The Beatles retired from live performance in the late 1960s when their fame became too much of a crutch for them as they toured the world. In 1966, the Fab Four were hard at work on what would be their eighth album, but they wanted to shake it up in a big way. Rather than simply piecing together another batch of singles into one album, the band’s main songwriters Paul McCartney and John Lennon penned a concept album: Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
The album has become one of The Beatles’ biggest and best-known albums of all time. Not only did it include such iconic hits as its title track and Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, but it also featured With a Little Help from My Friends and A Day in the Life.
Since then, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band has become The Beatles’ best-selling album of all time, with more than 32 million copies sold worldwide (via Far Out).
However, when the record first came to life, George Harrison was not a fan of how it was going. In fact, he couldn’t stand what the gang was doing.
Author Joshua M Greene wrote in Here Comes The Sun: The Spiritual And Musical Journey Of George Harrison: “Paul had come up with an innovative idea for his current album. The Beatles were pretending to be someone else, an imaginary group called Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and every time one of the Beatles sang, they would pretend to be someone from the made-up band.”
Greene went on to say, “The idea left George cold and bored. They had been working on the album since November and there was still no end in sight.”
He added that, at the time, Harrison was on his own personal quest. He “wanted to know who he was and who God was.” As a result: “Anything unrelated, no matter how innovative, failed to keep [Harrison’s] interest.”
The writer described that Harrison did not want to go back to being a “fabulous Beatle”. “The band was his job,” he posited. “And as a responsible member, he would continue to play lead guitar and sing harmonies, but meditation was revealing to him an inner person with creative energies and original ideas striving to express themselves.”
Harrison himself even commented on this turbulent time in his life.
Harrison’s apathy for the band grew with each album the Beatles recorded. During the recording of his last album, Let It Be, these feelings of worthlessness and indifference prompted him to leave the band. He stood up during a recording and announced, “I think I’ll leave the band now.”
Years later, reflecting on his time in the band’s more turbulent times, Harrison said, “My problem, basically, was that I was in another world. I didn’t really belong; I was just an appendage.”
Much of the tension stemmed from the fact that Harrison was never asked for his input during the songwriting process. Lennon and McCartney took over most of the songwriting sessions, leaving him feeling like he was being ignored.
Harrison’s ex-wife, Pattie Boyd, later recalled when the Beatles star left the band in the middle of the recording session.
Boyd said: “The Beatles made him unhappy, with the constant arguing. They were cruel to each other. That was really upsetting.”
He added that he was “even more” upset because of Harrison’s new Hare Krishna spiritual path.
The star’s ex-wife, who divorced Harrison in 1977, said he was being pushed aside by the rest of the band. “Like a little brother, he was pushed into the background,” she said. “He would come home from filming and be full of anger. He was in such bad shape.”
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