Why George Harrison Felt ‘Really Paranoid’ After the Beatles’ Breakup
After the 1970 breakup of The Beatles, you could say the big winner was George Harrison. By the start of 1971, George’s debut solo record (All Things Must Pass) had hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts. And “My Sweet Lord,” the album’s lead single, topped the Hot 100 chart the week before.
Without exaggerating, you could describe George’s three-record release as an explosion of brilliant music. All Things Must Pass had so many standout tracks it was hailed by many critics as a masterpiece. (A Rolling Stone reviewer said it might be considered “the War and Peace of rock ‘n’ roll.”)
And, naturally, it led many to wonder where the George Harrison of All Things Must Pass had been hiding. For those who knew the inner workings of The Beatles, that answer came easy. In short, songs by John Lennon and Paul McCartney had always taken precedence over those by George.
The effect of that policy was two-fold. On the one hand, George’s songs wouldn’t get the same level of attention from producer George Martin when compared to a Lennon-McCartney. Worse, John and Paul themselves sometimes wouldn’t give a song by George the time of day. That dinged his confidence badly.
Being in The Beatles had rattled George Harrison’s confidence
When you read about the sessions for the last three Beatles albums, you find several examples of sparkling Harrison songs getting sidelined. During the sessions for Let It Be (January ’69), George introduced “Hear Me Lord” and “Isn’t It a Pity.” Neither made it onto that weakest of Fab Four records.
The previous year, while working on The White Album, George became frustrated when trying to interest his bandmates in “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” That’s when George brought in his friend Eric Clapton to play guitar on the record.
With the esteemed Clapton in the room, he knew his bandmates would pay attention. Though the gambit worked, George never got equal billing (i.e., an equal number of songs) on any Beatles record. And that stuck with him when he embarked upon his solo career.
“I had a little encouragement from time to time [for songwriting], but it was very little,” George told Crawdaddy in 1977 (via beatlesinterviews.org). “It was like they were doing me a favor. I didn’t have much confidence in writing songs because of that.”
George said he felt ‘really paranoid’ introducing songs to musicians after his Beatles days
Speaking with Crawdaddy, George recalled feeling sheepish when he introduced new songs to the musicians backing him on All Things Must Pass. “I remember having those people in the studio and thinking, ‘God, these songs are so fruity!” he said. “I can’t think of which song to do.'”
Eventually, George started playing some of his songs for the musicians, and they responded immediately. “They’d say, ‘Wow, yeah! Great song!’ And I’d say, ‘Really? Do you really like it?'” As his confidence grew he kept introducing more songs that came to fill the album.
“Having this whole thing with the Beatles had left me really paranoid,” George said. But from then on he realized he could create whatever atmosphere he liked when he was leading the sessions. It only took the breakup of history’s biggest band for that to happen.