into a further discussion of John and Paul’s prolific songwriting and domination of their albums and the frustration that George felt as the years went on. The frustration would be relieved by the making of George’s magnum opus, the remarkable three disc set All Things Must Pass.

The conversation then drifted into a consideration of how well John and Paul wrote songs for both George (“Do You Want to Know a Secret” in addition to “I’m Happy Just to Dance with You”) and Ringo (“Yellow Submarine,” “I Get by with a Little Help from my Friends,” and the lovely “Good Night” from the White Album). We talked a little about how well John and Paul intuitively understood George’s tessitura and wrote songs that suited his more limited vocal range.

“I’m Happy Just to Dance with You” is a perfect example.

It’s a typical piece of lightweight teenybopper appealing love goo, as the lyrics reveal:

I’m Happy Just To Dance With You

Before this dance is through
I think I’ll love you too
I’m so happy when you dance with meI don’t want to kiss or hold your hand
If it’s funny try and understand
There is really nothing else I’d rather do
Cos I’m happy just to dance with youI don’t need to hug or hold you tight
I just want to dance with you all night
In this world there’s nothing I would rather do
Cos I’m happy just to dance with you

Just to dance with you
It’s everything I need
Before this dance is through
I think I’ll love you too
I’m so happy when you dance with me

If somebody tries to take my place
Let’s pretend we just can’t see his face
In this world there’s nothing I would rather do
Cos I’m happy just to dance with you

Just to dance with you
It’s everything I need
Before this dance is through
I think I’ll love you too
I’m so happy when you dance with me

If somebody tries to take my place
Let’s pretend we just can’t see his face
In this world there’s nothing I would rather do
I’ve discovered I’m in love with you
Cos I’m happy just to dance with you

As Paul explained to an interviewer, it’s one of those songs:

We wouldn’t have actually wanted to sing it because it was a bit… The ones that pandered to the fans in truth were our least favourite songs but they were good. They were good for the time. The nice thing about it was to actually pull a song off on a slim little premise like that. A simple little idea. It was songwriting practice.

The truth is, though, the song has a great deal of jangly charm and George sings it very well because John  and Paul wrote it to suit his voice and, as John noted above, “to give him a piece of the action.” Its appearance in their film A Hard Day’s Night expanded its reach and popularity. Interestingly, too, the song has been covered by numerous artists including those as diverse as Anne Murray and The Smithereens.

Here it is done by the Fabs, George singing the lead:

One last thought: in that conversation I was discussing above, Steve and I had an interesting revelation. While John and Paul wrote songs for George to sing, George never wrote one for John or Paul to sing. Worth noting, if not easily explicable….

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