Skip to main content

George Harrison said he knew how to give John Lennon “a taste of his own” during the early days of their friendship. Initially, John wasn’t pleased with George’s age when he joined The Beatles (then The Quarrymen). However, they eventually came to an understanding.

George Harrison and John Lennon at the airport in 1965.
George Harrison | Harry Thompson/Evening Standard/Getty Images

George Harrison impressed John Lennon with his guitar playing

When George was 13, his mother gave him a couple of pounds to buy a beginner’s guitar from a friend at school. He couldn’t put the instrument down after that. Eventually, after many late-night, often frustrating, practice sessions, George became one of the best guitarists in the area.

Paul McCartney, who went to school with George, caught wind of his abilities. He’d recently joined John’s band, The Quarrymen.

“I got this friend,” Paul told John (per Joshua M. Greene’s Here Comes The Sun: The Spiritual And Musical Journey Of George Harrison) “He’s a bit young, but he can play ‘Raunchy’ really well.”

John was three years older than George and wasn’t too excited about having the younger musician in the band. However, when he heard George play “Raunchy” on a bus home one night, he was impressed and knew they needed him in the band.

George knew how to give John ‘a taste of his own’ when they first became bandmates

John initially made fun of George, who “had big ears and was always fawning over him and his girlfriend, Cynthia.”

George recalled that John “was a bit embarrassed about that because I was so tiny. I only looked about ten years old.” Greene wrote that to even the odds, George started dressing in John’s hand-me-downs.

Another way George evened the odds against his older bandmate was to give him “a taste of his own.”

“The youngest band member admired John’s worldliness, his apparent sexual prowess and aggressive self-assurance, but he never let John’s sarcasm get the better of him,” Greene wrote. “George would simply talk back and ‘give him a taste of his own,’ as George said.”

George got similar treatment from Paul. In Anthology, Paul said, “I tended to talk down to him because he was a year younger. I know now that that was a failing I had all through The Beatles years. If you’ve known a guy when he’s 13 and you’re 14, it’s hard to think of him as a grown up.”

In Graeme Thomson’s George Harrison: Behind the Locked Door, Bill Harry recalled, “George did have a strong personality but he was a bit cowed in the presence of John Lennon, because John had this overbearing presence about him which seemed to intimidate people.”

“In the end his place in the band came through sheer, stubborn perseverance as much as his repertoire of licks,” Thomson wrote.


George Harrison Said It Was ‘Nerve-Wracking, as Usual’ Working on Tracks for John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’

The bandmates became close

John might not have wanted George in the band, but the pair eventually became good friends. George and John would often find comfort in one another when they were at their wit’s end with Paul.

When George became spiritual, John was amazed and joined him in his journey.

Throughout their relationship, it was evident that George always looked up to John more than anyone else. He understood the older musician.

When George organized the Concert for Bangladesh, he was confident doing it because John had instilled boldness in him.

“I think that was one of the things that I developed, just by being in the Beatles, was being bold,” George told John Fugelsang at VH1 (per George Harrison on George Harrison: Interviews and Encounters).

“And I think John had a lot to do with that, you know, cause John Lennon, you know, if he felt something strongly, he just did it. And you know, I picked up a lot of that by being a friend of John’s. Just that attitude of, ‘Well, we’ll just go for it, just do it.'”

George told Timothy White at Musician Magazine that his and John’s relationship mended quickly after The Beatles split. It was “nerve-wracking, as usual” when he called John to see how he was doing during the recording of Imagine.

“Sometimes people don’t talk to each other, thinking they’re not going to be the one to phone you up and risk rejection,” George said.

“With John, I knew Klaus Voorman, the bass player, so I could at least ask what was going on over at his little eight-track studio in his house at Tittenhurst Park, and how Klaus was doing. John said, ‘Oh, you know, you should come over,’ so I just put me guitar and amplifier in the car. I turned up and he was openly pleased I came.”

George and John were never upset with each other for very long. John always offered an olive branch for his negative behavior.

“But John, you know, he was a good lad, he was—there was a part of him that was saintly, that aspired to the truth and great things,” George told Mark Rowland in 1989. “And there was a part of him that was just, you know… a looney! [Lauaghter.]

“Just like the rest of us! And he had his mood swings and that, but he was basically very honest. If he was a bastard one day, he’d say, ‘Ah well, f*** that, you know, I’m sorry, I was wrong.’ And he’d just deflate any feeling you had against him, any negative feeling. Not like some other people I know who sit on walls … and don’t come clean.”

George once said he would’ve been bandmates with John again in a heartbeat, something he couldn’t say about Paul. The pair’s friendship started rocky, but they always knew where they stood with each other.