George Harrison Once Said The Beatles Were ‘all Crummy Musicians, Really’

Article Highlights:

  • None of The Beatles considered themselves great musicians in 1963
  • The band didn’t anticipate being so successful
  • George Harrison said The Beatles didn’t play for the money. But the money was nice.
The Beatles in performance in 1963, from left to right; Ringo Starr, George Harrison, Paul McCartney and John Lennon
The Beatles in performance, from left to right: Ringo Starr, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, and John Lennon | Fox Photos/Getty Images

One year after The Beatles started their rise to fame in the United Kingdom, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr weren’t exactly confident in their individual abilities as musicians. But they were confident in how the group sounded as a whole. In a 1963 segment for the BBC program The Public Ear, the band members spoke about their musicianship and how successful they were at the time.

The Beatles weren’t concerned about being the best musicians in 1963

While The Beatles will go down as one of the most famous bands in history, the members didn’t consider themselves wildly talented musicians when it came to playing their individual instruments.

“I haven’t got the patience to practice to become a perfect guitarist, you know,” said Lennon, as recorded in the book George Harrison on George Harrison. “I’m more interested in the combination of my voice and the guitar I know, and to write songs, than I am in the instrument. So I never go through a day hardly without playing it whether I’m perfecting or not, you know.”

RELATED: The Beatles: Why George Harrison Thought the Bee Gees Were ‘Greedy’

McCartney pointed out that “George is the one of us who is interested in the instrument” and “the other three of us are more interested in the sound of the group.” But Harrison noted that he didn’t even practice.

“To be a guitarist, you’re supposed to practice a couple of hours a day,” he said. “But, I mean, I don’t do that.”

“To be anything, you’re supposed to practice a couple of hours a day,” chimed in Starr.

“Well you know, I mean, the thing is . . . individually we’re all . . . I suppose we’re all crummy musicians, really,” said Harrison.

Paul McCartney on the band’s early success

Even though The Beatles didn’t think of themselves as the best musicians, by 1963, they were starting to blow up in the United Kingdom. And international superstardom was just around the corner. In an interview for a BBC documentary just a few months prior, the boys went around and guessed how long the band would last for. Lennon said they’d be lucky to last three months. Harrison guessed “at least another four.”

“It wasn’t so much that we foresaw a big success,” McCartney said on The Public Ear. “We just never thought that anything particularly bad would happen to us. We never felt . . . never sat down at one particular point at all and, sort of, worried about anything. We’ve always thought that something would turn up sometime.

The Beatles had been misquoted on how much they were making

In 1963, there had been a misunderstanding about just how much The Beatles were making.

“We have been misquoted,” said Harrison. “People saying we make seven thousand a week, and all that.

Though maybe not seven thousand a week, Harrison did admit that he and his bandmates “probably do make quite a bit.” It was just hard to keep track of exactly how much because “we don’t actually see it because record royalties, things like that, take months before they come in.”

RELATED: The Beatles: Why The Supremes Got ‘Disappointed’ When They Met

At the end of the day, The Beatles weren’t playing for the money. But money certainly helped them keep playing.

“The thing is, indirectly, we are and we aren’t doing it for the money, really, because don’t forget, we played for about three or four years or maybe longer just earning hardly anything,” said Harrison. “Well, we wouldn’t have lived on that. If we were doing it for the money, we wouldn’t have lasted out all those years. But the money does help, let’s face it.”