Why The Beatles’ George Harrison Criticized the Sex Pistols and Punk Rock

The Beatles’ George Harrison made some of his most famous music during the 1970s, however, he wasn’t a fan of one of the 1970s defining trends: punk rock. He openly criticized both punk rock as a whole and the Sex Pistols in particular. Here’s a look at how whether the Sex Pistols were more successful than George as a solo artist.

The Beatles' George Harrison with a guitar
The Beatles’ George Harrison | Fox Photos/Getty Images

Why The Beatles’ George Harrison thought punk rock wasn’t as good as early rock ‘n’ roll

During a 1979 interview with Rolling Stone’s Mick Brown, George discussed his feeling on some current artists. When asked about the artists he listened to at the time, he cited Bob Dylan, Elton John, and Eric Clapton. He also commented on the then-new genre of punk rock, saying he disliked it because he preferred songs with melodies. In addition, he felt punk rock drummers lacked talent, unlike the drummers of early rock ‘n’ roll bands.

Why George Harrison felt a live Sex Pistols performance was ‘awful’

Subsequently, he derided the Sex Pistols. “I felt very sorry when the Sex Pistols were on television and one of them was saying, ‘We’re educated to go into the factories and work on assembly lines…’ and that’s their future. It is awful, and it’s especially awful that it should come out of England, because England is continually going through depression; it’s a very negative country.”

“Anarchy in the U.K.”

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He then attacked the Sex Pistols’ message. “Everybody wants everything and nobody wants to do anything for it,” he said. “But it’s a very simple thing; how do you give people money if there is none? The only way you make more money is to work harder. Now that may be all right for me to say because I don’t have to work in a factory, but it’s true. But out of all that is born the punk thing, so it’s understandable. But you don’t fight negativity with negativity. You have to overpower hatred with love, not more hatred.” 

George’s comments raise some questions about how his output compared to the Sex Pistols’ — specifically, whether George’s solo work was more successful than the Sex Pistol’s output. George released 15 songs that charted on the Billboard Hot 100. On the other hand, the Sex Pistols never released a single which reached the Billboard Hot 100. While they are now regarded as rock legends, the American public was not particularly interested in them during their initial time in the limelight.

“My Sweet Lord”

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George clearly wasn’t a fan of the Sex Pistols. However, rock critics embraced the band. Rolling Stones ranked their album Never Mind the Bullocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols No. 80 on their list of the 500 greatest albums ever. On the other hand, Rolling Stone put George’s classic album All Things Must Pass at No. 368 on the list. While George didn’t like punk rock, music critics took the genre and the Sex Pistols very seriously.

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