George Harrison didn’t think The Beatles‘ early sound was that great.
Songs like “Please Please Me,” “I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” and “She Loves You” got the Fab Four to the top. Those were the tunes that first made fans fall in love with them. However, George thought his group sounded “puny” on those initial records.
The Beatles | Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
The guitarist said he and his band were ‘crummy’ musicians
Early in The Beatles’ career, George and his bandmates knew they weren’t the best musicians. They admitted it during a 1963 interview (per George Harrison on George Harrison: Interviews and Encounters).
“I haven’t got the patience to practice to become a perfect guitarist, you know,” said John Lennon. “I’m more interested in the combination of my voice and the guitar I know, and to write songs, than I am in the instrument. So I never go through a day hardly without playing it whether I’m perfecting or not, you know.”
Paul McCartney agreed and added that he, John, and Ringo Starr, only cared about the band’s sound, while George focused on mastering his instrument.
However, George admitted he didn’t even practice guitar as much as he should’ve. “To be a guitarist, you’re supposed to practice a couple of hours a day,” he said. “But, I mean, I don’t do that.”
George concluded that all of them were “crummy” musicians. “Well you know, I mean, the thing is . . . individually we’re all . . . I suppose we’re all crummy musicians, really,” he said.
If The Beatles weren’t the best musicians and didn’t pretend to be, then George’s opinions about the group’s early sound shouldn’t sound too harsh.
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George Harrison thought The Beatles’ early sound was ‘puny’
During a 1987 interview with Guitar Player, George admitted that The Beatles’ early sound, and musicianship, left much to be desired.
“But those early sounds, I hated them,” George said. “I remember midway through the ’60s there’d be all these American groups we’d bump into, and they’d say, ‘Hey, man, how did you get that sound?’ And I realized somewhere down the line, I was playing these Gretsch guitars through these Vox amps, and in retrospect they sounded so puny.
“It was before we had the unwound third string, that syndrome, and because it was always done in a rush and you didn’t have a chance to do a second take, we just hadn’t developed sounds on our of the water.
“I mean, listening to James Burton playing them solos on the Rick Nelson records, and then we’d come up with this stuff–it was so feeble.”
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George said he experienced a ‘sudden flash’ when The Beatles’ sound changed in the mid-1960s
Eventually, The Beatles became better musicians and experimented with their sound. They first dropped their punniness on Rubber Soul and even more on Revolver, mostly because they stopped touring, which allowed them to focus on their music.
During a 1992 interview, George told Guitar World that the group’s experimental phase was like being “lost in the middle of it-not knowing a thing-and at the same time somehow knowing everything.”
He explained, “Around the time of ‘Rubber Soul’ and ‘Revolver’ it was like I had a sudden flash, and it all seemed to be happening for some real purpose. The main thing for me was having the realization that there was definitely some reason for being here. And now the rest of my life as a person and a musician is about finding out what that reason is, and how to build upon it.”
However, toward the end of The Beatles’, George once again started feeling like The Beatles’ sound wasn’t that great. In 1967, he said many people asked how they got their sound. He confessed they weren’t doing anything special, only being themselves. However, that was part of the problem.
Doing what they always did meant The Beatles had become stale. At some point, George became disinterested in everything The Beatles were recording, but that could’ve also been because Paul and John constantly cast his songs aside. He wasn’t interested in his bandmate’s ideas and vice versa.
Whatever George and The Beatles were doing in the recording studio, it’s clear they happened upon new sounds by accident. Other musicians wanted to know their secret even when they were making some of their punniest music.
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