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It wasn’t easy for George Harrison to come forward with his songs during his time with The Beatles. However, maybe that was a good thing. Looking back, George was glad he’d only managed to squeeze out a few songs while in the band. Otherwise, his songs would’ve become “Dick Jaws” property.

George Harrison sitting in a field during the filming of 'Magical Mystery Tour' in 1967.
George Harrison | Chapman/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

George Harrison wrote over 20 songs during his time with The Beatles

Starting with the first song he ever wrote, “Don’t Bother Me,” George wrote 21 songs plus “Flying,” which was a group effort.

John Lennon and Paul McCartney allowed him to add about two to three songs per album. However, Geoge has four songs on The White Album.

More often than not, John and Paul, and even on some occasions, the band’s producer, George Martin, would act condescendingly toward George when he came forward with his songs. Eventually, George started stockpiling them because he couldn’t record them fast enough.

George was glad he didn’t write more songs in The Beatles

Even though George was frustrated about not having many songs recorded, he thought it was a good thing. In a 1987 interview with Creem Magazine, George explained that The Beatles did not have ownership of their songs. So, George was glad he didn’t write too many Beatles songs.

“See, you’ve got these peo­ple who own copyrights of things,” George said. “How they obtained them is a different business. Talking personally about the songs I wrote when I was very young, this guy came up to me and said, ‘Well, you’ve got to have your music published.’ I go, ‘What’s that?’ ‘So that when it goes out you can get some money for it. So, here, why don’t you sign this form and I’ll pub­lish your music for you.’

“They forget to say, ‘And, incidentally, I’m gonna steal your song and I will own it for the rest of my life, and you don’t own that song even though you just wrote it.’

“I was more fortunate than John and Paul because I only wrote a few songs in the early days, compared to them. Did you ever see the Rutles? Well, there was a thing in there where it says, ‘Dick Jaws, an out-­of-­work publisher of no fixed ability, signed them up for the rest of their lives.’ And it cuts to him saying, ‘Lucky, really.’ So that’s what happened.”

Dick Jaws from The Rutles’ All You Need Is Cash is a parody of The Beatles’ music publisher, Dick James.

In 1963, James was new to the music publishing world and wanted to be The Beatles’ publisher. To wow the band’s manager, Brian Epstein, he organized the group’s first TV performance on Thank Your Lucky Stars.

James then suggested he and Epstein start Northern Songs to house Lennon-McCartney songs and George and Ringo Starr’s. Epstein and The Beatles signed the necessary contracts “not really knowing what it was at all about,” Paul said (per Beatles Bible).

“We said to them, ‘Can we have our own company?’ They said, ‘Yeah.’ We said, ‘Our own?’ They said, ‘Yeah, you can. You’re great. This is what we’re going to do now.’ So we really thought that meant 100 percent owned. But of course, it turned out to be 49 percent to me and John and Brian, and 51 percent to Dick James and Charles Silver,” Paul explained.

By 1965 the company had been restructured. John and Paul each owned 15%, Dick James Music held 7%, his family had 15%, DJM’s co-director Emmanuel Charles Silver had 15%, and NEMS Enterprises owned 7%. Harrison and Starr held only 1.6% between them (per Beatles Bible).


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He started his own publishing company

Thankfully, George didn’t have too many songs under James’ control. He explained that Beatles friend and Apple staffer Neil Aspinall advised him not to sign with James.

In 1964, George bought a shelf company, Mornyork Ltd., which he turned into his music publishing company Harrisongs Ltd. However, George still entered into a three-year publishing deal with Northern Songs from 25 March 1965 until March 1968. George owned 80% of Harrisongs.

George told Creem that it was good to own his material because James went on to sell his and Silver’s shares of Northern Songs to the U.K.’s Associated Television (ATV) without warning John and Paul. They attempted to gain control of their catalog, but Lew Grade stopped them.

In 1985, Michael Jackson purchased ATV Music and gained control of The Beatles’ catalog.

“So these people who think they own the rights never had anything to do with the promotion of them or the writing of them or the recording of them, but obtained them because of all this devious stuff that happened in the past,” George continued. “That’s what happened, so they think they own all our songs. EMI and Capitol thinks they own all our songs on record and, according to contracts, maybe they do.

“But they have a contract to put out our records and promote our records­–they don’t have a contract say­ing ‘We can sell you to shoe manufac­turers, or we can sell you to sausage manufacturers.’ And if we don’t do anything about it, every Beatles song in the world is going to be a TV commercial.”

Eventually, Paul got The Beatles’ catalog back, but not without a serious fight. However, in terms of his own songs, George never had to battle it out.