George Harrison Said The Beatles’ Collaborative Process Was Sometimes a Group Effort

George Harrison had a complicated relationship with The Beatles. One of the most confusing things he dealt with in the band was their collaborative process and how they churned out their hits in general. It always depended, but The Beatles didn’t bother to work together on certain songs most of the time.

The Beatles in the recording studio for 'Yellow Submarine' in 1968.
The Beatles | Keystone Features/Getty Images

George Harrison said The Beatles were sometimes collaborative

During a rare 1987 interview with Entertainment Weekly, George explained The Beatles’ collaborative process. Entertainment Weekly pointed out, “The White Album, for one, has been described as a compilation of four solo albums.”

“Yeah, I read that,” George replied. “It may be true in a way, but a lot of them are like that, as well; it wasn’t just the White Album. A lot of the time it was John’s doing his tune and we’re backing him up, and occasionally I’d do my tune and they’d back me up.

“There were moments, of course, when it’d all fit together and everybody’s contributing. On loads of them, like ‘Rubber Soul,’ it was very much a group effort. And even through to the last one, ‘Abbey Road,’ there’s things on there with the harmonies of ‘Here Comes the Sun King’ and that whole medley of tunes on the second side which took a lot of effort on all of our behalves, to learn harmonies and all our bits.

“The White Album did have a lot of strain. I was feeling really quite good when we started it, because I’d just come out of three months of heavy meditation in the Himalayas, and I came back to the world feeling quite good.

“But there were all kinds of strange things starting to happen. John and Yoko had just got together, so she was sleeping under the piano all through the [recording of the] album, which was a bit weird.”

If George thought The White Album had a lot of strain, he was sorely mistaken. The group’s next album made The White Album look like a walk in the park.

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George did not have a good time recording ‘Let It Be’

Interestingly, George also felt reinvigorated going in to record Let It Be in Jan. 1969. Instead of returning from three months of heavy meditation in the Himalayas, George had returned from an equally inspiring trip to America. He’d spent Thanksgiving with Bob Dylan and The Band and had fresh ideas.

However, as we saw in Peter Jackson’s new three-part documentary, The Beatles: Get Back, the recording sessions for the new album started on the wrong foot. By Jan. 10, George quit The Beatles because Paul’s domineering angered him.

However, there was some collaboration on the album. Paul McCartney and John Lennon decided to start writing songs together as they used to in the group’s early days. They stood opposite each other and strummed away on their instruments until one of them found a note or melody they liked.

However, when George returned, someone from outside the band helped spark their collaborative juices; Billy Preston. When the legendary keyboardist showed up at the studio and agreed to work with The Beatles on some tunes, the group worked marvelously together.

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John felt as if he couldn’t tell Paul that he was wrong about certain songs

The Beatles: Get Back showed us another, more shocking, detail about The Beatles’ collaborative process. John revealed that one of his biggest regrets was letting Paul take some of their past numbers to where he disagreed.

“Now, the only regret about the past numbers is when, because I’ve been so frightened, I’ve allowed you to take it somewhere where I didn’t want. And then, that my only chance was to let George take over, or interest George in it,” John explained.

“If you give me your suggestions, let me reject them and pinch the one I like is where my writing side is. Same goes for the arranging ’cause there was a period where none of us could actually say anything about your arrangements ’cause you would reject it all.

“A lot of the times you were right-and a lot of the times you were wrong… I don’t think The Beatles revolve around the four people,” John explained.

For sure, there is only a select few Beatles tunes that all four members worked on together. Most of the time, the group’s albums did feel like they were four solo albums in one. However, they are great albums regardless.

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