George Harrison on the Musical ‘John, Paul, George, Ringo, and Bert’: ‘It Was Awful Stuff’

George Harrison was not a fan of the 1974 musical John, Paul, George, Ringo, and Bert. He hated when people ripped The Beatles off. However, sometimes, Beatles musicals and films only happened because the band didn’t look after their interests following their split.

Actors in the 1974 musical, 'John, Paul, George, Ringo, and Bert' jumping in the air wearing Beatle suits.
Actors in the 1974 musical ‘John, Paul, George, Ringo and Bert’ | Wiggy/Mirrorpix/Getty Images

George Harrison on the musical ‘John, Paul, George, Ringo, and Bert’

In a 1987 interview, Creem Magazine asked George what he thought of the musical John, Paul, George, Ringo, and Bert, which debuted in Liverpool in 1974 and then made its way to London. George didn’t have anything nice to say about the musical based on The Beatles.

“I saw it up until the intermission and then–­I saw it with my friend Derek Tay­lor, who’s a writer who used to work for Warner Bros. and Apple­–I said to him we either have to leave now or I’m gonna jump on that stage and throttle those peo­ple,” George said.

“It was awful stuff. All these idiots act­ing out people–­it’s like I say in ‘The Dev­il’s Radio,’ talking about what they don’t
know. It’s like a rumor. It’s like those Beatles cartoons, and it was so inac­curate it was nauseating, having been one.”

George said the musical was a result of The Beatles’ split

In a 1979 interview with Rolling Stone, George said the musical John, Paul, George, Ringo, and Bert, along with other Beatles rip-offs, resulted from The Beatles’ split. When the Fab Four broke up, they left their state of affairs open for anyone to take advantage of. They lost everything from their catalog to their likeness.

“There’s not much more we [the Beatles] can be sued for, but we can sue a lot of other people,” George said. “Being split and diversified over the years has made it difficult to consolidate certain Beatles interests. For example, all those naughty Broadway shows and stupid movies that have been made about the Beatles, using Beatles names and ideas, are all illegal.

“But because we’ve been arguing among ourselves all these years, people have had a free-for-all. Now we’ve gotten to the point where everybody’s agreed and we’ve allocated a company to go out and sue them all. It’s terrible, really. People think we’re giving all these producers and people permission to do it and that we’re making money out of it, but we don’t make a nickel. So it’s time that should be stopped.”

“Maybe we should go and do The Robert Stigwood Story or something [laughing], although I suppose the Sgt. Pepper film is all right because they’ve paid the copyright on the songs and made up their own story line.”

George is referring to Robert Stigwood’s musical Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, featuring Peter Frampton, the Bee Gees, Steve Martin, Earth Wind & Fire, and Alice Cooper.

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He didn’t see ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ because it had bad reviews

George didn’t see Stigwood’s musical. “The reports on it were so bad that I didn’t want to see it. But maybe it’s good. I don’t know,” George said.

Rolling Stone asked George if the musical was an insult to the memory. “No,” he replied. “I just feel sorry for Robert Stigwood, the Bee Gees and Pete Frampton for doing it, because they had established themselves in their own right as decent artists and suddenly . . . it’s like the classic thing of greed.

“The more you make the more you want to make, until you become so greedy that ultimately you put a foot wrong. And even though Sgt. Pepper is no doubt a financial success, I think it’s damaged their images, their careers, and they didn’t need to do that. It’s just like the Beatles trying to do the Rolling Stones. The Rolling Stones can do it better.”

At least Stigwood got the rights to use The Beatles’ music. John, Paul, George, Ringo, and Bert didn’t.