George Harrison Reflects on Paul McCartney


They comprised one half of the most famous foursome in music history. One was known as the “cute one”, the other was called the “quiet one”. Boyhood friends Paul McCartney and George Harrison grew up together, grew popular together and eventually, grew apart. But the relationship between Paul and George is one of the most misconstrued concerning The Beatles. It was also one of the closest.  

The pair met on the school bus in 1957. McCartney is eight months older but was a full year ahead at the Liverpool Institute, which both boys attended. After bonding over their love of guitars and performing music, Paul introduced George to John Lennon in 1958. It was Paul who suggested George audition for the “Quarrymen”, a band that would ultimately become The Beatles.

Paul knew George before any of the others. “He was my little baby brother, almost, because I’d known him that long”, says McCartney. In fact, the two were much tighter than many realized. For example, George and Paul would usually room together on the road. McCartney was also Harrison’s best man when he married Pattie Boyd in 1966. And the only member of The Beatles to attend the wedding.   

Though they distanced themselves in the immediate wake of the band’s dissolution, George and Paul reconnected later in life. They remained close until the former’s untimely death in 2001. The following comments from Harrison illuminate the complex, contentious, and caring relationship between George and Paul throughout the years. The Quiet One reflects on the Cute One.  


“I couldn’t join a band with Paul McCartney”

“Paul is a fine bass player … but he’s a bit overpowering at times … I’d join a band with John Lennon any day, but I couldn’t join a band with Paul McCartney, but it’s nothing personal. It’s just from a musical point of view.” (1974 – four years after the band’s breakup)

“Paul couldn’t see beyond himself”

Speaking about the Let It Be sessions from January 1969, during which Harrison quit the band for a brief period: “At that point in time, Paul couldn’t see beyond himself. He was on a roll, but…in his mind, everything that was going on around him was just there to accompany him. He wasn’t sensitive to stepping on other people’s egos or feelings.”

“They were so busy being John and Paul”

“This was one of the main faults of John and Paul. They were so busy being John and Paul, they failed to realize who else was around at the time.”     

“George was a late bloomer”

It took many years, but Harrison eventually gained respect from Lennon and McCartney as a songwriter. McCartney describes Harrison’s evolution: “George was a late bloomer as far as writing was concerned. He wasn’t that interested in the beginning but then he started to get interested and, boy, did he bloom, you know? He wrote some of the greatest songs ever.” Harrison’s 1969 song, “Something”, is his most successful single with The Beatles.

“He ruined me as a guitar player”

“I had no confidence in myself as a guitar player having spent so many years with Paul McCartney, he ruined me as a guitar player. In a way, I always like a bit of an observer of The Beatles, even though I was with them. Whereas I think John and Paul were the stars of The Beatles.”

“I love Paul, he’s my mate”

In 1988 The Beatles were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which McCartney refused to take part in. That same year, George addressed the alleged rift between himself and Paul: “It’s absolutely not true what they said in the news…I love Paul, he’s my mate. And it doesn’t matter what they say in the papers, they’re not going to get much mileage out of that one.”

“It’s quite nice to see him”

“Now we don’t have any problems whatsoever as far as being people is concerned, and it’s quite nice to see him. But I don’t know about being in a band with him. How that would work out, I’m not sure…I’ve always preferred Paul’s good melodies to his screaming rock and roll tunes.”

“I didn’t really know Paul”

“For about ten years I didn’t really know Paul. I never really saw much of him through the last ten or twelve years but more recently we’ve been hanging out and getting to know each other.”


“There’s enough about me that pisses him off”

Several months before his death, Harrison was asked if Paul “pisses you off?” George responded: “I’m sure there’s enough about me that pisses him off, but I think we have now grown old enough to realize that we’re both pretty damn cute!”  

Gone at 58

George Harrison passed away on November 29 of 2001 from cancer. He was just 58 years old. Harrison died in a private residence in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles. The property was reportedly leased by Paul McCartney.

“This is OK, this is life”

Ten days before Harrison’s death, McCartney was able to see his friend. These are his recollections of his final visit with George: “The last time I met him, he was very sick, and I held his hand for four hours. As I was doing it, I was thinking ‘I’ve never held his hand before, ever. This is not what two Liverpool fellas do, no matter how well you know each other.’ I kept thinking, ‘he’s going to smack me here.’ But he didn’t. He just stroked my hand with his thumb, and I thought ‘Ah, this is OK, this is life.”

Guitars Gently Weeping

Released in 1968, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” is another undisputed Harrison classic. In 2002 “Concert for George”, a night of tribute for Harrison’s music, was held at the Royal Albert Hall in London. One of the most stirring performances is from Eric Clapton and Paul McCartney playing “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”.

“I loved that man. I’m so proud to have known him.”

Paul remembers his friend George: “It’s tough but it’s lovely. That’s how it is. I knew George before I knew any of the others and I loved that man. I’m so proud to have known him. Still, as sad as it was, you take the great bit, which was that last time you saw him, and that’s what you remember. That and all the other lovely memories.”  

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