It’s fair to say that if any relationship suffered the most when The Beatles did eventually break-up in 1970 after some months of in-fighting, it was George Harrison and Paul McCartney’s. The latter had become the de facto leader of the group after the tragic loss of their manager, Brian Epstein, and John Lennon’s head being slowly turned away from the group by Yoko Ono and his increasing heroin use.
It meant when the band were recording the sessions for what would become Let It Be in 1969, the tension between Harrison and McCartney was almost unbearable. By the time The Beatles did call it a day, their feelings spilt out into songs. Paul McCartney famously digging at John Lennon’s sanctimonious virtue-signalling through ‘Too Many People’ on his solo album Ram led to John Lennon writing the viciously cruel ‘How Do You Sleep?’ firing back at McCartney. While they took the headlines, Harrison wouldn’t shy away from the chance to lay a few blows of his own on the standout album All Things Must Pass.
The song in question was written in 1969 during those infamous Let It Be sessions, and was even penned around the time Harrison temporarily quit the band as the bad blood between the group began to boil over. While the band continued on without the guitarist, hoping he would return as he did, the songs that Harrison was writing at the time were showing huge potential for him to become an imposing figure in music. The fact that Lennon and McCartney didn’t recognise him as such is a large cause of the problems.
Bob Dylan once said of his friend George Harrison, “George got stuck with being the Beatle that had to fight to get songs on records because of Lennon and McCartney. Well, who wouldn’t get stuck? If George had had his own group and was writing his own songs back then, he’d have been probably just as big as anybody.” Harrison puts this theory to the test when he released his groundbreaking album All Things Must Pass and gathered huge critical acclaim.
On the second side of that album began ‘Run of the Mill’, a song aimed squarely at Paul McCartney. Harrison told The Beatles publisher in 1979 that he had grown tired of Paul McCartney around the time he wrote the song and felt he was going around the Apple offices, saying: “‘You’re no good’ – everyone was just incompetent (the Spanish Inquisition sketch). It was that period – the problem of partnerships.” It pushed Harrison to pen this song.
Lyrically, the song is as strong as anything he wrote for The Beatles, Harrison starts singing about choices being made and “when to and not to raise their voices”. In the chorus section, he then ponders on how “no one around you can carry the blame for you.” Then the track moves from being theorised and is pointed directly at McCartney. Considering Harrison had maintained strong friendships with Lennon and Ringo Starr, when he sings “how I lost your friendship,” it can only be about Macca. He even answers the question too, “I see it in your eyes, Though I’m beside you, I can’t carry the blame for you.”
The song goes down as one of Harrison’s most pointed tracks. More often than not, Harrison was concerned with spirituality and the internal struggles but on this track, he chose to put his feelings on the canvas and aim one directly as McCartney. Luckily, the two became close friends again before Harrison’s tragic death in 2001.