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After The Beatles split, George Harrison said people came in “grabbing and plundering as much as they could.” Everyone wanted a piece of one of the most successful bands of the 1960s. However, George said they wouldn’t get away with it.

The Beatles posing outside their manager, Brian Epstein's, home in London, 1967.
The Beatles | Jan Olofsson/Getty Images

The Beatles’ split was good, according to George

Many people blamed Yoko Ono for The Beatles’ split, but George told Dick Cavett on The Dick Cavett Show that the group had problems long before she met John Lennon. He said he had a good time in the band, but it was also good to carry on doing something else. They didn’t have to compromise anymore.

By 1970, The Beatles had grown apart. Paul McCartney was busy making his songs. John wanted to make music with Yoko and protest the world’s problems. George wanted to make spiritual albums and possibly stop making music altogether. Ringo was happy to play drums on anyone’s records and his own.

However, when The Beatles broke up, they left room for everyone to come in and steal everything they’d done.

After The Beatles split, George said people came ‘grabbing and plundering’

In a 1987 interview with Creem Magazine, George spoke about what happened to The Beatles’ catalog shortly before they split.

The Beatles’ music publisher, Dick James, who earned a high percentage of the band’s publishing company, Northern Songs, sold the company to ATV Music without letting John or Paul buy him out. Then in 1985, Michael Jackson bought ATV Music. George was thankful he didn’t write as many Beatles songs as John and Paul.

ATV Music owned the publishing rights to all of The Beatles’ songs, while EMI and Capital owned the recordings. However, that wasn’t the only thing stolen from the group.

“Through the years, it seems, all this stuff has seeped into society and they tend to look upon it as public domain,” George said. “It’s the same with that Beatlemania stuff­ we had to try and stop people from do­ing these things in order to establish, ‘Look, we’re here, we’re humans, we ex­ist, and there’s laws of names and like­ness.’

“They’re doing it all over the place: But they’re do­ing it to us and we’re not even dead yet. It’s like the Beatles were the most ripped­ off people of all time, and, as for the rec­ord company, they should be ashamed of themselves.

“It’s one thing to treat some artist who’s here today and gone tomorrow with your crummy little royalty rate and treat ’em like trash, but a band like us who survived twenty-­some odd years, sold a billion records for them at the lowest royalty rate you’ve ever heard of, and then still steal from you?! I’d be ashamed, I couldn’t do it…”

After The Beatles split, George said the record companies came and took everything. He continued, “But all this stuff that you read in the papers about Nike and Capitol, that’s what’s been going on for years. They’ve all taken advantage of it because after the Beatles split up everybody was sort of not talking to each other, so they all came in, grabbing and plundering as much as they could.”


George Harrison Said It Would Be Very Selfish if The Beatles Didn’t Record Together Again After They Split

George wanted to fight the record companies

With how the record companies treated The Beatles before and after their split, George wanted to go after them until they gave everything back.

“But if this thing with Capitol comes to court they’ll be lucky to end up owning the masters,” George continued. “There’s a good chance we’ll get back all our masters and everything… But now this is go­ing to be pursued to the end, and even if we all die in the process, our children and our children’s children will be after Bhaskar Menon (Chairman and CEO of EM/ Music Worldwide) and Capitol until he realizes he’s just being a dong.

“There’s no way we can lose. Because if you just put all the cards on the table and see what we’ve got and what they’ve got, I think a blind man on a galloping horse would say that Capitol isn’t being fair. It’s just the balance: the law of nature demands that all things be equal, and this isn’t equal.”

Eventually, Paul got The Beatles’ masters, but it didn’t happen in George’s lifetime. In 2016, years after Jackson’s death, Sony became the full owner of The Beatles’ catalog. In 2017, Paul filed a lawsuit against Sony/ATV, siting the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976. The act allows songwriters to reclaim copyright from music publishers 35 years after they gave them away (per Biography). Early Beatles songs became eligible in 2018; later songs will qualify in 2026.

So, the fight against the record companies lasted into Paul’s grandchildren’s lives. Fortunately, Paul resolved it before he and Ringo died. George would be happy.