During their career, The Beatles were famed for being one of the more unifying bands around, managing to bring together a whole nation to support their noble musical conquests. Yet, after they split the band couldn’t have been less harmonious, and the inter-band relationships that had been so fraught and so well hidden were now given room to breathe. It eventually saw all four members go their separate ways with a bitter taste in their mouths.
After Lennon had already agreed to leave The Beatles as part of a series of engagements being completed, and with George Harrison having already previously quit the Fab Four, Ringo too following suit, everyone was shocked when Paul McCartney put the final heavy nail in the coffin of the group. Perhaps it was this reason that everyone turned their back on Macca for a while and the singer became the Beatles’ scapegoat alongside Yoko Ono.
Lennon would vent his frustration with his former songwriting partner and best mate through both a series of interviews and some songs, including ‘How Do You Sleep?’ which added fuel to the fire between them. Even Ringo Starr had a pop at Macca on his song ‘Back Off Boogaloo’ calling him a “meathead.” It showcased that no matter your political leanings on this one, McCartney had clearly upset a few people.
Despite a few songs on his debut solo album, George Harrison kept himself relatively quiet on the subject, instead preferring to keep his head down and his star rising—though he did play the guitar on both the aforementioned songs. Arguably though, Harrison and McCartney fell out more than any other members, and their differences seem harder to reconcile. It would be a stumbling block for any potential reunions.
In 1973, the dust had settled a little and the Beatles all seemed to have relaxed into their new roles as solo artists. John Lennon and George Harrison joined Ringo Starr as part of the band for his eponymous solo album and the hints that the group could get back together were being heavily dropped around the music scene, landing with all the weight of the world. By the following year, as McCartney and Lennon began jamming together again, a reunion was certainly on the cards.
Harrison was on his now-iconic 1974 tour and was adding fuel to the reunion fires with a series of Beatles covers in his set. Changing lyrics to songs ‘In My Life’ and ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ hinted that George may be ready to get the band back together—but those hopes were quickly dashed as the old troubles began to raise their ugly heads once more.
Another press conference and another Beatles question this time pushed Harrison over the edge. After saying once again he thought the band were OK but went a little further to say that his bandmate, Paul, wasn’t. It was a dagger in the heart for Fab Four fans who had hoped for something more.
“Paul is a fine bass player, but he’s a bit overpowering at times. To tell the truth, I’d join a band with John Lennon any day, but I couldn’t join a band with Paul McCartney. It’s nothing personal; it’s just from a musical point of view.”
It did nothing to stop the questions and saw Harrison ditch his moniker of the Quiet Beatle and turn confrontational: “Why do they want to see if there is a Beatle George? I don’t say I’m Beatle George,” he said, clearly frustrated by the lack of recognition for his admirable solo career. After all, Harrison had perhaps been most constricted by being in The Beatles, and he seemingly preferred being on his own.
“Gandhi says create and preserve the image of your choice,” he answered one journalist. “The image of my choice is not Beatle George. If they want to do that, they can go and see Wings.” Harrison was arguably in the prime of his musical life and didn’t take kindly to being reduced to another band member, even if it was The Beatles.
It was a quick and decisive viewpoint and one that Harrison would hold right up until the band reunited without John Lennon in 1997 for a special cause. For now, listen to the bitter song Harrison wrote for Paul McCartney.