George Harrison Wasn’t Impressed With ‘Headbanging’ Guitar Players

George Harrison wasn’t impressed with much music, including his own sometimes, but he truly didn’t like “headbanging” guitar players. He thought their type of music was just a bunch of noise. They didn’t know the guitar.

George Harrison performing during Bob Dylan's 30th anniversary concert.
George Harrison | Ebet Roberts/Redferns

George Harrison didn’t consider himself a great guitar player

In 1989, George told Mark Rowland (per George Harrison on George Harrison: Interviews and Encounters) that he didn’t consider himself the best guitar player. He might have been if he continued to tour throughout his solo career, but that would’ve been impossible. George liked performing, but touring was exhausting.

“I don’t rate myself as a guitar player, and I know exactly why I’m not—it’s because my life led me to all this other bullshit, and consequently, I didn’t want to keep going on the road and playing,” George explained. “At the same time, you can’t be everything in life. I’m just thankful I’m still here, and whatever it is I do, you know, that’s it.”

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George wasn’t impressed with ‘headbanging’ guitar players because they weren’t the Indian musicians he loved

No one was the best guitar player, according to George. His musical guru, Ravi Shankar, and other Indian musicians were better than any guitar player.

Rowland pointed out, “Well, now you’ve got Eric playing on your records, and you write tunes for his, so there’s kind of a trade-off, I guess.”

“Yeah, everybody … you know I’m not trying to be the best guitar player,” George replied. “I don’t really care about it. To me you can get the greatest guitar player in the world, and in my eyes, he’s still nothing compared to the musicians that I really admire, which is the Ravi Shankars and the Bismillaf Khans of this world.

“I’ve got a record in my bag now of a twelve-year-old South Indian guy playing electric mandolin. He’d blow away all them guys in heavy metal bands and the blues and everything, you know, no question about it.

“And when you’ve heard other kinds of music, you know, it doesn’t impress me really, hearing some guy play all this noisy, fast shit. I’d rather hear Robert Johnson play. Those are the guitar players I like, or Ry Cooder or Segovia. I like everything, basically, except noisy, headbanging s***… and drum computers, [Yamaha] DX7s, and reverb!”

George said a sitar is like a “wobbly” guitar that’s even harder to learn.

“They play the blues and jazz and classical and … all rolled into one,” he said. “But sometimes you got to have a bit of background before you can dig how great it is. But you know, I’m not impressed by all these guitar players.

“I could have become an adequate guitar player, I could learn how to play like B. B. King. He plays the same lick all his life. He plays it very well, but, you know, it’s not my goal to try and play this lick that everybody else can play anyway, you know?”

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Heavy metal couldn’t hold a candle to Indian music

Heavy metal wasn’t the only genre George disliked. In 1976, George told India Today that no other form of music could hold a candle to Indian music.

“Personally, I think Indian music is where it’s at,” George said, “If I had to choose one record in the whole world, I’d select Bismillah Khan, and that’s it.”

India Today asked, “Where does that leave pop?” George replied, “Well, I don’t really know. There isn’t too much going on that I seem to like.”

In 1975, George told David Herman of WNEW-FM (per George Harrison on George Harrison) that very few people impressed him musically. One of the only musicians who wowed him was Shankar.

Shankar and other Indian musicians created music that made Geoge think of everything in the universe. However, popular music had the opposite effect on George.

“It’s a whole other train of thought that comes from the music,” George continued. “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…”

Indian music helped deliver George to spirituality. So, of course, it was hard for him to listen to any other form of music.

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