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George Harrison and Keith Richards were two key guitarists during the British Invasion of the 1960s. Because they were in two of the biggest bands at the time, they often fielded questions about each other. While Richards spoke of an unspoken bond between them, he also noted that he didn’t ever like Harrison’s guitar playing. Still, he softened this insult by immediately crediting Harrison’s significant contributions to the film industry. 

Keith Richards wears a jacket and bow tie and holds a guitar.
Keith Richards | Graham Wiltshire/Redferns

Keith Richards once said he and George Harrison had a bond

After Harrison’s death, Richards reflected on his relationship with the other guitarist. He believed their positions in their respective bands were similar, forming a bond between them

“George and I kind of formed — without talking too much about it, although we did have a laugh here and there — a bond, in that we felt we were kind of fulfilling the same role within our respective bands,” Richards told Rolling Stone in 2001. “It was a nod and a wink to say, ‘Well, they’d be nowhere without us.'”

Richards appreciated Harrison’s quiet sense of humor.

“So George and I always used to have that thing of, ‘Well, how’s your end holding up?’ He was a very quiet and enigmatic guy in many ways,” he said. “He had a very sly sense of humor, very quiet. But there was always this unspoken bond between us.”

The Rolling Stones guitarist insulted The Beatles guitarist, but quickly complimented him

Years earlier, Richards wasn’t as complimentary when talking about Harrison and his bandmates. When talking about Ringo Starr’s 1989 tour, Richards took jabs at The Beatles.

“[Ringo Starr] has some good musicians but without John [Lennon], it doesn’t do anything for me,” he told Spin. “Paul [McCartney] certainly doesn’t, and I never could take George’s guitar playing.”

A black and white picture of George Harrison holding a guitar.
George Harrison | Fox Photos/Getty Images

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While he let the insults against Starr and McCartney lie, he balanced out his harsh words about Harrison with a compliment. 

“Mind you, he can’t stick mine, either,” Richards said. “But he has done something really interesting with his life, and he’s done wonders for the British film industry.”

On top of his music career, Harrison was a founding member of HandMade Films, a production company. Many have credited him with revitalizing the British film industry in the 1980s. 

George Harrison said it was hard to compare himself and Keith Richards

Harrison responded to Richards’ comments in a 1989 interview, per the book George Harrison on George Harrison: Interviews and Encounters. He said it was difficult to compare the two of them.

“I think he’s a great rhythm guitar player, Keith,” he said. “You know, really, I think he’s probably one of the best rock’n’roll rhythm guitar players. I don’t think he’s very good at lead, but he’s played … this is the thing you see, what I feel about Keith and myself too, it’s not a comparison, but in some ways what we do is we make records, and the records have some good guitar parts on them, or have some good songs, or good lyrics or whatever, but basically you make records.”

He noted that even if Richards wasn’t the best at lead guitar, he was confident. The good thing about this, according to Harrison, was that even if Richards sounded terrible, he wouldn’t care.