George Harrison’s relationship with his career was a complicated one. In truth, the politics of the industry were always a sticking point for the late guitarist, a situation that ultimately soured his experience. At one point, he even gave up making music solely for this reason alone.
Even throughout the days of The Beatles, Harrison was no stranger to the dirty side of the business, and he had witnessed it on multiple occasions. This other working of music was always the one facet of making art that dampened his spirits, and it soured some of the triumphant heights that he scaled throughout his career.
Harrison first became disillusioned and unmotivated to write in 1967 due to his derisory deal as a junior songwriter with The Beatles’ publishing house, Northern Songs, who he felt had ripped him off. In response, he penned the playful ‘Only A Northern Song’, which expressed his frustrations with the company.
In the Anthology, Harrison opened up about the circumstances which inspired the song, and it represented a sign of things to become a decade later. He explained: “‘Only A Northern Song’ was a joke relating to Liverpool, the Holy City in the North of England,” he said. “In addition, the song was copyrighted Northern Songs Ltd, which I don’t own, so: ‘It doesn’t really matter what chords I play… as it’s only a Northern Song'”.
At this point, Harrison had allowed this issue to cloud his mind, and it had started to impact his creativity. A decade later, The Beatles had split up, and his problems had swelled even further once The Chiffons’ publishing house Bright Tunes Music noticed the similarities in ‘My Sweet Lord’ to ‘He’s So Fine’, which was the final straw for the guitarist.
The former Beatle later revealed that his songwriting drought lasted for an entire year throughout 1977, and Harrison started to fester a true hatred for his profession. In an interview, he explained that he’d “turned off from the music business altogether”.
Harrison had drifted out of the loop of contemporary music and was relishing his time out of the limelight. Additionally, the former Beatle didn’t need to make music to pay the bills and, instead, undertook time to focus on living in the present.
He continued: “I am a bit out of touch with the other music. There’re certain artists that I always like to listen to, but I don’t listen a great deal to the radio. I just got out of it – I was ‘skiving,’ as the English say. Everybody else doesn’t notice, because if your past records still get played on the radio, people don’t notice that you’re not really there. But I just got sick of all that.”
He had no ambitions to be the most famous star in the world, and Harrison put this “down to ego”. Elaborated, Harrison noted: “You have to have a big ego in order to keep plodding on being in the public eye. If you want to be popular and famous, you can do it; it’s dead easy if you have that ego desire. But most of my ego desires as far as being famous and successful were fulfilled a long time ago.”
After his year spent living a blissful existence alongside his partner, Harrison decided to return to the studio, and throughout 1978, he created his sunny eponymous eighth studio album, which arrived the following term.
While his decision to turn his back on music came after the industry had made him reach boiling point, conversely, it helped Harrison realise that his world didn’t solely around being an artist, and it liberated him.