It is no secret that The Beatles had their issues. Having been propelled into the mainstream and fast-tracked to the very top of the music industry, the Fab Four cemented their legacy as the kings of rock and roll with a back catalogue so vast that they’d never be usurped. However, with all the fast living came in-fighting, creative disparities, a major power struggle and one almighty public fall out.
The break-up of The Beatles in 1970 was the culmination of increasing tension. While there was no ‘one thing’ to spark the end, the cumulative process has been attributed to numerous factors building to an explosion. However, it is widely accepted that the faltering relationship between bassist Paul McCartney and guitarist George Harrison was at the epicentre of the swirling tornado.
McCartney’s grip on the band was growing increasingly tighter as he emerged as the de facto leader of the group after the tragic loss of their manager, Brian Epstein. This, coupled with the rising stock of Harrison as a major songwriter, resulted in the perfect storm. It meant that when the band were recording the sessions for what would become Let It Be in 1969, the tension between Harrison and McCartney was almost unbearable.
By the time The Beatles did call it a day, their feelings famously spilt out into songs. The major headlines were taken by Paul McCartney who famously decided to dig out at John Lennon’s sanctimonious virtue-signalling through ‘Too Many People’ on his solo album Ram, a decision which later led to John Lennon writing the viciously cruel ‘How Do You Sleep?’ firing back at McCartney. While the two principal songwriters went at it, Harrison wouldn’t shy away from the chance to lay a few blows of his own on the standout album All Things Must Pass.
The song in question, ‘Run of The Mill’, was written in 1969 during those infamous Let It Be sessions, and was even penned around the time Harrison temporarily quit the band as the bad blood between the group began to boil over. While the band continued on without the guitarist, hoping he would return as he did, the songs that Harrison was writing at the time were showing huge potential for him to become an imposing figure in music. The fact that Lennon and McCartney didn’t recognise him as such is a large cause of the problems.
George Harrison, later discussing his issues with McCartney, recalled in The Beatles Anthology: “There used to be a situation where we’d go in (as we did when we were kids), pick up our guitars, all learn the tune and chords and start talking about arrangements. But there came a time when Paul had fixed an idea in his brain as to how to record one of his songs…It was taken to the most ridiculous situations, where I’d open my guitar case and go to get my guitar out and he’d say, ‘No, no, we’re not doing that yet.’ … It got so there was very little to do, other than sit around and hear him going, ‘Fixing a hole …’ with Ringo [Starr] keeping the time.”
It was in this revelation by Harrison that the true reason for their issues came to the fore. While McCartney had The Beatles band members locked down by his own ideas, the rest were bubbling with creativity and desperate to be let off the leash. While McCartney ensured Harrison’s guitar was firmly locked inside its case, his mate, John Lennon, frequently allowed the guitarist to express himself in a more care-free manner, gently intertwining with his instrument, impacting the song as he felt right. No more is this sentiment felt than in solos feature on tracks such as ‘Instant Karma‘, ‘How Do You Sleep?’ and ‘Gimme Some Truth’.
In truth, McCartney was in over his head with the stresses and pressure of leading the band. It was at this moment that he made the fateful error of not recognising Harrison’s rise. In fact, Bob Dylan once said of his friend: “George got stuck with being the Beatle that had to fight to get songs on records because of Lennon and McCartney. Well, who wouldn’t get stuck? If George had had his own group and was writing his own songs back then, he’d have been probably just as big as anybody.”
Harrison, of course, put this theory to the test when he released his groundbreaking album All Things Must Pass and gathered huge critical acclaim. If McCartney would have spotted it earlier, who knows what could have become for The Beatles.