ABOUT THIS INTERVIEW:
George Harrison was interviewed by Howard Smith at WABC-FM radio in New York City on May 1st 1970 during a brief visit to America.
At the time of this conversation, the Beatles breakup was already fresh news to a stunned public, and McCartney's solo album had just
been released. George would begin the recording sessions for his solo album "All Things Must Pass" upon returning home to England
from this US visit.
This intriguing interview with Harrison was originally broadcast on WABC-FM two days later on May 3rd 1970.
It would be later rebroadcast on WPLJ-FM radio on January 23rd 1972.
- Jay Spangler, www.beatlesinterviews.org
Q: "You've been in New York since, what... Tuesday?"
GEORGE: "Yeah, Tuesday afternoon."
Q: "How much longer are you going to be here?"
GEORGE: "Just 'til next Monday."
Q: "And then you go back to London?"
GEORGE: "Yeah, right. Well, Home-- which is just outside of London."
Q: "What have you been doing?"
GEORGE: "Well, a bit of business, really. I came to see our new (Apple) office -- 1700 Broadway. And just a few little things to do with business. Also to see a few friends, and to pick up my visa. It's the first time I had a visa for 18 months, so I had to use it, you know."
Q: "Are you going to be doing any recording while your in town?"
GEORGE: "No. I can't work, you know-- not that sort of work. I'd need a different visa, and all that sort of thing. Anyway, there's not enough time to record. But I am going to be recording in about three weeks. I'm gonna start an album of my own, as Ringo and Paul... This is gonna be the George album. And I start that in three to four weeks time, and I hope to do it with Phil Spector."
Q: "Where, in London?"
Q: "Have you written the material, or...?"
GEORGE: "Yeah. I've had songs for a long time, and lots of new songs. I've got about... enough songs for about three or four albums, actually. But if I do one, that'll be good enough for me."
Q: "I didn't know you were that prolific as a writer because there's so few of your songs on Beatles albums."
GEORGE: "Yeah, well, I wrote some songs -- in fact some songs which I feel are quite nice which I'll use on this album -- I wrote about four years ago. But, uhh, it was more difficult for me then to, you know, get in there to do it. It was the way the Beatles took off with Paul and John's songs, and it made it very difficult for me get in. And also, I suppose at that time I didn't have as much confidence when it came down to pushing my own material as I have now. So it took a while. You know, I think the first... I did write one song on about the second album, and I left it and didn't write any more. That was just an exercise to see if I could write. About two years later I recorded a couple more songs -- I think 'Rubber Soul.' And then I've had one or two songs on each album. Well, there are four songs of mine on the double White Album. But now, uhh, the output of songs is too much to be able to just sit around, you know, waiting to put two songs on an album. I've got to get 'em out, you know."
Q: "How was it decided how many songs you would have on a Beatles album? Is it, like, just whoever pushed and shoved the hardest?"
GEORGE: "Yeah. It's always... it was whoever would be the heaviest would get the most songs done. So consequently, I couldn't be bothered pushing, like, that much. You know, even on 'Abbey Road' for instance, we'd record about eight tracks before I got 'round to doing one of mine. Because uhh, you know, you say 'Well, I've got a song,' and then with Paul -- 'Well I've got a song as well and mine goes like this -- diddle-diddle-diddle-duh,' and away you go! You know, it was just difficult to get in there, and I wasn't gonna push and shout. But 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."
GEORGE: "But that is the main problem, you see, because, I mean..."
Q: Why did Ringo only get two?"
GEORGE: (jokingly) "Well, 'cuz that's fair, isn't it! That's what you call being fair."
GEORGE: "Even Ringo, you see, is writng more songs. We just cut a track in London of Ringo's song called, uhh... 'It Don't Come Easy,' it's called. And so he maybe'll put that out as a single. But Paul and John and myself have got just so many songs, I think this is a good way, you know, if we do our own albums. That way we don't have to compromise. I mean, we lose whatever we get from each other -- we sacrifice that in order to do a total sort of thing, you know. Because in a way, Paul wants to do his songs his way. He doesn't want to do his songs my way. And I don't wanna do my songs their way, really. And uhh, I'm sure that after we've all completed an album or even two albums each, then that novelty will have worn off."
Q: "You think the Beatles will get together again, then?"
GEORGE: "Uhh... Well, I don't... I couldn't tell, you know, if they do or not. I'll certainly try my best to do something with them again, you know. I mean, it's only a matter of accepting that the situation is a compromise. In a way it's a compromise, and it's a sacrifice, you know, because we all have to sacrifice a little in order to gain something really big. And there is a big gain by recording together -- I think musically, and financially, and also spiritually. And for the rest of the world, you know, I think that Beatle music is such a big sort of scene -- that I think it's the least we could do is to sacrifice three months of the year at least, you know, just to do an album or two. I think it's very selfish if the Beatles don't record together."
Q: "But everything looks so gloomy right now."
GEORGE: "It's not, really. You know, it's no more gloomy than it's been for the last ten years. It really isn't any worse. It's just that now over the last year -- what with John, and lately with Paul-- everything that they've thought or said has come out, you know, to the public. It's been printed. It's been there for everybody to read, or to comment about, or to join in on. Whereas before..."
Q: "But the things...The feelings had been there all along?"
GEORGE: "No, I wouldn't say that. In different ways, you know. We're just like anybody else. (laughs) Familiarity breeds contempt, they do say. And we've had slight problems. But it's only been recently, you know, because we didn't work together for such a long time in the Yoko and John situation. And then Paul and Linda. But it's really... It's not as bad as it seems, you know. Like, we're all having a good time individually, and..."
Q: "There seems like there's so much animosity between Paul and..."
Q: "You know, you three... I mean, it sounds like he is saying it's all over."
GEORGE: "But it's more of a personal thing, you know. That's down to the management situation, you know, with Apple. Because Paul, really -- It was his idea to do Apple, and once it started going Paul was very active in there. And then it got really chaotic and we had to do something about it. When we started doing something about it, obviously Paul didn't have as much say in the matter, and then he decided... you know, because he wanted Lee Eastman his in-laws to run it and we didn't. Then that's the only reason, you know. That's the whole basis. But that's only a personal problem that he'll have to get over because that's... The reality is that he's out-voted and we're a partnership. We've got these companies which we all own 25 percent of each, and if there's a decision to be made then, like in any other business or group you have a vote, you know. And he was out-voted 3 to 1 and if he doesn't like it, it's really a pity. You know, because we're trying to do what's best for the Beatles as a group, or best for Apple as a company. We're not trying to do what's best for Paul and his in-laws, you know."
Q: "You think that's what the key fight is over?"
GEORGE: "Yeah, because it's on such a personal level that it is a big problem, really. You know -- You imagine that situation if you were married and you wanted your in-laws to handle certain things. You know, it's like -- It's a difficult one to overcome because... well, you can think of the subtleties, you know. But he's really living with it like that, you see. When I go home at night I'm not living there with Allen Klein, whereas in a way, Paul's living with the Eastmans, you see. And so it's purely... it's not really between Paul and us. You know, it's between Paul's advisors who are the Eastmans and our business advisors which is Allen Klein. (pause) But it's alright."
Q: "Aw, I don't know!"
Q: "I'm not as optimistic."
GEORGE: "Yeah, it's alright. All things pass... away... as they say."
Q: "I somewhat detected some kind of animosity between Yoko and Linda. Is that part of what it's about?"
GEORGE: "Ahh, I don't know. I don't think about it, you know. I refuse to be a part of any hassles like that. You know, Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna. Krishna, Krishna, Hare, Hare. And it'll all be okay, you know. Just give 'em time because they do really love each other, you know. I mean, we all do. We've been so close and through so much together that it really... to talk about it like this, you know, we'll never get any nearer to it. But the main thing is, like in anybody's life, they have slight problems. And it's just that our problems are always blown up, and uhh, you know, shown to everybody. But it's not really... it's not a problem. It's only a problem if you think about it."
Q: "So you don't think there's any great anger between Paul and John?"
GEORGE: "No, I think there may be what you'd term a little bitchiness. But, you know, that's all it is. It's just being bitchy to each other, you know. Childish. Childish."
GEORGE: "Well, I get on well with Ringo and John, and I try my best to get on well with Paul. And uhh, there's nothing much more we can... it's just a matter of time, you know, just for everybody to work out their own problems and once they've done that I'm sure we'll get back 'round the cycle again. But if not, you know, it's still alright. Whatever happens, you know, it's gonna be okay. In fact, it's never looked better from my point of view. It's really -- It's very good now -- in very good shape, the companies are in great shape. Apple Films, Apple Records. My song company is in good shape because I've been more productive over the last year or so. It's really good we got back alot of money that alot of people had that was ours; alot of percents that different people had. And it's really..."
Q: "Did Klein do all of that for you?"
Q: "Were you really that broke, or were all of you just crying poor."
GEORGE: "We weren't broke, we'd earned alot of money but we didn't actually have the money that we'd earned, you know. It was floating around, because the contracts... The structure of everything, you know, right back -- that's really the history -- Since 1962 the way everything was structured was just freaky, you know. None of us knew anything about it. We just spent money when we wanted to spend money, but we didn't know where we were spending it from, or if we payed taxes on it, you know. We were really in bad shape as far as that was concerned, because none of us really could be bothered. We just felt as though we were rich, because really we were rich by what we sold and what we did. But, uhh, it wasn't really the case because it was so untogether -- the business side of it. But now it's very together and we know exactly where everything is, and there's daily reports on where it is and what it is, and how much it is. And it's really good."
Q: "On the new album that you mentioned that you're gonna be recording, what kind of instrumentation are you gonna be doing on it? Will you be playing all the instruments?"
GEORGE: "No, no. I'd much rather play with other people, you know, because... united we stand, divided we fall. I think, musically it can sound much more together if you have a bass player, a drummer, and you know, a few friends. A little help from your friends. So the songs -- it depends really on how I see the arrangements. Some songs maybe I'll do just one or two just with acoustic guitars or something, but it's really down to how I see the songs should be interpreted. But I really want to use as much instrumentation as I think the songs need. You know, some will have orchestras, and some will have rock & roll, and some will have trumpets. You know, whatever. It'll be a production album."
Q: "Have you gone over all the material with Phil Spector already, or...?"
GEORGE: "No, no. I sang him a couple of the songs... I sang him alot of songs that I had, but umm, at that time I hadn't decided really that I was doing an album. You know, I knew I'd do one eventually but I hadn't decided to do it this soon. And it was only after that I decided that I'd do it straight away. So now I've got to meet with Phil and decide really which tunes, you know. I've got an idea which ones I'd like to use."
Q: "I guess you've heard Paul's album."
Q: "What did you think?"
GEORGE: "'That Would Be Something' and 'Maybe I'm Amazed' I think are great. And everything else I think is fair, you know -- is quite good -- but umm, a little disappointing. But I don't know. Maybe I shouldn't be disappointed, maybe... It's best not to expect anything and then everything's bonus, you know. I think those two tracks in particular are really very good. And the others, I mean, just don't do much for me. Because I can hear other people play better drums and guitars and things. And the arrangements of some of these songs like... 'Teddy Boy,' and 'Junk,' and stuff -- with a little bit more arrangement they could've sounded better. I suppose it was the only thing he felt he could do at the time, you know, and he started off just testing his machine. Eddie Cochran did something like that, though, didn't he. 'Summertime Blues' and 'Come On Everybody' he played bass, guitar, drums."
Q: "I wonder whether it can work again with you guys -- with Paul having gone off and done that kind of album and everything, and the way you used to decide how to get songs on the album. I find it very hard to imagine you all staying in a studio again for the months that it takes to produce the record. How are you going to just work it all out?"
GEORGE: "Well, it's easy. You know, it's really quite easy. It's just easy. We've done it for years. We all know that we're all separate individuals, and if all we have to do is accept that we're all individuals and that we all have as much potential as the other... It's like, if we were all perfected beings we wouldn't be here in the physical world. The fact that we're all here in these bodies means that we're not perfected. So having accepted we're not perfected, we can allow for each others inadequacies or failings with a little, you know, with a little compassion. I'm certainly ready to be able to try and work things out with whoever I'm with. But if whoever I'm with is full of hassles then I'm not going to be with him, am I. I'm gonna go with somebody else. I mean, that's really how things happened for me when I got tired of being with the Beatles. Because musically it was like being in a bag and they wouldn't let me out the bag, which was mainly Paul at that time.
The conflict musically for me was Paul. And yet I could play with any other band or musician and have a reasonably good time."
Q: "What was the conflict with Paul? I don't understand."
GEORGE: "It's just a thing like, you know, he'd written all these songs for years and stuff, and Paul and I went to school together. I got the feeling that, you know, everybody changes and sometimes people don't want other people to change, or even if you do change they won't accept that you've changed. And they keep in their mind some other image of you, you know. Gandhi said, 'Create and preserve the image of your choice.' And so different people have different images of their friends or people they see."
Q: "So what was his image of you?"
GEORGE: "Well, I got the impression it was like, he still acted as if he was the groovy Lennon/McCartney. Because there was a point in my life where I realized anybody can be Lennon/McCartney, you know. 'Cuz being part of Lennon/McCartney really I could see, you know, I could appreciate them -- how good they actually are. And at the same time I could see the infatuation that the public had, or the praise that was put on them. And I could see everybody's a Lennon/McCartney if that's what you wanna be. But the point is nobody's special. There's not many special people around. And somebody else... If Lennon/McCartney are special, then Harrison and Starkey are special, too. That's really -- What I'm saying is that I can be Lennon/McCartney too, but I'd rather be Harrison, you know."
Source: Transcribed by www.beatlesinterviews.org from audio copy of the interview