In 1968, James Taylor signed a contract with the Beatles’ burgeoning record label, Apple, making his self-titled debut LP the company’s first release from a non-British artist. But securing that lucrative deal was intimidating for the then-unknown singer-songwriter, who auditioned for Paul McCartney and George Harrison. Taylor reflected on that nerve-racking experience with Seth Meyers on Thursday’s Late Night, admitting he was “clinically nervous” as he played for half of the Fab Four.
Taylor recalls landing his big break after a friend passed on his reel-to-reel demo to Peter Asher, Apple’s head of A&R, who then set up the audition. (“It was really the epitome of being in the right place at the right time,” he says.) Taylor performed “Something In the Way She Moves” – “the best song [he] had at the time” – with little mental preparation. “Thankfully, he [only] told me about an hour before it was going to happen,” he says. “I wouldn’t have slept for a week if it had been a week ahead.”
Meyers observes that Taylor’s song had a direct influence on the Harrison-penned Beatles classic “Something,” a centerpiece of 1969’s Abbey Road. But Taylor says he owed them one to begin with. “I had stolen everything I possibly could from the Beatles,” he admits. “Particularly with people who aren’t trained musicians, like I was – a folk musician or whatever you’d call it – I think we recycle a lot of stuff. You listen to stuff, and it crops back up. If you do it too much then you go to court. But you learn to walk that line.”