The similarities between George Harrison and Keith Richards are clear as day. Both guitar heroes cultivated an unmistakable style that gave their respective band’s the edge they needed to go on to become world-beaters, all while being genius songwriters. If were you to take Richards out of The Stones, they basically wouldn’t have existed, and the same for Harrison and The Beatles. Vital cogs in their respective machine, it’s no coincidence they’re two of the most influential guitar players of all time.
After Harrison passed away in 2001, Richards discussed his relationship with the ex-Beatle in a special edition of Rolling Stone entitled ‘Remembering George’. Richards explained that the two were kindred spirits and felt that they shared a unique “bond”.
“George and I kind of formed-without talking too much about it, although we did have a laugh here and there-a bond, in that we felt we were kind of fulfilling the same role within our respective bands,” Richards expressed. “It was a nod and a wink to say, ‘Well, they’d be nowhere without us.'”
Richards built on his assertion by saying: “So George and I always used to have that thing of, ‘Well, how’s your ,end holding up?’ He was a very quiet and enigmatic guy in many ways. He had a very sly sense of humor, very quiet. But there was always this unspoken bond between us.”
It’s well known that The Beatles and Rolling Stones shared a bond. They were Britain’s foremost two outfits in the 1960s, and the de facto leaders of the ‘British Invasion’. They were brothers in arms, conquering the world, one record and city at a time. The two bands even inspired one another at certain points as well, giving each other that creative leg up they sometimes needed.
Of Harrison’s artistry, Richards said: “George was an artist who was, because he didn’t write that many songs but the ones he did write were very meaningful, very well worked out, and well thought about, an incredibly meticulous man with respect to his work and to what he wanted to do.”
The Stones axeman continued: “The record speaks for itself- ‘(While My) Guitar Gently Weeps,’ ‘Something’, ‘My Sweet Lord‘. When he did put something out, he worked on it a long time and got it right the way he wanted it, which is a very difficult thing to do, especially when you’re part of something else.”
At another point in the discussion, Richards was asked to give his thoughts on Harrison’s spirituality, which he refused to do because he didn’t know enough about it. Ever the honest friend, Richards did shed more light on what he did know about though, Harrison’s musical ability.
“What I know is that he was a lovely lead guitarist,” Richards posited. “Beautifully understated. The thing is, you’ve got your Jimi Hendrix, you’ve got your Eric Clapton, and then you’ve got guys who can play with bands. And George was a band and a team player.” Richards concluded: “To me, that’s way above being some virtuoso flash artist… George was an artist, but he was also a fucking craftsman.”
Richards was all too aware of the craft that went into Harrison’s work. At another point, he reinforced his points up by explaining the multi-faceted nature of his songs, and how this gave Harrison’s work an individual feel. He said Harrison could produce “a great record anytime”, and it’s true. Harrison blossomed after The Beatles, and enjoyed a prolific solo career, flirting with a whole host of inspirations but always remaining true to his integrity. It’s a testament to Harrison’s artistry that his songs are so enduring.
United in craft and by time itself, it is sure that people will be discussing the parallels between The Beatles and Rolling Stones many years after we have left the mortal world.
Listen to Richards talk about George Harrison below.