The “scruffs” that inspired a classic George Harrison song

Towards the end of the 1960s, George Harrison was getting increasingly fed up with the rest of The Beatles. Despite becoming one of the greatest songwriters of his generation, Harrison was often put on the side compared to his bandmates, with John Lennon and Paul McCartney being more content to work on their collaborative songs than give their guitarist the time of day. All the while, Harrison was stockpiling for what would become his first breakthrough as a solo artist, All Things Must Pass.

Across the album, Harrison sounds like he’s finally free from The Beatles’ dream, finally making songs with little regard for whether it would appease his bandmates. Though most songs demonstrated a certain weariness about the group, ‘Apple Scruffs’ became a loving ode to the people that loved the Fab Four dearly.

For most of the ‘60s, Harrison started to become desensitised to fame, not liking that he could hardly go out anywhere without being noticed and having to hide away in Friar Park most of the time. Whenever the band reconvened back at Abbey Road Studios, they would often be greeted by ‘Apple Scruffs’, a group of fans who liked seeing their favourite band in the flesh.

There are even a few pieces of footage of ‘Apple Scruffs’ in the documentary Get Back. As The Beatles regroup at Abbey Road following Harrison’s departure for a few days, they are interviewed by film crew members about why they showed up, replying that they just wanted to see them.

As a tribute to these devoted fans, Harrison wrote this gentle folk song commemorating the fans for their dedication to the band. Although most of The Beatles didn’t interact with them very much, Harrison was always receptive to the fans, even bringing some of them into the studio to listen to the song’s final version once it was finished.

After the tracking, Harrison also wrote to three scruffs, reading, “I have felt positive and negative – please 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”.

This tiny tribute to one of the last pieces of Beatles history was just a preview of what was to come on the final record. Spanning across three vinyl discs, Harrison unpacks everything he had bottled inside him for the past year, from brilliant ballads like the title track to introducing the world to his slide guitar for the first time on ‘My Sweet Lord’.

Though Harrison always seemed the most bitter when recounting his time with The Beatles in interviews, the fact that he thought enough of the ‘Apple Scruffs’ to give them their own tune speaks to the kind of artist he was. No matter how high his star continued to rise, Harrison never forgot the power behind the interaction with his fans.

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