When Paul McCartney looked back at his work in The Beatles, “And I Love Her” stood out to him as a milestone. At that point (early 1964), Paul hadn’t yet earned his reputation as a brilliant balladeer. That started to change after he wrote “And I Love Her.”
“It was the first ballad I impressed myself with,” Paul said in his biography Many Years From Now (1997). And John Lennon agreed with him. Thinking back on their rise as songwriters, John described Paul’s Hard Day’s Night gem as a warmup for “Yesterday.”
While John and Paul collaborated on many songs in those days, John had only minimal involvement in the writing of “And I Love Her.” (He probably helped with the middle section.) But Paul definitely hadn’t completed the track when he brought it into the studio.
In fact, he hadn’t written the famous four-note riff that opens the song. On the day of the recording session, George Harrison came up with that on the spot. Paul thought the hook made the song what it is.
Paul McCartney said George Harrison came up with the ‘And I Love Her’ riff in the studio.
While Paul played guitar,he couldn’t do everything. And when he walked into the studio to show George and Ringo Starr “And I Love Her,” he hadn’t come up with an opening bit.
In the documentary Living in the Material World, Paul explained how the process would often go in the early days. “We’d go in the studio, 10 in the morning, and this was the first time George and Ringo had heard any of the songs,” Paul said.
After showing George the chords and working through the arrangement for both he and Ringo, The Beatles would start to construct the song, bit by bit. As Paul explained, sometimes they’d come up with great parts in a heartbeat.
“This is how good they were,” Paul said. “On my song, ‘And I Love Her,’ I had ‘I give her all my love.’ But then George comes in with, [humming the opening riff] ‘doo-doo-doo-doo.’” To Paul, that lick made all the difference.
Paul said, ‘THAT’S the song!’ about George’s riff. Paul marveled at George’s impact on “And I Love Her.” “Now you think about that [riff]: THAT’s the song!” he said. “You know, he made that up at the session. He nicked the chords and we just said, ‘It needs a riff.’ I didn’t write that!”
George nailed down many famous Beatles guitar parts that way. In Rolling Stone, Tom Petty recalled a conversation he had with George one day when “You Can’t Do That” came on the radio. After George told him he created that signature riff on the spot, Petty asked how.
“I was just standing there and thought, ‘I’ve got to do something!’” Petty recalled George saying. Obviously, Paul had a few of these stories to tell. So did Ringo, for whom George cranked out the memorable opening to “Octopus’s Garden” at the end of the Beatles’ run.