When you’re in the band surrounded by the most raucous external racket in history, then being considered ‘The Quiet One’ is a tough fate to befall you. Tom Petty might have rubbished the moniker saying, “he never shut up,” but as a young man trying to make headway as a songwriter, there is no doubting that George Harrison’s position was somewhat compromised in The Beatles.
“George got stuck with being the Beatle that had to fight to get songs on records because of Lennon and McCartney,” Bob Dylan once said of Harrison. “Well, who wouldn’t get stuck?” He added: “If George had had his own group and was writing his own songs back then, he’d have been probably just as big as anybody.”
And as for John Lennon and Paul McCartney themselves, they openly admitted that they were sceptical about sharing their songwriting thrones. “There was an embarrassing period when George’s songs weren’t that good and nobody wanted to say anything,” Lennon said regarding the period around the White Album. This was further added to by McCartney, who separately revealed: “I thought until this album that George’s songs weren’t that good.” While Ring Starr, as usual, was simply keeping his nose out of things having returned from his hiatus.
Naturally, this led to Harrison feeling creatively stifled which was one of the many factors that led to the band famously breaking up. When Ringo was asked if he shared the opinion that they were basically already done before making Let It Be, he agreed that they might have still lived there but their Rome lay in ruin.
“George was getting a lot of independence for himself in those days,” Ringo opined. “He was writing for himself more, he wanted things to go his way. When we first started they basically went John and Paul’s way y’know because they were the writers”
Continuing: “George was finding his independence and he wouldn’t be dominated as much by Paul as he was, because in the end Paul wanted to like point out the solo to George and George would say, ‘Well, I’m a guitarist I’ll play the solo’ and he always did—he always played fine solos for what our band were.”
With tensions mounting and Harrison having already proved his songwriting chops on previous efforts, he got a little sterner in his responses just as the demands were going the other way. “It got a bit like, ‘I wrote the song, I want it this way’, whereas, earlier on it had been, ‘Well, I wrote the song, give me what you can give me’,” Ringo concludes.
Fortunately, for fans, Harrison might have felt dominated at times, but he soared in the integral mix and when his moments in the spotlight came around, he showed he had nothing left to prove. As Ethan Hawke screams home in the film Boyhood: “There is no best Beatle, it’s all in the balance!” That was a delicate balance at the best of times, but the proof is in the pudding, and the expiration date may very well be timeless for eternity.