The news of The Beatles split hit the headlines some 50 years ago, a transcendent moment which would rock the world of music and cause a seismic shift in popular culture. However, before Paul McCartney’s infamous interview in which he proclaimed his partnership with John Lennon over, the tensions between the band had already been growing to an uncontrollable level.
In fact, Lennon had even been creating his own solo record aside from the band for some time. While the bubbling undercurrent of ego wasn’t just reserved for the iconic songwriting partnership, George Harrison had also been growing weary of his position in the group, Ringo had already walked out on the Fab Four once and the cracks within one of the most important bands in history were wide enough for the world to see.
At the very beginning of the band, during its conception, the hierarchy was relatively clear as Lennon and McCartney were the lead songwriters and principal singers and it was a formula which asserted commercial and critical acclaim with rapid speed. While the success was undoubted, Harrison’s songwriting skills were quickly developing and, by the 1968 record The Beatles, the guitarist had clearly begun to carve out his own ascendancy.
While the group’s success was shared, it was clear that McCartney and Lennon were most intent in pushing their career forward, it was a frustrating moment in time for Harrison. The guitarist’s songwriting was equal to the partnership and, on Abbey Road, Harrison proved it. With some beautiful songs on the album, the real moment of perfection was on the triumphant single ‘Something’.
Lennon liked the song so much he suggested that he, McCartney and Harrison should all share songwriting duties on the next album. Sadly there would never be one. After McCartney announced the band’s split, Harrison was finally allowed to air his own grievances with being in the biggest band in the world. On May 1st 1970, Harrison joined New York DJ Howard Smith to share his thoughts on what he didn’t like about being in The Beatles. Though he agreed it would be easy to get all four members of the band into the same studio, there would be some serious challenges. “I’m certainly ready to be able to try and work things out,” Harrison said.
He continued: “But if whoever I’m with is full of hassles then I’m not going to be with him, am I. I’m gonna go with somebody else. That’s really how things happened for me when I got tired of being with The Beatles.” The guitarist laid the blame at the feet of one member in particular.
Paul McCartney is the man Harrison found most difficult to work with, “Musically it was like being in a bag and they wouldn’t let me out the bag, which was mainly Paul at that time,” he commented. “The conflict musically for me was Paul. And yet I could play with any other band or musician and have a reasonably good time,” he added.
After more questions from Smith, Harrison eventually concedes that perhaps the issues arose from the fact Macca could never accept how Harrison grew as a musician. Having been friends from school, Harrison had suddenly grown into a rival.
“Everybody changes and sometimes people don’t want other people to change,” Harrison told Smith. “Or even if you do change they won’t accept that you’ve changed.” If you ever needed proof that John Lennon and Paul McCartney overlooked the burgeoning writing talents of George Harrison than his epic song ‘All Things Must Pass’ is all the proof you need.
Harrison concludes, “He still acted as if he was the groovy Lennon/McCartney.” It’s clearly an area of emotional vulnerability for George “What I’m saying is that I can be Lennon/McCartney too, but I’d rather be Harrison, you know.”