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Why George Harrison thought the Sex Pistols were negative


George Harrison was raised in Liverpool and knew first hand about the working-class struggle. While he sympathised with the societal issues that the Sex Pistols fought against, he once commented: “You don’t fight negativity with negativity”.

The guitarist grew up in a council house in the impoverished Speke area of Merseyside, and music was his escape to a better life. While The Beatles faced similar battles as Sex Pistols, their music celebrated positivity, and their message of love swept up a generation in ‘Beatlemania’.

When the punk boom arrived in 1977, Harrison held torn feelings on the movement. On the one hand, he could relate to why bands like Sex Pistols felt frustrated at the system and wanted to tear it down. However, the pragmatic part of him felt like they were conveying their message incorrectly.

From a technical perspective, Harrison felt they offered nothing of note. He told Rolling Stone in 1979: “As far as musicianship goes, the punk bands were just rubbish – no finesse in the drumming, just a lot of noise and nothing”.

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Harrison continued, “I felt very sorry when the Sex Pistols were on television and one of them was saying, ‘We’re educated to go into the factories and work on assembly lines’ and that’s their future. It is awful, and it’s especially awful that it should come out of England because England is continually going through depression; it’s a very negative country. Everybody wants everything and nobody wants to do anything for it.

“But it’s a very simple thing; how do you give people money if there is none? The only way you make more money is to work harder. Now that may be all right for me to say because I don’t have to work in a factory, but it’s true. But out of all that is born the punk thing, so it’s understandable. But you don’t fight negativity with negativity. You have to overpower hatred with love, not more hatred”.

At this point, Harrison had been obscenely wealthy for two decades and had begun to lose sight of what everyday people in Britain were going through. Seemingly, he believed that how The Beatles managed to change society was the only applicable method without comprehending that Sex Pistols existed in a contrasting political climate.

Although Harrison professed the need to “overpower hatred with love”, his comments express a similar conservative attitude to the one he exhibited on The Beatles’ ‘Taxman’. Harrison’s background shared a likeness to Johnny Rotten’s, they both played a zeitgeist role in refiguring popular culture — but that’s where the comparisons end.

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