The Press Liked to Call George Harrison a Howard Hughes-Like Recluse

George Harrison said the press called him a Howard Hughes-like recluse just because they didn’t catch him going to the clubs every night. They claimed the former Beatle never ventured out past Friar Park’s gates. However, George insisted he didn’t go to places where the press could find him.

George Harrison at The Beatles' Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction in 1988.
George Harrison | Sonia Moskowitz/IMAGES/Getty Images

The former Beatle settled down in the late 1970s

George became disenchanted with many things in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He’d already disassociated himself from fame and stardom in the mid-1960s, but he also grew tired of what record companies wanted from him and how the press treated him.

After a hectic early 1970s, George wanted to unwind and settle down. He stopped doing interviews and making appearances. George only seemed to make the music he wanted when he felt like it. He filled his time with gardening, raising his son, Dhani, and making demos here and there.

“He was more relaxed than when I knew him in 1974,” drummer Andy Newmark told Joshua M. Greene in Here Comes The Sun: The Spiritual And Musical Journey Of George Harrison. “Nothing was quite as traumatic. He only got mellower from 1974 onward.”

To the press, it seemed as if George might never reemerge from Friar Park’s depths. They started thinking he was a recluse, but he only wanted privacy and to live like an ordinary person. So, the press lost interest in him because he wasn’t giving them stories.

Greene wrote, “The press, so garish in covering every twitch of the young Beatle George, lost interest in pursuing the real person into adulthood.”

Suddenly, in the late 1970s, a new wave of Beatlemania started, and the media were knocking on his door again. Then, in 1980, a gunman killed John Lennon, and everyone treaded on George’s privacy even more. The traumatic event made George retreat further, although he played down his fear of being shot next.

“He was by no means a recluse [before then],” said Monty Python founder Michael Palin. “We used to have a drink in a pub near his house. He didn’t mind going there and mixing with people. After John was shot, that’s when things changed. George became quite paranoid. He put barbed wire up around his home and retreated.”

However, George was not a recluse exactly.

George Harrison said the press ‘hated’ him for years because they thought he was a recluse

It would be years before George “emerged for more than short stretches from the cloistered security of Friar Park,” Greene wrote. Although, that’s not entirely how George saw it. According to him, he wasn’t as reclusive as the press painted him to be.

“They’re not interested in me as a human being,” George told the Australia Sun Times. “They’re only interested in the Beatles—what guitar I played on Sergeant Pepper and all that c***.”

In 1986, on the Today Show, the reporter brought up the press calling George a Howard Hughes-like recluse. He replied that the press hadn’t liked him “for years because they thought I was weird.”

George continued, “But what I did was I just didn’t go places where the press hang out and there was no point in doing interviews because there was nothing really to say at that time. So that’s why I got the Howard Hughes sort of image because they just thought, ‘Oh well, he never goes out.’

“They said he never goes out, but I go out all the time. I just don’t go and hang out in the nightclubs or wherever the press go. But over the years, I think they’ve decided, ‘Oh well, he’s alright.’ Especially just lately, I mean they were quite nice to me when they were slagging Sean [Penn] and Madonna.

“I don’t know why. Times changed maybe they think, ‘Oh, he’s getting old now, we better be nice to him.'”

The press continued to label George as a recluse

The Howard Hughes comparisons didn’t stop. During a 1988 interview on Aspel & Co., Michale Aspel mentioned the reports.

“Well, it’s the silly newspapers,” George replied. “I mean, they’re not all silly of course, but some of them are very silly, and uh—because I don’t go discotheque-ing and things like that where people hang out with their cameras, so they presume that I was Howard Hughes with my big fingernails and Kleenex tissues and that kind of stuff, bottles of urine all around the house, and, uh … [Laughter.]

“But I wasn’t like that at all. I go out all the time, or a lot of the time, to see friends, have dinner, go to parties. I’m even more normal than, you know, normal people.”

During an interview on The Morning Programme, George explained that the press only called him a “looney” because he’d taken a rest from music, which was because he was sick of the music of the time; disco and pop. However, George didn’t regret having his rest.

In the early 1980s, he started making films with his production company, HandMade Films, and in 1987 he released Cloud Nine. It finally gave the press something to talk about, and they dubbed it one of the best comeback albums. Although, George had a problem with that label as well. However, by then, the press had given him so many untrue labels it wasn’t worth getting upset over it.