George Harrison claimed it was good that Paul McCartney sued The Beatles around the time the group split in 1970. It might have caused animosity between the Fab Four at the time. However, a couple of years later, it helped them.
The group’s split is complex
In 1970, George told Howard Smith (per George Harrison on George Harrison: Interviews and Encounters) The Beatles’ split wasn’t any more gloomy than it had been for much of the band’s life.
“It really isn’t any worse,” he said. “It’s just that over the last year, what with John and stuff and lately with Paul, everything that they’ve thought or said has come out to the public; it’s being printed; it’s been for everyone to read and to comment about or to join in on.
“We’ve had slight problems, but it’s only been recently, because we didn’t work together for such a long time, and the Yoko and John situation, and then Paul and Linda. But it’s not as bad as it seems.”
However, Paul and his family caused more issues. George, John Lennon, and Ringo Starr wanted Allen Klein as the band’s manager. Paul wanted his father-in-law, Lee Eastman. “It’s more of a personal thing that’s down to the management situation with Apple,” George said. “Because Paul, really it was his idea to do Apple…. Then it got really chaotic and we had to do something about it.
“When we started doing something about it, obviously Paul didn’t have as much say in the matter … because he wanted Lee Eastman, his in-laws, to run it and we didn’t. That’s the only reason; that’s only a personal problem that he’ll have to get over, because the reality is that he’s outvoted and we’re a partnership.
“We’ve got these companies which we all own 25 percent of each, and if there’s a decision to be made, then like in any other business or group, you have a vote. And he’s outvoted three to one and if he doesn’t like it, it’s really the pity. Because we’re tryin’ to do what’s best for the Beatles as a group or best for Apple as a company. We’re not tryin’ to do what’s best for Paul and his in-laws.”
When Klein became the group’s manager, he and Paul started having problems. Paul claimed he had no idea that Klein appointed Phil Spector to finish Let It Be. A problem arose when The Beatles discovered Paul planned to release his solo debut, McCartney, before Let It Be and Ringo’s Sentimental Journey. The drama caused Paul to release a statement (with advanced copies of McCartney) saying he was quitting the band.
Paul didn’t announce The Beatles’ split, just that he was departing. He wrote to Klein to change “The Long and Winding Road.” Klein claimed he didn’t get Paul’s letter in time.
Eventually, Paul wanted to be free of Klein, who was causing much of the unrest.
George Harrison said it was good Paul McCartney sued the rest of The Beatles
Paul filed a lawsuit against the other three Beatles in London’s High Court of Justice for the dissolution of the group’s contractual partnership on Dec. 31, 1970.
Paul claimed The Beatles’ finances were in turmoil. Also, The Beatles had stopped working together. By appointing Klein, the other Beatles had breached their partnership.
On top of all that, Paul wanted a dissolution because Klein attempted to postpone McCartney. There was also the altering of “The Long and Winding Road” without his permission and Klein’s transfer of the Let It Be film rights from Apple to United Artists without his approval.
The rest of the band gave affidavits saying that there was no reason The Beatles could not continue. Ultimately, the courts sided with Paul, and they appointed a receiver. Then, John, George, and Ringo realized Klein could not settle the lawsuit with Paul. They filed their own lawsuit against Klein for mismanagement in 1973. Klein countersued Apple for $19 million.
It was their receivership that George claimed saved them during Klein’s lawsuit. During a 1974 press conference (per George Harrison on George Harrison), a reporter asked if Klein’s case meant The Beatles had to reunite to make money.
George replied, “To tell the truth, there’s a whole lot of money that’s been held in receivership since Paul McCartney sued us. Actually, it’s fortunate that he did sue us, because while the money is in receivership nobody can spend it.
“There’s a lot of million dollars in the Beatles partnership, and we either give it to the lawyers or we give it to the Inland Revenue.”
The Beatles eventually settled with Klein in 1977, paying him a fraction of what he initially wanted.
Later, Paul was glad he sued the rest of The Beatles
Paul would’ve agreed with George that it was good he sued the rest of The Beatles.
In 2020, he told GQ, “The only way for me to save The Beatles and Apple — and to release Get Back by Peter Jackson and which allowed us to release Anthology and all these great remasters of all the great Beatles records — was to sue the band. If I hadn’t done that, it would have all belonged to Allen Klein. The only way I was given to get us out of that was to do what I did.”
George said, “We’re just like anyone else: familiarity breeds contempt, they do say.” Paul eventually agreed with that too. The Beatles were family and families sometimes fight. “What I realize now is that, because it was a family, because it was a gang, families argue,” Paul said. “And families have disputes. And some people want to do this and some people want to do that.”
Everything worked out in the end. Paul’s lawsuit against his bandmates ultimately helped them in the long run. It also allowed them to give more to fans later on.