John Lennon isn’t exactly known for his support of the other Beatles’ solo careers. He stomped all over Paul McCartney’s, that’s for sure, going so far as to use his Imagine album to poke fun at his former bandmate in the track ‘How Do You Sleep?, in which Lennon sings: “The only thing you done was ‘Yesterday’/And since you’ve gone you’re just another day”. But what about George Harrison? John and George certainly weren’t on great terms when The Beatles went their separate ways, but they were hardly rivals in the same way that Lennon and McCartney were. Well, here we take a look at some of the comment’s John made in 1971 following the release of Harrison’s All Things must Pass — and they’re not too pretty, I must say.
Having sat down with Jann S. Wenner in ’71, John Lennon was asked to appraise the work of his one-time Beatles bandmate, George Harrison. Following the Beatles split, the group went under something of a reappraisal. With all of the members now pursuing separate solo careers, it seemed the perfect time to really nail down who had been the artistic genius behind the group’s success. Lennon, however, wasn’t forthcoming in offering a critique.
“I don’t want to assess him,” John began. “George has not done his best work yet. His talents have developed over the years and he was working with two fucking brilliant songwriters, and he learned a lot from us. I wouldn’t have minded being George, the invisible man, and learning what he learned. Maybe it was hard for him sometimes, because Paul and I are such ego-maniacs, but that’s the game.”
Crikey, it appears as though that ego-mania hadn’t died down by 1971. Lennon couldn’t even accept that Harrison’s songwriting talent – which produced the likes of ‘Here Comes The Sun’, ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ and ‘Something’ – was his own. Instead, it was the result of spending so much time around McCartney and himself. Indeed, Lennon seemed to have little interest in any of Harrison’s work that was separate from The Beatles. “The best thing he’s done is [‘Within You Within You’], still for me,” John said. “I can’t assess his talents. He’s not the kind of person I would buy the records of…. I don’t want to hurt his feelings. But personally, I think it’s nothing”.
Nothing. Lennon considered everything from ‘My Sweet Lord’ and ‘What is Life’ to be absolutely nothing, unworthy of any praise whatsoever. That’s amazing to me, especially considering Harrison’s solo album All Things Must Pass is widely considered one of his best works. I have an inkling that Lennon was running scared in 1971. With The Beatles, he’d been the big cheese, the daddy songwriter. The Beatles split, however, levelled the playing field, leaving Lennon’s reputation as some great poetic genius vulnerable to reappraisal. Perhaps his rejection of Harrison’s work was a way of fighting against this inevitable re-interrogation.