George Harrison Said Rock ‘n’ Roll Has ‘Lasting Power’

George Harrison fell in love with rock ‘n’ roll as a young teenager. It was like a shock to his system. Then, all he wanted to do with his life was play music. Thankfully, his parents supported him, and he started playing guitar. He joined The Beatles, and the rest is history.

Into the late 1970s, though, George saw a change come over rock ‘n’ roll. Despite believing most music in the 1980s all sounded the same, George said he thought the genre had lasted through the years.

George Harrison in a colored jacket in Germany, 1988.
George Harrison | United Archives/Getty Images

The first three rock ‘n’ roll songs George heard

Rock ‘n’ roll came over the radio when George was 13. The genre entered his life by way of Fat Domino’s “I’m in Love Again,” Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel,” and Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti.”

In Here Comes The Sun: The Spiritual And Musical Journey Of George Harrison, Joshua M. Greene wrote, “The music sent shivers down his spine and fueled a desire to join a band. In those days anybody could put a band together. One kid drummed on a washboard, another plunked a broom-handle bass, a third faked chords on guitar, another blew into a gob iron (which was what they called a harmonica), and they dubbed themselves a band.”

The three rock songs changed something in George. He never forgot the first time he heard them.

George told Timothy White, “But the main thing that really buzzed me, I remember, even before I heard Elvis, was Fats Domino’s ‘I’m in Love Again.’ I can even see exactly where I was when I heard that…

“And I was just walking across the road there somehow, and I was somewhere around there when I heard Fats Domino: [sings] ‘Yes it’s me, and I’m in love again!’ It must have been on a radio or record player somewhere. That was like when I [later] heard Ravi’s music. It touched somewhere deep in me.

“When I heard Elvis’s ‘Heartbreak Hotel,’ I was on my bike passing somebody’s house, and they must have had a gramophone playing. I couldn’t believe the sound of that record.”

George Harrison said rock ‘n’ roll has ‘lasting power’

Despite his negative opinions about contemporary rock music, George thought the genre had lasting power.

During a 1988 interview, CNN asked George if rock ‘n’ roll was ageless. George said, “It looks like because I mean, it’s been going on now how many years, I don’t know, they said it was not going to last, and it’s lasted. It’s turned into the most popular music of all time. I think there’s always space for other kinds of music, but this stuff obviously has lasting power.”

In the TV special Rolling Stone: 20 Years Of Rock ‘n’ Roll, George said, “The basic essence that rock ‘n’ roll needs to have is to make you feel good.”

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George said all popular music sounded the same

In 1975, George told David Herman of WNEW-FM (per George Harrison on George Harrison: Interviews and Encounters) that very few people impressed him musically. Most pop music made him feel uptight. The only person who wowed him was the sitar legend Ravi Shankar, his musical and spiritual guru.

“In simpler terms, there’s people, I like people who just convey in their music some sort of sincerity. I’m a big fan of Smokey Robinson just because musically he is so sweet, he makes you feel nice, he makes me feel good, whereas a lot of music I listen to, which is popular music, just makes me uptight.

“Even if I’m not really listening too close to it, it’s just the sound of it and the whole thing, and the repetition, the boring sort of repetition of how it’s played…”

George stopped making music in the early 1980s because he felt the record companies wanted the same old rock music. George didn’t want to use synthesizers or machines. He wanted to make good old-fashioned rock music. Eventually, he did on Cloud Nine.

Although George said rock would last, he didn’t think it was very dynamic and ultimately preferred Indian music to any other genre.