Paul McCartney, Neil Aspinall and George Harrison in the Liverpool Institute Lower School photograph, taken in April 1956; screen capped from The Beatles Anthology
“George wears the lop-sided smile inherited from his dad, and long hair piled into a quiff. So impressive was this, and so daring was it for the ‘Inny’, Paul would always recall Arthur Kelly’s awed exclamation, ‘It’s like a f***in’ turban!’” - All These Years: Tune In by Mark Lewisohn
It’s official: All five lads in One Direction have kicked off their solo careers. Ever since 1D went on hiatus in late 2015 – we can only hope it’s temporary – the world has been eager to hear what kind of history they’ll make on their own. Some have dropped full-fledged albums; others are still getting their toes wet. But in the great Beatle tradition, they’re all speaking their minds about the breakup, in the press and in their songs – whether they’re dishing out praise or shade. Here’s a handy guide to the story so far.
Solo music: Working on his first solo album after releasing one single, “Just Hold On,” a banging duet with electronic DJ Steve Aoki. The most prolific songwriter in 1D – and the most continually surprising – so “Just Hold On” feels like just a taste of what he can do, more a teaser for glories to come than a proper solo debut.
Solo mystique: “Just Hold On” gained emotional resonance from the way he debuted it on The X Factor just a week after the tragic death of his mother from leukemia, making it sound like a heartfelt tribute.
Sounds like: Skrillex plus Diplo plus Calvin Harris times Stevie Wonder plus Howard Jones.
Sample lyric: “What do you do when the chapter ends?/Do you close the book and never read it again?”
Fighting words: “Niall, for example. He’s the most lovely guy in the world. Happy-go-lucky Irish, no sense of arrogance. And he’s fearless. There are times I’ve thought: ‘I’d have a bit of that.’ Zayn has a fantastic voice. Harry comes across very cool. Liam’s all about getting the crowd going, doing a bit of dancing. And then there’s me.”
Equivalent Beatle record: George’s “What Is Life?”
Solo music: His debut was a Number One hit (obviously) and a deeply personal singer-songwriter statement (which wasn’t obvious at all), steering away from celebrity glitz. “Sign of the Times,” a five-minute piano ballad that’s long and rambling and downright weird, made up in the studio on the spot, nonetheless went Top Ten. He kicks off his first solo tour this fall.
Solo mystique: He’s making his mark as a credible adult rocker without the slightest hint of shade at his pop fans – which is merely the most difficult trick in show biz. He takes the all-smiles Paul McCartney exit ramp while Zayn has gone for John Lennon–style beef. And “Two Ghosts” drops sly hints about Taylor Swift – he even sings about a refrigerator light, an in-joke for Swifties everywhere – showing that he loves to keep everyone guessing.
Sounds like: Mick Jagger plus Harry Nilsson plus Taylor Swift plus Badfinger plus Donovan times Stevie Nicks.
Sample lyric: “You can’t bribe the door on your way to the sky.”
Fighting words: “How can you say young girls don’t get it? They’re our future. Our future doctors, lawyers, mothers, presidents, they kind of keep the world going. Teenage girl fans – they don’t lie. If they like you, they’re there.”
Equivalent Beatle record: Paul’s Band on the Run
Solo music: He quit 1D bitterly in 2014, calling them “generic.” His R&B debut Mind of Mine went Number One in 2016, as did his single “Pillowtalk.” The soft-porn video with model Gigi Hadid was his inevitable “hello, I’ve just left a boy band, so let me announce I am in favor of sex-having” statement. If Gigi is his Yoko, this was his Plastic Hadid Band. He also dueted with Taylor Swift on a Fifty Shades of Greysoundtrack theme.
Solo mystique: Talks about how repressed he felt in the group, yet hasn’t quite backed it up with his pleasantly blah solo music. His best solo hit, “BeFoUr,” comes on like a dis of his ex-bandmates, who made the album Four right BeFoUr he quit – and the capitalized letters suggest he’s sending them a Big FU.
Sounds like: early the Weeknd meets late the Weeknd, with a side order of George Michael circa Listen Without Prejudice.
Sample lyric: “I don’t drink to get drunk/I feel all the right funk.”
Fighting words: “That’s not music I would listen to. Would you listen to One Direction, say, at a party with your girl? I wouldn’t. To me, that’s not an insult, that’s me as a 22-year-old man. As much as I was in that band, and I loved everything that we did, that’s not music that I would listen to.”
Equivalent Beatle record: John’s “How Do You Sleep?”
Solo music: The Irish guitar boy, always a hit with the moms, scored a great solo hit last fall with the understated and beautiful folkie ballad “This Town.” As a nostalgic breakup song, it doubled as a bittersweet farewell to the group. His second solo single, “Slow Hands,” goes for a sultrier, even bluesier vibe, with lyrics about making out.
Solo mystique: He’s unflaggingly loyal to the group – he’s the one who talks about how it’s inevitable they’ll get back together – and he’s stuck to his long-running monogamous relationship with his acoustic guitar.
Sounds like: James Taylor meets Ed Sheeran, with Bonnie Raitt on lead guitar.
Sample lyric: “Slow hands/Like sweat dripping down our laundry.”
Fighting words: “When One Direction come back we’ll still have albums left to do. … It’s been a year and a bit already. We don’t want to put a time on it. But when that phone call does come, no matter whoever it comes from, we’re back again.”
Equivalent Beatle record: Ringo’s “Photograph”
Solo music: The last to test the solo waters, Liam recently dropped “Strip That Down,” a party-hearty flop with Ed Sheerhan and Migos’ Quavo that missed the Top 40. He can do better – he cowrote some of 1D’s finest tunes – so it’s tough to guess why he even released it. He also just became a dad: Welcome to the world, Bear Payne!
Solo mystique: He gets personal about breaking free from 1D in “Strip That Down.” But it’s bizarre to hear Liam sing about hitting the club to chug rum and grind on groupies – it doesn’t ring true from a guy who just had a baby with one of England’s most famous models, Cheryl Cole. Quavo adds the unfortunate hook “She gonna strip it down for a thug” – there are many words to describe Liam, but “thug” doesn’t make the top ten thousand.
Sounds like: Lil Jon plus Wham! plus Nu Shooz plus Huey Lewis plus the News.
Sample lyric: “I used to be in 1D/Now I’m out free/People want one thing from me/That’s not me.”
Fighting words: “Everyone is now free to do their own thing in music and explore the music. I was worried that people would take it negatively but it’s not meant to be in that sense at all. None of us left the band; we’re on hiatus still, and what a great hiatus it’s been so far.”
“We were big enough to command an audience of that size, and it was for
love. It was for love and bloody peace. It was a fabulous time. I even
get excited now when I realize that’s what it was for: peace and love,
people putting flowers in guns.”- Ringo on “Our World”
Some of Cathy Sarver’s photographs of George Harrison, and parts of the note George wrote to Cathy, Carol and Lucy after All Things Must Pass was completed, screen capped from the documentary Beatles Stories: A Fab Four Fan’s Ultimate Road Trip.
“An Apple Scruff was a Beatle fan that came to Apple every day Monday through Friday. Everybody knows the name of their business was Apple, and we hung out on the front steps of their building, waiting for them to arrive. And then once they’d arrived, we were waiting for them to leave.When George finished the song ‘Apple Scruffs’, he asked us to all come in. And of course, we were dumbfounded because we were never asked to come in. We’re all sitting in there and they turn on the song ‘Apple Scruffs’. ‘Apple Scruffs, how I love you.’ It was amazing. We were all in a little huddle around him. He handed us this letter.
[reading in full] ‘Dear Carol, Cathy and Lucy. Now as it’s finished - and off to the factory. I thought I’d tell you that I haven’t a clue whether it’s good or bad as I’ve heard it too much now! During the making of this epic album (most expensive album EMI ever had to pay for) I have felt positive and negative - pleased and displeased, and all the other opposites expected to be found in this material world. However, the one thing that didn’t waver, seems to me, to be ‘you three’ and Mal, always there as my sole supporters, and even during my worst moments I always felt the encouragement from you was sufficient to make me finish the thing. Thanks a lot, I am really overwhelmed by your apparent undying love, and I don’t understand it at all! Love from George (P.S. Don’t hold this evidence against me.) P.P.S. Phil Spector loves you too!
He was a sweet man.” - Cathy Sarver, Beatles Stories: A Fab Four Fan’s Ultimate Road Trip [x]
“Yellow Submarine is a 1968 British film inspired by the band The Beatles and their song ‘Yellow Submarine.’
Pepperland is a cheerful, music-loving paradise under the sea, protected by Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The titular Yellow Submarine rests on an Aztec-like pyramid on a hill. At the edge of the land is a range of high blue mountains. The land falls under a surprise attack from the music-hating Blue Meanies, who live in or beyond the blue mountains. The attack starts with magical projectiles fired from big artillery stationed in the blue mountains. The Blue Meanies seal the band inside a music-proof blue glass globe, they render the Pepperlanders immobile as statues by shooting arrows and dropping giant green apples upon them (a reference to the Apple Records music label), and drain the countryside of color. In the last minute before his capture, Pepperland’s elderly Lord Mayor sends Old Fred, an aging sailor, to get help; he runs to the Yellow Submarine and takes off in it. Old Fred travels to Liverpool, where he finds Ringo and persuades him to return to Pepperland with him. Ringo collects his ‘mates’ John, George, and finally Paul. The five journey back to Pepperland in the yellow submarine.
The film features 12 of the Beatles’ songs: ‘Yellow Submarine’, ‘Eleanor Rigby’, ‘All Together Now’, ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’, ‘Only a Northern Song’, ‘Nowhere Man’, ‘Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds’, ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’, ‘All You Need is Love’, ‘Hey Bulldog’, ‘It’s All Too Much’, and ‘All Together Now.’
The Beatles were not enthusiastic about participating in a new motion picture, having been dissatisfied with their second feature film, Help! (1965), directed by Richard Lester. They saw an animated film as a favorable way to complete their commitment to United Artists for a third film, however. George Dunning, who also worked on the Beatles cartoon series, was the overall director for the film, supervising over 200 artists for 11 months. The film’s surreal visual style, created by creative director Heinz Edelmann, contrasts greatly with the efforts of Disney Feature Animation and other animated films previously released by Hollywood up until the time.
The Beatles’ animated personas were based on their appearance in the promotional film for the song ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’, with the exception of Paul being without his moustache.
Initial press reports stated that the Beatles themselves would provide their own character voices; however, aside from composing and performing the songs, the real Beatles participated only in the closing scene of the film, while their cartoon counterparts were voiced by other actors.
The film received widespread acclaim from critics and audiences alike, in contrary to some of the Beatles’ previous film ventures. Time commented that it ‘turned into a smash hit, delighting adolescents and aesthetes alike.’
In The Beatles Anthology, released in the mid-1990s, the three surviving Beatles all admitted that they truly liked the film; regarding their initial non-participation, Harrison, who considered it a ‘classic’, later admitted that he preferred that the group did not provide their own voices, feeling that the professional voice actors captured a certain ‘cartoonish’ element far more effectively than they might have done themselves. Starr also revealed that for years he was approached by children and asked ‘Why did you press the button?’, referring to when his character curiously pressed the panic button ejecting him from the submarine into the sea of monsters. Lennon also implied that his son, Sean, first realized his father had been a Beatle because of the film. After seeing Yellow Submarine at a friend’s house at the end of the 1970s, Sean came home asking why his father was a cartoon. Harrison’s son Dhani also claims that he had no idea about his father’s past life until watching this film. As Dhani said: ‘I came home and I freaked out on my dad: ‘Why didn’t you tell me you were in The Beatles?’ And he said, 'Oh, sorry. Probably should have told you that.’”
“Any time I see anything to do with George it brings back more memories
than you can believe. He was my little mate on the school bus. I was
little then too. He was a lovely boy, and he’s sorely missed by us all.”
-Sir Paul McCartney
Martin: How did the idea for “Two Of Us” come to you? Did you first of all have an idea to write a film about an aspect of the Beatles - and then arrive at this particular story? Did you start out by wanting to write about the dynamic of John and Paul - and then arrive at this place? Or was this specific story your very first thought?
Mark: I wanted to do something creative with all this ‘useless knowledge’ that I had accumulated over the years, as a sort of purging and also as a kind of tribute, a way of saying thanks. Initially, I thought about writing a biography, but there have been so many. I think it was the conceit that I had some kind of unique insight into the dynamic between John and Paul that really got me started. And I would see these interviews with Paul where, whenever they asked him about John, everything would shift – his face, his tone of voice. I would watch him and think, “My God, he really loved John, and he hasn’t gotten over losing him.
Martin: Do you think it is possible that John and Paul ever spent some real time together (just the two of them) between 1971 and 1980 other than those two occasions?
Mark: As far as I know, John and Paul were never actually alone together after the breakup of the Beatles. Paul, of course, often talks about how grateful he is that the two of them re-established some kind of friendship in the months before John died, but that was over the phone. So, unless Paul is keeping a secret, it appears the last time they saw one another was when in 1976 (probably around the time Wings played New York) when John told him to stop coming around without calling first.
Martin: What did you do before writing the story? Did you spend a lot of time doing research? If so what books and sources? What TV shows or videos?
Mark: The most valuable books were “Revolution in the Head” by Ian MacDonald; “25 Years in the Life” by Mark Lewisohn; and “Lennon” by Ray Coleman. I read quite a few others, as well as several old newspaper and magazine articles from the time, but those were really the most helpful. As far as videos, a lot of them I had to obtain on the black market, things like "Let It Be”; the McCartney interview with Charlie Rose from 1991; the Lennon interview with Tom Snyder from 1975; “Wings Over the World”. And then there was the music, which provided the biggest revelations.
Martin: Did you have an idea of what ground you wanted to cover? i.e. what factual topics you wanted each person to cover? And what emotional terrain you would want each of them to cover?
Mark: I knew that John’s painful childhood would play an enormous role in the way I portrayed him, that he would be seen as never having completely come to terms with being unwanted. And I knew that I wanted to get across how much Paul really loved and understood John, which, I believe, is what frightened John.
Martin: The original script ended with “Here Today” (Paul McCartney’s 1982 tribute song to John) being played - though you were subsequently unable to obtain permission for its use. If there had been total access from the Beatles for their recordings and their publishers for their music - would you have wanted to feature other music by them - and by John and Paul individually? If so - what specifically would you have wanted to use? And to underscore which points in the film?
Mark: It would have been nice to have “Silly Love Songs” in there, since that kind of summed up where Paul was at back then. The song that I kept coming back to, though, as I was writing, was “Jealous Guy”. I’m practically convinced that John actually wrote that song for Paul. Whether he knew it or not.
Martin: You show some of the cruel aspects of John (e.g. John’s reaction to Paul wanting to play a song he’d written for his young daughter Stella). Were you worried that there would be a desire to sugarcoat these? After all snapping at an unwanted fan is one thing. Being snippy about a pal’s daughter might be regarded as ugly behavior. Were you determined to show the mercurial nature of his moods?
Mark: Yes, Even down to looking up astrological profiles which indicated that mercurial nature of his. Above all, though, I saw John’s cruelty as a defense mechanism, a way of subverting his anger and fear, and of keeping people at a distance so they wouldn’t be able to inflict pain.
Martin: You present a sense that Paul intuitively understood or had come to understand some of the roots of John’s personal pain. Do you think that might have partly been a desire by you to articulate your OWN beliefs about John (with the benefits of many years of research and perspective) - or do you think that Paul could genuinely have reached that specific insight at that point in time?
Mark: However breezy Paul might appear to be at times, I think he has demonstrated in his best songs (“Blackbird”, “Hey Jude”, and several others) a certain sensitivity which might have enabled him, probably on an intuitive level as you say, not only to understand John but to maneuver him past all his defenses toward some kind of real communication. Having said that, yes, you’re right, I did want to get across my own thesis about John.
Martin: Of all the Beatles books and the books on Lennon and McCartney - which do you think have done the best joy in portraying John and Paul’s personalities and the psychological dynamics of their relationship?
Mark: Without a doubt, “Revolution in the Head” by Ian MacDonald. Ostensibly, it’s an analysis of their music and its impact on the sixties, but I’ve never read anything that conveyed the complicated friendship and rivalry that existed between these two men as well as this book. It encouraged me to listen even more closely to their music, as that’s where the real insights into their characters are found.
Martin: Paul is going to read this next bit! What would you like to say to him about the film and how you hope he’ll view it.
Mark: Hi, Paul. I hope you recognize these two guys. And I hope it makes you smile.
Martin: And Yoko is going to read this next bit! What would you like to say to her about the film and how you hope she’ll view it?
Mark: Yoko, hi. This was a true labor of love. Maybe you won’t want to watch it. I don’t know. But it’s a good movie, really, and if you do see it, I hope you find it worthy.
Martin: If you had to choose one Beatle (or solo Beatle) song - (other than “Here Today”) which summarizes the film and the feelings and insight that you want people to take away from the film as a lasting memory - what would that be.
Mark: “Jealous Guy”.
-Interview with Mark Stanfield, writer of the film “Two of Us”
George Harrison aboard an Alster ferry, Hamburg, April 1961
Photo: Jürgen Vollmer
“[P]rinted later, the black and white contact sheet with twelve photographs of George seated and standing in a ferry, taken by Jurgen [sic] Vollmer, Pauline Sutcliffe’s personal copy.” - Auctioned by Bonhams on 29 July 2003
“He was such a sweet and charming little boy. But he also had this melancholy feeling that I identified with. I didn’t have much contact with Paul, and I was always a little afraid of John because he could be arrogant and overly ironic. But George didn’t have a mean streak in him.” - Jürgen Vollmer, Harrison
George Harrison, Ken Scott, George Martin and Paul McCartney in the control room at EMI Studios, Abbey Road, during the “Hey Jude” recording session, 30 July 1968. More screen captures from that day have been posted previously.
“Working with George [Harrison] was always a joy.” - Ken Scott, Premier Guitar, 19 March 2010
* * *
“[George Harrison] was so much more than The Beatles.
As a guitarist he eventually got his own unique sound when you could always tell it was him. There are very few guitarists that can say that. You can hear a blues guitarist and it could be any number of guitarists; their styles are very similar. With George, he was just completely different from anyone else.” - Ken Scott, Finding Zoso, 4 December 2012
* * *
Ken Scott: “I learned very early on not to get star-struck. He [George Harrison] was the exception until the last day I saw him.”
Red Bull Music Academy: “Why him more than the other Beatles? It seems like he was the one you had the strongest relationship with.”
KS: “Yeah, I was the strongest with him. He was just an amazing person. There’s been so much written about him being dour and down the entire time and the quiet one. Eric Idle once said of George, that he was always quoted as being the quiet Beatle, but anyone that knew him knew that once he started there was no shutting him up. As far as being dour, he was one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. Just as an example, they were mixing “Yellow Submarine,” surround sound, at Abbey Road, and George and Ringo were invited to go and hear what they were doing. They’re upstairs listening, and it just so happened down in number one, the very big studio at Abbey Road, Mel Gibson was doing music for one of his movies, I think it was The Patriot at the time. And typically, with any of the Beatles, the top film stars, if it’s a Beatle they’ve got to meet them. It’s, they’re above everyone. So, Mel Gibson heard that Ringo and George were upstairs and he passed word up, could he go up and meet them. Word came back down, ‘Yeah, sure, send him up.’ So, he went upstairs and he meets Ringo first, he shakes hands and all of that, then it’s George’s turn, and George just turns and looks and he said, ‘I thought you said it was Mel Brooks.’“
"Mel Gibson’s jaw just hit the ground and George said, 'Don’t worry, I know who you are.’”
But that’s the way he was, he was an amazing individual. He could give two hoots about the business, really. He always used to get pissed off because it was always: 'George Harrison, ex-Beatle.’ And, he, ‘That was six years of my life, what about the rest of the stuff.’ He hated being that ex-Beatle being after his name all the time.“ - 2013
* * *
“George Harrison has got a lot of, shall we say, bad press from one book [Geoff Emerick’s] and I want to dispute that. George was one of the funniest guys I ever met and I was blessed to spend a lot of time with George just before his passing, and just a quick story from that. One of the - we were putting together the remaster of All Things Must Pass, and Phil Collins, the ex-drummer of Genesis and also the lead singer, has often told this story in interviews, how he played on All Things Must Pass, he played congas on something. And no one remembers him playing on it, no one has any proof that he did it, but he has continually told this story. So whilst we’re doing the - some overdubs on additional tracks for the remaster, we have a percussionist by the name of Ray Cooper come in. And George - we’re finishing everything up and George then suddenly tells me to put up a particular track, and he says to Ray, ‘Okay, I want you to play congas on this, and I want you to play them badly. I don’t want them really badly, just off enough that it would really set someone slightly off.‘ So we recorded it, George said, ‘Okay, now do a quick rough mix of it and keep the congas up fairly loud.’ So I did that and we then made a CD of it, and George gave it to Ray and he said, ‘Next time you see Phil, give him this and tell him we finally found his congas.’ [laughter] So Ray goes, he sees Phil, he gives him this CD and apparently Phil was ecstatic: ‘Finally I’ve got the proof, I’ve got the proof!’ He takes it home, he plays it, he wants to cry. [laughter] Two weeks later, George called up and said, ‘Gotcha.’ [laughter] That was the Mr. Harrison I knew.” - Ken Scott, Beatlefest, 2013