An Angry John Lennon Described George Harrison’s Affair as ‘Virtual Incest’

John Lennon and George Harrison both had extramarital affairs. This led to the dissolution of both their first marriages, but Lennon was especially upset by Harrison’s behavior. When Harrison finally admitted to his affair, The Beatles were all impacted. Lennon angrily told Harrison that his affair was virtually incestuous.

A black and white picture of George Harrison and John Lennon walking through a crowd together.
George Harrison and John Lennon | Stephen Shakeshaft/Mirrorpix via Getty Images

George Harrison had an affair with Ringo Starr’s wife

Harrison’s marriage to his first wife, Pattie Boyd, had been struggling for a while, but the final blow came when she learned about his affair with Maureen Starkey, Ringo Starr’s wife. 

“The final straw was his affair with Maureen Starr, Ringo’s wife,” Boyd wrote in the book Wonderful Tonight. “She was the last person I would have expected to stab me in the back, but she did.”

Boyd explained that Starkey would come over to their home to spend time with Harrison in the studio. Often, she’d still be there in the morning. One day, Boyd discovered them locked in a room together.

“I stood outside banging on the door and saying to George, ‘What are you doing? Maureen’s in there, isn’t she? I know she is,’ but he laughed,” she explained. “He was supposed to be in the studio and everyone was waiting for him. Eventually he opened the door and said, ‘Oh, she’s just a bit tired so she’s lying down.'”

John Lennon was not happy to find out about George Harrison’s affair

Harrison denied the affair for a while but eventually admitted that he was in love with Starkey. The news did not go over well.

“Ringo worked himself up into a terrible state and went about saying, ‘Nothing is real, nothing is real,'” Boyd explained. “I was furious. I went straight out and dyed my hair red.”

As Starr and Harrison were once bandmates, the betrayal was particularly devastating. Lennon also found Harrison’s behavior upsetting. They had essentially grown up together, and while they didn’t always get along, the bandmates were like brothers. Per the book Stories Done: Writings on the 1960s and Its Discontents by Mikal Gilmore, when Lennon found out about the affair, he angrily told Harrison that it was “virtual incest.”

Like George Harrison, John Lennon also conducted affairs

While Lennon liked Boyd, he likely would not have been nearly as upset if Harrison had had an affair with virtually anybody else. It would be hypocritical if he was: Lennon famously had an affair with Yoko Ono while married to his first wife, Cynthia. Similar to Harrison, the affair was the final blow to their marriage. Still, Lennon once considered taking both Ono and Cynthia on vacation with him.

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George Harrison Thought John Lennon Was Embarrassed of Him

He told Rolling Stone, “I lost me nerve because I was going to take me wife and Yoko and I didn’t know how to work it [laugh]. So, I didn’t do it. I didn’t quite do it.”