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Why George Harrison rejected Paul McCartney and John Lennon’s ‘big idea’

Within The Beatles, George Harrison may have been dubbed ‘The Quiet One’ but quite often he turned out to be the voice of reason. They were a band of contrasting ideologies that came together to form a wonderful whole. Harrison’s way of viewing things may very well be summed up when he posited, “Fame is not the goal and money, although it’s nice to have it can buy you a bit of freedom, and you can go to the Bahamas when you want, it’s not the answer. The answer is how to get peace of mind and how to be happy that’s really what we’re supposed to be here for.”

Thus, with his laidback views at heart, amid the unrest of The Beatles, Harrison proved to be a steadying influence. This is something that Peter Jackson reflected on recently prior to the release of the forthcoming documentary The Beatles: Get Back. Get Back features previously unseen footage from the band’s Let It Be Sessions which famously culminated in their iconic performance atop the Apple Records headquarters in London.

The Lord Of The Rings director used 55 hours of unreleased videos of the band from that tumultuous year in 1969, filmed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg. He also had access to over 140 minutes worth of unheard audio from those same sessions. As such, Jackson has now been privy to the intimate relationships between the band during this period. 

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When speaking recently, Jackson remarked: “George, I love. One, he’s the pragmatic one which everyone needs that.” Listing off examples of Harrison’s level-headed ways, Jackson recalls Lennon and McCartney having one of their ‘big ideas’ and while Ringo Starr seems to keep his nose out of it, Harrison was quick to diplomatically reject. 

“There’s this thing where they go to Libya to do a concert in the empty theatre,” Jackson said at the press conference for the documentary. “They realize that in Libya, John’s thinking as the sun comes up, we can play the middle 8. They’re all going wow, wow. Paul and John are having this romantic notion. They realize hang on, that means the audience are going to be Arabs. They won’t be able to understand us, they’re not Beatles fans.”

He then recalls, the swift plan the songwriting duo had to get around this seemingly insurmountable hurdle. Okay, we’ll bring all the audience from England. We’ll hire the QE2, we’ll bring them here, we’ll go to Libya, we’ll bring over the audience on the QE2.” QE2 being the Queen Elizabeth 2 a now-retired Ocean liner capable of housing 1800 passengers.

Harrison, however, wasn’t having any of it. Citing it as a ludicrous idea, Harrison promptly tried to make the band, who had stopped touring in 1966, see that hiring a privately owned cruise ship simply to ferry British passengers over was beyond impractical.

As Jackson says the footage reveals, “You just see George, ‘I think it’s a bloody stupid idea. What a stupid idea,’ You think God, George, you’re the sensible guy in the room. You’re the sensible one. It’s fun because he’s that really pragmatic guy. He’s very, very funny, George.”