If you know the history of The Beatles, then you’ll be well aware of the fracturing relationships that severed the band’s ties, at least momentarily, as they split in 1970. While Paul McCartney would bear the brunt of the blame from fans, forgiving the numerous times every other member had left the band before then, the truth is that the group had grown apart as individuals and, creatively speaking, they were moving in different directions.
Perhaps none more so than the work of Paul McCartney and George Harrison. As McCartney sought the pleasures of pop perfection, Harrison was far more concerned with finding inner peace. By the time the band ended, the duo were not in a good place.
At the end of The Beatles reign, McCartney and Harrison were at loggerheads. Sgt. Pepper had seen McCartney take the creative directorship and, across the subsequent album releases, he rarely relinquished control. In the studio, certainly, McCartney’s way of life seemed to rule the roost, and the other band members would just have to watch and follow along. It was part of the reason that Harrison would join up with Ringo Starr and John Lennon in the first few years after the group split to pen songs written about their time with The Beatles and tyrannical Macca.
In truth, that’s a little unfair. McCartney had picked up the mantle of ‘leader’ in 1967, following the death of Brian Epstein and the blissed-out decisions of John Lennon. But to ignore his iron fist when it came to pop music would be to ignore a large chunk of his character. McCartney was a perfectionist. It’s part of the reason he fell out with the band on numerous occasions and a part of why he would routinely reject the songs of George Harrison.
Thankfully, both with the reunion in the ’90s and subsequently in the years that followed, McCartney and Harrison would put their petty dispute behind them. When asked about his friendship with Harrison shortly after his death in 2001, McCartney had some very comforting words to say. He described the ‘Quiet Beatle’, who “didn’t suffer fools gladly,” as a “lovely man” in an interview, before adding: “I love him dearly, I grew up with him, and I like to remember all the good times.”
Later, McCartney continued: “[He was] a fantastic guy, with a great sense of humour. I was lucky enough to see him a couple of weeks ago, and he was still laughing and joking.” The duo had experienced some difficulties throughout their careers, so it is some consolation that those moments appeared to be behind them before Harrison’s death.
With some time and space between them, McCartney could even find more room to appreciate the songwriting skill of George Harrison. Having often picked up his ukulele to perform ‘Something’, a Harrison-penned tune from Abbey Road, in remembrance of the ‘Quiet Beatle’, there is another song one would consider as his favourite from Harrison’s solo career.
When asked by Uncut Magazine in 2004 to compile a list of his favourite songs, McCartney picked out Harrison’s spiritual soarer ‘Marwa Blues’. Of course, whenever you ask a real music fan for their list of favourite songs, you will always get a different answer. A list like that can change from day to day if not hour to hour.
When you imagine this to be picking a favourite from one of your close and personal friends, it must be even harder. So, there is a heavy pinch of salt to be added.
It’s also worth noting that McCartney picked a song from Harrison’s final album Brainwashed, which was released a year after his death. With an eye always firmly on the future, it could be easily suggested that was the reason Macca simply picked his favourite from that record. However, in the gold-gilded resonance of this instrumental song, we can hear everything great about Harrison’s songwriting. Of course, we have no lyrics to mull over, but there’s an authentic sincerity within the track that tells you everything you need to know.
There’s something healing about this song that means it’s not only Paul McCartney’s favourite but a timeless masterpiece too.