Geoff Emerick on why The Beatles felt George Harrison songs “didn’t really matter”

The real tragedy of The Beatles was that they spent many of their finest years underestimating each other. Egos interrupted what should have been a communal creative experience and resulted in all four members constantly vying for songwriting spots across various albums.

Both John Lennon and Paul McCartney continually wrote most of The Beatles’ songs, but over the years, George Harrison really came into his own, flourishing as a songwriter, which he naturally wanted to reflect on the albums. While Harrison often managed this uphill battle with his laidback persona, when it came to recording them in the studio, the band never took his work as seriously as they should have.

Having written classic songs like ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’, ‘Here Comes the Sun’, and ‘Something’, Harrison should have been celebrated by the band as one of the world’s greats. But in the confines of the recording booth, they made it clear they wouldn’t treat his material with the same consideration they did with Lennon and McCartney’s efforts.

Audio engineer Geoff Emerick was quick to highlight this in Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles, writing: “In general, sessions where we did George Harrison songs were approached differently. Everybody would relax, there was a definite sense that it really didn’t matter.”

Harrison wasn’t necessarily told this verbatim, but their attitude was made very clear when it came down to the practicalities of recording. “It was never said in so many words, but there was a feeling that his songs simply didn’t have the integrity of John’s or Paul’s, certainly they were never considered as singles,” continued Emerick. “So no one was prepared to expend very much time or effort on them.”

As a result, longtime Beatles producer George Martin often wound up playing an intermediary role on the guitarist’s behalf. “If Harrison wanted to do one more take, but nobody else was interested (and they usually weren’t), that’s where [he] would step in and assert his authority,” Emerick explained. “He would intercede if he thought John or Paul were taking the piss, not giving their full effort.”

It was an incredibly frustrating experience for Harrison, who was said to be fostering a quiet “resentment” around this time. It affected his confidence, describing the process as “difficult” to WABC-FM radio.

“It was the way the Beatles took off with Paul and John’s songs,” he reasoned, “And it made it very difficult for me to get in”. On his own self-belief, he added: “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.”

Although a lot of the tension was passively communicated, Harrison did name McCartney as his biggest hurdle. “It was like being in a bag, and they wouldn’t let me out the bag, which was mainly Paul at that time,” he said.

“The conflict musically for me was Paul. And yet, I could play with any other band or musician and have a reasonably good time.”

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