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George Harrison Dissed Fellow Beatles' Songs: "Not the Greatest"

The guitarist also saw his own songwriting contributions overlooked by his bandmates.

John Lennon and Paul McCartney have gone down in history as one of the most iconic songwriting duos of all time, but one of their Beatles bandmates gave a less than glowing assessment of their skills. In an early interview, Beatles guitarist George Harrison said that the songs written by his colleagues were "not the greatest."

Songwriting remained a tricky topic for Harrison, who ended up writing several songs for the band himself. During his lifetime, the late musician opened up about not feeling confident in his own songwriting and about Lennon and McCartney not being very receptive to his contributions. In more recent years, McCartney has looked back on that drama, revealing why more of Harrison's compositions weren't included on Beatles' albums. Read on to learn more.

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Harrison dissed Lennon and McCartney's songs in 1964.

The Beatles circa 1964
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

In an article published in the Saturday Evening Post in March 1964 and republished by The Guardian in 2014, Harrison shared his thoughts on the songs written by McCartney and Lennon. By this point, the Beatles had released their first two albums—both in 1963—and would soon release two more in 1964. Hits they'd already released included "Love Me Do," "She Loves You," "I Want to Hold Your Hand," and "Can't Buy Me Love," all of which were Lennon and McCartney compositions. In their early days, the band was also known for releasing covers of songs by other musicians.

The Saturday Evening Post article reads, "George plays lead guitar for the Beatles, often with a look of unconcern that seems to reflect a desire to be strumming elsewhere. 'Well,' he says, 'the songs that Paul and John write, they're all right, but they're not the greatest.'"

Harrison later revealed which ones he liked.

George Harrison circa 1965
Keystone/Getty Images

The Beatles' style evolved a lot during their 10 years together, and Harrison's comment about Lennon and McCartney's songs being "not the greatest" was given early in their career. As reported by American Songwriter, he later said during a 1974 interview with Lennon, "I enjoyed things like 'Strawberry Fields [Forever].' I enjoyed the ones which were inventive, which were new. I enjoyed 'Norwegian Wood', because I felt where it was coming from."

Both of those songs are credited to Lennon-McCartney, though Lennon was the primary songwriter for both.

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Learning to write songs himself was "hard," the guitarist said.

George Harrison performing circa 1966
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Harrison once said that he knew his own songs weren't so great initially because he didn't have as much experience writing as Lennon and McCartney coming into the band.

"They'd had a lot of practice. They'd written most of their bad songs before we'd even got into the recording studio," Harrison said, according to American Songwriter. "I had to come from nowhere and start writing, and have something with at least enough quality to put on the record alongside all the wondrous hits. It was very hard."

That said, the musician wrote songs for the Beatles that are beloved classics today, including "Here Comes the Sun," "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," and "Something."

Lennon and McCartney wanted to be the sole songwriters.

John Lennon and Paul McCartney in 1963
Fox Photos/Getty Images

In a 2021 interview with The New Yorker, McCartney admitted that he and Lennon decided together to be the songwriters of the group.

"I remember walking through Woolton, the village where John was from, and saying to John, 'Look, you know, it should just be you and me who are the writers,'" he said. "We never said, 'Let's keep George out of it,' but it was implied."

The 2021 documentary The Beatles: Get Back shows the band working on their final album, 1970's Let It Be. Harrison's frustration with his bandmates is obvious in some of the footage. He even briefly leaves the group only to rejoin after five days.

As for the fourth Beatle, Ringo Starr, he wrote two songs for the band—"Octopus's Garden" and "Don't Pass Me By—on his own and has co-writing credits on four other songs.

RELATED: See Ringo Starr's Granddaughter, Who's Also a Musician.

The band argued over Harrison's songs shortly before their split.

The Beatles in London in 1967
Jeff Hochberg/Getty Images

In 2019, The Guardian reported on a tape recording of a 1969 meeting among Harrison, Lennon, and McCartney. Starr wasn't able to make it, so Lennon recorded the proceedings for the drummer to listen to later. The tape is notable, because it sheds light on the final days of the Beatles, and it also includes an exchange between Harrison and McCartney about songwriting.

"I thought until this album that George's songs weren't that good," McCartney says during the meeting, in reference to 1969's Abbey Road. (It was the last album they recorded, but the second to last they released.) Harrison responds, "That's a matter of taste. All down the line, people have liked my songs."

After the band broke up in 1970, all of the Beatles went on to solo careers that saw them writing their own songs. Today, McCartney and Starr are the two surviving members of the band. Lennon was murdered in 1980. Harrison died of cancer in 2001.

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Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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