When The Beatles’ fame skyrocketed in the early 1960s, the world gave each band member a personality according to what they saw. Paul McCartney was the cute Beatle, John Lennon was the witty Beatle, Ringo Starr was, well, just Ringo Starr, and George Harrison was the quiet Beatle. But none of these descriptions really fit the band. John was more than just witty, Paul wasn’t just cute, Ringo wasn’t just the drummer, and George definitely wasn’t quiet.
According to Tom Petty, George Harrison ‘wouldn’t shut up’
The press labeled George the “quiet Beatle” because Paul and John talked the most in interviews. The press saw something intriguing about the relationship between John and Paul, the co-songwriters who were cranking out hit after hit together. So they automatically gravitated to the duo and called George the quiet one. However, George didn’t care what the press thought of him.
But that doesn’t mean George was quiet. In fact, he was never quiet his whole life. He could be outrageously funny and witty when he wanted to be. According to one of his best friends and Traveling Wilburys bandmate, Tom Petty, George was never quiet. “He never shut up,” said Petty (per Rolling Stone). “He was the best hang you could imagine.”
Paul often refers to George as cocky, at least around the time George auditioned for The Beatles (then The Quarrymen). When George died in 2001, Mick Jagger said (per Express), “He was quiet and funny but he could also be rather combative.”
Olivia Harrison says George would walk around the house spouting words
George wouldn’t shut up at times at home either. George’s wife, Olivia, says he would often walk around the house spouting words at random, most of the time to figure out what he could use in a song.
“George would throw out words one after another,” Olivia said (per Valley News). “He knew he’d find the word. He was good at that. Sometimes he was quiet and just thought about it, sometimes he just kept writing down words that began with ‘S’ until he got the right one. It didn’t matter what they were — he knew he would get to something.”
Olivia would often help somewhere along the way in the songwriting process as well. She became his amanuensis, writing down lyrics for him as they came to him. He’d play her a melody, and she’d give her opinion on it. When George did find the words he wanted and wrote them down, he’d often leave the notes and scribbles all over the house for Olivia to find, sometimes years later.
George Harrison wasn’t always a homebody
George was also labeled the “quiet Beatle” because it seemed as if he was a homebody. That was not true either. George went out when he felt like it. He went to dinner parties and got high with comedian Martin Short. He hung out with the Hells Angels. George partied, and he liked talking to people.
However, when he wasn’t chatting up his many friends, George led a quiet life. He enjoyed gardening and keeping to himself. George was the only Beatle who didn’t ever enjoy fame, so he tended to stay away from it all. But that doesn’t mean he was quiet. Behind closed doors, George Harrison wouldn’t shut up about music, race cars, comedy, and especially spiritualism.
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