What George Harrison Thought About Quitting The Beatles During the ‘Let It Be’ Sessions
More than ever before, we understand why George Harrison quit The Beatles during the beginning of the Let It Be sessions. Over the decades since Michael Lindsay-Hogg released his 1970 film, Let It Be, fans have grown very familiar with George and Paul McCartney’s infamous arguments during rehearsals. They’ve heard a lot of what George and The Beatles had to say about that time. However, until very recently, we’d not heard the full story.
Thanks to Peter Jackson’s The Beatles: Get Back, we’ve now seen part of the footage from George’s exit. The other part where George tells his bandmates he’d see them “’round the clubs” was poorly recorded but accurately documented. Years later, we also know what George thought of Lindsay-Hogg’s film. He said it aggravated him. But now that we know a little more about the day George quit The Beatles let’s look back at what George had to say about it.
George Harrison felt ‘quite optimistic’ about ‘Let It Be’
November 1968 was a significant time for George. He spent Thanksgiving with Bob Dylan and The Band in Bearsville, New York. George’s visit turned into a very collaborative time, something he wasn’t entirely used to being in The Beatles. He and Dylan wrote “I’d Have You Anytime,” which later appeared on George’s 1970 solo debut, All Things Must Pass.
When George returned (the Hells Angels he invited to Apple headquarters while in the US were already there causing havoc), he “felt rejuvenated and ready to resume his day job in the Beatles,” Rolling Stone wrote.
“I can remember feeling quite optimistic. I thought, ‘OK, it’s the New Year and we have a new approach to recording,'” George said later on.
The Beatles planned to film themselves recording and rehearsing new material for a live TV concert in a documentary that Lindsay-Hogg tentatively called Get Back. But when George showed up to Twickenham Studios with the rest of The Beatles, he realized he wasn’t entering a collaborative environment like the one he’d had with Dylan and The Band a few short months prior.
“For me, to come back into the winter of discontent with The Beatles at Twickenham was very unhealthy and unhappy,” George said in Anthology. “I remember being quite optimistic about it. […] But it was soon quite apparent that it was just the same as it had been… and it was going to be painful again.”
George immediately had problems with Paul during the ‘Let It Be’ sessions
During a 1992 interview with Guitar World (published in 2001), George talked candidly about his time working with Paul during those last years of The Beatles. “Look, the thing is, so much has been said about our disagreements. It’s like… so much time has lapsed, it doesn’t really matter anymore,” George said. However, he did elaborate on those disagreements.
“Well…sometimes Paul ‘dictated’ for the better of a song, but at the same time he also pre-empted some good stuff that could have gone in a different direction,” George explained.
The tension came during the Let It Be sessions. “At that point in time, Paul couldn’t see beyond himself. He was so on a roll-but it was a roll encompassing his own self,” he said. “And in his mind, everything that was going on around him was just there to accompany him. He wasn’t sensitive to stepping on other people’s egos or feelings.”
So, it was only a matter of time before George quit. George said, “I’ll play anything you want me to play. Or I won’t play at all if you don’t want me to play. Now, whatever it is that will please you, I’ll do it.”
During lunch on Jan. 10, George reached his boiling point. He was done being ostracized. “I think I’ll be leaving the band now,” he said. “When?” John Lennon replied nonchalantly. “Now. Get a replacement. Write into the NME and get a few people,” George replied. As he left, George told the group off-camera that he’d see them “’round the clubs.”
“I just got so fed up with the bad vibes,” George told Musician magazine (per Rolling Stone) in 1987. “I didn’t care if it was the Beatles, I was getting out.” Then, George went home and wrote “Wah Wah.“
George said they all apologized to him over the years
George continued to tell Guitar World that “they’ve all apologized to me for all that over the years.” He also thought some of Paul’s contributions to his songs were brilliant.
“When it came time to do the occasional song of mine-although it was usually difficult to get to that point-Paul would always be really creative with what he’d contribute,” George said. “For instance, that galloping piano part on ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ was Paul’s, and it’s brilliant right to thing day… And you just have to listen to the bass line on ‘Something’ to know that, when he wanted to, Paul could give a lot.”
However, Lindsay-Hogg’s film still immortalized George’s frustrations during the Let It Be sessions. Years later, watching the movie only aggravated George. He told Entertainment Tonight, “It’s bad enough when you’re having it, let alone having it filmed and recorded so that you get to watch it for the rest of your life. I don’t like it.”
Yet, despite that, George’s son, Dhani, recently said his father would have liked Jackson’s new documentary. Dhani told Berkshire Live (per Vermilion County First), “(My father) was always bummed out that this was portrayed in bad light… Sure, there were arguments, but what you’re going to see is way more of just a band squabbling, and it’s nice. (The documentary) creates a new dynamic, and anyone who gets to see the whole thing will see that the behavior changes and they really come together. He’d be very happy to see what Peter came out with.”
We don’t know what George would have genuinely thought about the new documentary. But George did make peace with the Let It Be sessions and his fellow Beatles.