If you weren’t around for the British Invasion, it can be hard to grasp the extent of The Beatles‘ dominance during the era. However, you could start by going through the Fab Four’s chart milestones, beginning with the group’s six No. 1 hits in 1964.
That particular list started with “I Want to Hold Your Hand” in February and ended with “I Feel Fine” in December ’64. And whether the tracks were written mostly by John Lennon or Paul McCartney (or equally), they all sported the Lennon-McCartney songwriting credit.
They didn’t stop there, either. “A World Without Love,” a No. 1 hit for Peter and Gordon that same year, was written by Paul and thus fell under the Lennon-McCartney banner, too. (That made a total of seven No. 1s.) In brief, America went bananas for these songwriters in the space of a few months.
So you can imagine the pressure George Harrison felt when he wrote his first song late in ’63. As the Lennon-McCartney machine kept cranking out hits, George was doing his best to learn his craft. And it took until later in the ’60s for him to realize that “anyone can be Lennon-McCartney.”
George Harrison saw the Lennon-McCartney phenomenon differently from the inside
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In May 1970, just a few weeks after The Beatles’ breakup went public, George was passing through New York and spoke with WABC’s Howard Smith. By that point, he could acknowledge that the band had ended its run and blow off some steam.
He began by describing Paul’s recently released solo album (McCartney) as “a little disappointing” overall. “‘That Would Be Something’ and ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ I think are great,” George said (via beatlesinterviews.org). “And the others, I mean, just don’t do much for me.”
As the interview went on, George started recalling the unpleasant end to The Beatles’ time together. And that included the “hassles” of playing with Paul. “The conflict musically for me was Paul,” he said. “And yet I could play with any other band or musician and have a reasonably good time.”
After all those years of being considered a junior partner in The Beatles, George didn’t think Paul could see him as an equal. But George recalled when he saw through the public’s “infatuation” with John and Paul. “There was a point in my life where I realized anybody can be Lennon-McCartney,” he said.
George decided he’d ‘rather be a Harrison’
Over the years, you could hear George talk about the issues he faced trying to get The Beatles to do one of his songs (instead of one by Paul or John). And while he’s said they would have to “do 10” of the Lennon-McCartney variety before one of his, in this 1970 interview he rounded down a bit.
“Even on Abbey Road, we’d record about eight tracks before I got ’round to doing one of mine,” he said. Then he acknowledged the sort of songwriting truce the band came to shortly after completing that final album in late ’69.
“It was just over the last year or so we worked something out, which is still a joke really: three songs for me, three songs for Paul, three songs for John, and two for Ringo.” When the interviewer asked about Ringo’s smaller share, George had a laugh.
“Well, ‘cuz that’s fair, isn’t it!” he said. “That’s what you call being fair.” At the close of the interview, George sounded at peace. “If Lennon-McCartney are special, then Harrison and [Starr] are special, too. What I’m saying is that I can be Lennon-McCartney too, but I’d rather be Harrison.”
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