George Harrison was often known as the ‘Quiet Beatle’, so one would be inclined to think he never really got into confrontations with the other members of the band. The songwriting partnership, Lennon-McCartney, was the driving engine at the band’s heart, propelling it forward. As such, the spotlight shined mostly on them, so perhaps it is not fair to categorise Harrison as the quiet one; perhaps he simply did not receive as much attention as the others. While the Lennon-McCartney team was mostly in the driver’s seat, Harrison’s contribution as an ingenious guitar player and blooming songwriter, cannot be emphasised enough. In fact, Harrison’s promise for real songwriting talent began with ‘Don’t Bother Me’, which appeared on the Beatles’ With The Beatles album.
While much of the documented drama surrounding The Beatles break-up focuses on Yoko Ono, and Paul McCartney’s discontent with Ono’s ever-increasing presence in the studio, ultimately it would be a cop-out to blame years of nuanced struggles between four unlikely lads from Liverpool on one person entirely. Especially, it has to be said, for a person who was only really trying to help the damaged and lost Lennon to find his voice and his artistic soul once more. Having said that, as soon as Lennon started bringing Yoko Ono into The Beatles’ place of work, where before “no girlfriends or wives were allowed” tensions grew.
In an interview Lennon held with The Rolling Stone following the break-up of The Beatles, he stated: “I had to either be married to them or Yoko, and I chose Yoko, and I was right.” Paul McCartney was fairly open too about his discomfort with Yoko Ono being in the studio. When watching some old footage of The Beatles in the studio, you will notice Ono sat next to Lennon in the midst of the recording session, echoing what Lennon said in that current moment. It’s hard not to see how her presence could have, at the very least, disrupted the then-fragile balance of the band.
On whether McCartney eventually warmed up to Ono, Lennon stated in the interview, “You can quote Paul, it’s probably in the papers, he said it many times at first he hated Yoko, and then he got to like her. But it’s too late for me. I’m for Yoko.” One must have to wonder about what George Harrison felt about Yoko Ono. When Harrison was interviewed on The Dick Cavett Show, Mr Cavett playfully remarked on the chair Harrison was sitting in, “Yoko sat in that very chair”, after which George, coyly, jumped out of the chair, perhaps in a bid for laughs or perhaps as a show of real disdain. So the question remains, how did Harrison really feel about Yoko? Did he, in fact, hate her?
Lennon, in The Rolling Stone interview, spoke about Harrison’s reaction to Lennon bringing Yoko into the coveted inner-circle, “And George, s***, insulted her right to her face in the Apple office at the beginning, just being ‘straight forward’ you know, that game of ‘well, I’m going to be upfront because this is what we’ve heard and Dylan and a few people said she’s got a lousy name in New York, and you gave off bad vibes.’ That’s what George said to her, and we both sat through it, and I didn’t hit him. I don’t know why.”
One can speculate as to precisely why Harrison not only disliked Ono but also seemingly distrusted her. In his brilliant book, Here, There and Everywhere, Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick wrote: “I noticed that something down in the studio had caught George Harrison’s attention. After a moment or two he began staring bug-eyed out the control room window…Yoko had gotten out of bed and was slowly padding across the studio floor, finally coming to a stop at Harrison’s Leslie cabinet, which had a packet of McVitie’s Digestive Biscuits on top.
“Idly, she began opening the packet and delicately removed a single biscuit. Just as the morsel reached her mouth, Harrison could contain himself no longer. ‘THAT B**H!'”.
Despite Harrison’s blunt reactions towards Ono, when he sat down with Dick Cavett on his show in 1971, Harrison ultimately revealed that he didn’t necessarily hate her, and that, similarly to what McCartney had stated before, he didn’t believe Ono broke the band up.
George also showed love and appreciation for his friendship for and with Lennon and Ono. “The group had problems long before Yoko came along. Many problems, folks.” After having some time and distance after the Beatles’ break-up to align his feelings with the events that had unfolded, Harrison acknowledged Ono’s lack of direct involvement. Harrison and Lennon would arguably share one of the more trustworthy relationships following the band’s break up. So, if Harrison had indeed hated Yoko Ono, it was only ever for a short time and, honestly, if your best mate gets a brand new girlfriend, it usually plays out this way.
Watch Harrison on The Dick Cavett Show, as he reacts to Dick saying “Yoko sat in that very chair”.