There have been plenty of times over The Beatles’ years that the band members fell out with each other. One bond that seemed unshakeable within the band was John Lennon and George Harrison, the Fab Four two guitarists and, arguably, the group’s dangerous side. Harrison and Lennon even cemented their bond as they explored mind-expanding drugs by each other’s side. But they had their issues too.
Even when the duo was still working within The Beatles, they struggled to see eye to eye at all times. One notable moment of tension came in 1969 when Harrison aimed at Lennon’s love, Yoko Ono, claiming her reputation was “lousy” with his new New York pals. It was enough to bring him and Lennon to blows as the bespectacled Beatle defended the honour of his soul mate. The truth is, the argument was actually about far more than that.
Behind the thinly-veiled barbs for Yoko Ono was a deeply insecure man. Harrison’s songwriting talent had come on leaps and bounds, and he was frustrated that the band, and especially his longtime friend Lennon, wasn’t giving him the time, space and respect that he deserved. The run of events led to Harrison briefly leaving the band and garnering a snide response from Lennon, who said: “Let’s get in Eric [Clapton]. He’s just as good and not such a headache.”
Eventually, the two patched things up enough to release two more albums with The Beatles, but a dye had been cast on their friendship. Once the and officially broke up, a clear Lennon-McCartney divide opened up into a chasm and, seemingly, Harrison chose to side with his old pal, John. Not only was he happy to contribute guitar parts to Lennon’s album Imagine, but he was also on the axe for Lennon’s own attack on Macca ‘How Do You Sleep?’. It hinted that the pair’s friendship had been mended for good.
Sadly, as the seventies wore on, that relationship deteriorated once more, with their friendship at breaking point before Lennon’s untimely death. One moment cemented that deterioration — The Concert For Bangladesh.
The benefit concert was a landmark occasion for George Harrison. With it, he not only proved his own theory that you could use the platform of a pop star to enact benevolent excursions but that he was now the main attraction. With help from Ravi Shankar, Harrison recruited a mammoth list of stars to perform, including Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton; he even extended the invite to his old Beatles pals.
Paul McCartney seemingly rejected the idea outright, claiming that it was too close to the Beatles break-up and he had not properly healed from the split. As affable as ever, Ringo Starr dutifully showed up with a smile and got behind the drum kit. John Lennon was equally happy to attend and had planned to do so until Harrison put one proviso in place: no Yoko Ono. At the time, Lennon was fighting the case for Ono on so many fronts that this omission of his wife must have felt like a real blow.
Harrison and Lennon seemingly rekindled their relationship in 1974 as the All Things Must Pass singer made his way backstage at Madison Square Garden to congratulate his old pal.
So in 1974 with Harrison in New York and Lennon taking part in one of his rare live performances, and much of their disagreements feeling further and further away, the opportunity to reconnect was too good to turn down. George made his way to see his old friend John at Madison Square Garden and tried to put out the smouldering remains of their Beatles bridge. In the audio from the meeting, which you can hear below, the pair shared their thoughts on writing their lyrics as well as how Lennon was a more than changeable character. After discussing Harrison’s favourite Beatles songs ‘Strawberry Fields’ and ‘Norwegian Wood’, the duo then discuss their admiration for Bowie or “David Boo-wee as he’s called in America”.
Sadly, their relationship took a turn for the worse just before John Lennon’s death. Released in August 1980, George Harrison’s autobiography I, Me, Mine became a fork in the Fab Four road. Harrison had experienced great success away from the band and, while he reflected on his time in the most famous band in the world, he was sure to impart his new view of the world on his re-telling of it. The book was full of behind-the-scenes revelations, but the lack of attention on Harrison and Lennon’s relationship seemingly rocked the usually untouchable Lennon.
“By glaring omission in the book, my influence on his life is absolutely zilch and nil,” Lennon said when speaking with David Sheff for Playboy. “In his book, which is purportedly this clarity of vision of each song he wrote and its influences, he remembers every two-bit sax player or guitarist he met in subsequent years.
Within the conversation, John Lennon went one step further to denounce their relationship, claiming he acted more as a leader. Harrison followed him around like a disciple or, even worse, a Fab Four fan. Considering Harrison didn’t speak about the Beatles band members in any great detail, there’s a good argument to say Lennon was overly sensitive, something Harrison addressed in his song for Lennon ‘All Those Years Ago’.
It’s a stark reminder that we never know what is around the corner and that we should always make sure those we love, or have loved, know their importance.