Upon the dissolution of the band, The Beatles appeared quite keen to tear down the myths and legends that surrounded the biggest band of all time. John Lennon frequently took aim at songs he thought were mediocre in interviews, while Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr were always game to parody their previous mop-top personas.
But it was George Harrison who did the most to reveal the human fallacies that made up the previously God-like band. A big part of that was when Harrison produced The Rutles: All You Need is Cash, the Eric Idle-led feature-length parody of The Beatles career arc and their subsequent transformation from scruffy Liverpudlians to cleaned up teeny-boppers to experimental pioneers. Before and after the film, Harrison delighted in telling reporters that The Beatles weren’t as good as people thought, and he would end up having some choice words himself for the band’s catalogue.
A big target for Harrison was Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band, The Beatles’ legendary LP that Harrison himself was not too fond of. “Sgt Pepper was the one album where things were done slightly differently,” Harrison said in The Beatles Anthology. “A lot of the time … we weren’t allowed to play as a band so much. It became an assembly process – just little parts and then overdubbing… After [the India trip], everything else seemed like hard work. It was a job, like doing something I didn’t really want to do, and I was losing interest in being ‘fab’ at that point.”
It’s not hard to see why Harrison was discontent: his interests were pulling away from the pop music sphere of The Beatles, and even as they were continuing to experiment, Harrison wasn’t happy with the direction they were heading. In the end, he only contributed a single song to the LP, the classical Indian tune ‘Within You Without You’. “George wasn’t very involved in that album,” Paul McCartney would say later. “He just had one song. It’s really the only time during the whole album, the main time, I remember him turning up.”
“There’s about half the tracks I like and the other half I can’t stand,” Harrison told Entertainment Weekly in 1987. “I like most of side one, and I love ‘A Day in the Life,’ and I even like the little Indian one that I did, which is really strange and unique. But there’s a lot of them on there — ‘Fixing a Hole’ and ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’ — which to me are just average.”
It’s interesting that Harrison singles out two McCartney songs. McCartney was the driving force behind Sgt. Pepper’s and contributed most of the material, with Lennon throwing in ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’, ‘Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite’, ‘Good Morning Good Morning’ and the verses of ‘A Day in the Life’.
The rest is largely McCartney, with ‘Fixing a Hole’ and ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’ displaying distinctive echoes of music hall, which McCartney would later tap into on ‘Honey Pie’ and ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’, songs that Harrison also barely hid his disdain for.