Of all the tracks on the Beatles’ Help!, “You Like Me Too Much” receives the least attention. One of George Harrison’s early compositions, the track did not appear in the movie, nor have critics subsequently studied it in great detail. While it may not match masterpieces such as “Taxman,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” or “Here Comes the Sun,” “You Like Me Too Much” marks another turning point for Harrison’s artistic development. Combining his early rock and roll influences with some dark lyrics, he demonstrates his growth since “Don’t Bother Me” from 1963’s With the Beatles.
Harrison apparently never spoke of the song in subsequent interviews, but what is known is the recording details. Mark Lewisohn’s Complete Beatles Recording Sessions reports that the group began work on “You Like Me Too Much” on February 17, 1965. Recording at Abbey Road Studio Two, under the usual direction of George Martin and engineers Norman Smith and Ken Scott, the group included Ringo Starr on drums, John Lennon on electric piano (he played the same instrument on “The Night Before”), Paul McCartney and Martin on a Steinway grand, McCartney on bass, and Harrison on his Gretch Tennessean and the tambourine as well as lead vocals (double tracked). John Winn’s Way Beyond Compare states that McCartney most likely played piano during the solo and the coda, and may have contributed to backing vocals. Lewisohn points out that the two pianos had not been previously featured on Beatles songs. After completing eight takes — the last was deemed best — Martin, Smith, and Scott completed a mono mix on February 18 and the stereo mix on February 23.
“You Like Me Too Much” was never released as a single, and the Beatles never performed the track live. Apparently, none of them discussed the song after the album’s release, either. Why is a song that has never been ranked as one of George Harrison’s best compositions worth another listen? It represents a transitional phase in his career as a composer, a fusion of his early rock and roll heroes and his own darkly humorous lyricism. Three key elements reveal this artistic potpourri:
1. The piano: Sounding like something out of a rowdy saloon, the piano (with subtle underlying support from Lennon’s electric piano) lends the song a bawdy tone. But the beginning notes and the break also recall earlier influences, namely Fats Domino. The Beatles often proclaimed themselves major fans of the pianist, even requesting to meet him during their September 1964 New Orleans tour stop. Compare the beginning of Domino’s “Blueberry Hill” with the beginning and end of “You Like Me Too Much,” and note the fluttering quality and New Orleans barroom sound present in both.
Another example is Domino’s 1961 single “I Hear You Knocking”: While more understated than the piano in “You Like Me Too Much,” the similarities are striking.
2. Harrison’s guitar solo: While he frequently cited Carl Perkins as a major influence, George Harrison also emulated Atkins’ picking style in terms of using double stops, or playing two notes at the same time. This technique lends depth to the solo, the harmonies adding just a touch of bass to the notes. By incorporating this method into the break, Harrison introduces country twang into the track. A relevant comparison is “Trambone,” the 1961 Atkins-penned track off the album Down Home.
Atkins’ resulting smooth sound is recalled in “You Like Me Too Much,” revealing his great influence on Harrison’s guitar work.
3. The lyrics: The title suggests a sweet love song, as does the chorus: “You like me too much and I like you.” Is the narrator’s romance really that simple? The opening lines suggest otherwise. “Thought you’ve gone away this morning you’ll be back again tonight,” Harrison declares. “You’ve tried before to leave me but you haven’t got the nerve.” If she does try to leave, he states, “I will follow you and bring you back where you belong.” He will admit that he is wrong only if she agrees to stay, and that ultimately “I wouldn’t let you leave me.”
These are dark lyrics for what otherwise sounds like an uptempo romp. George Harrison often enjoyed playing with song conventions, as evidenced by future tracks such as “Piggies” from 1968’s White Album. Over a baroque arrangement, Harrison sings of the title characters “crawling in the dirt” while pig snorts accompany the instrumentation. Solo songs such as “Not Guilty” also play with this seeming musical incongruity, contrasting a gentle arrangement with biting lyrics. “You Like Me Too Much” may be an early experiment in what would become a Harrison songwriting staple.
Alan Pollack wrote in his excellent “Notes On” series that “You Like Me Too Much” is a track that “contains ample substance which attest to its belonging to George, only, especially in its chord progression and the attitude of its lyrics.” Indeed, the seemingly unromantic lyrics remain open to interpretation, a technique Harrison would explore throughout his career. But as he developed his separate artistic identity from the Beatles, he would return to his earliest influences and reinterpret them for his own purposes.
Looking backwards while moving forwards: What an apt description for this hidden Help! track.
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