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John Lennon and George Harrison: A Tale of Uneasy Friendship

John Lennon and George Harrison Found their Bond On LSD

The news of John Lennon’s untimely death, a tragedy that shook the world on the 9th of December, 1980, reached George Harrison while he was deep in slumber at his scenic British countryside mansion. In the early hours of the day, Olivia, Harrison’s wife, received a distressing call from Louise Harrison, residing in New York at the time, conveying the horrific demise of Lennon.

He had fallen victim to an assailant’s bullets, eventually losing his life in St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital’s ER ward in Manhattan. Upon receiving the devastating news, Harrison nodded off again, displaying an unanticipated reaction.

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Much notwithstanding, Paul McCartney, another Beatle, characterized Lennon’s death as ‘a drag’ when asked about it on television. It might sound insensitive, but in Philip Norman’s book, ‘George Harrison: The Reluctant Beatle’ (Scribner), it was suggested that Harrison’s aloof behavior reflected his sometimes inappropriate gene.

When Harrison woke up later that day, he elegantly expressed his sorrow about Lennon’s tragic departure, declaring it as ‘the ultimate robbery in life’, a yet shocking and chilling reality.

This expression of his grief came at a juncture when their friendship was in rough waters. The nature of their relationship throughout the Beatle years was majorly tumultuous. This friction was chiefly due to the unwillingness of both Lennon and McCartney to allow Harrison the songwriting liberty he sought. It was during their shared experience with LSD that Harrison and Lennon had found some semblance of close bond.

According to Norman, the ‘mind-altering’ drug had a profound effect on Harrison, instantly altering his perspective towards life and surroundings. However, the brief hiatus from disagreement ended with their parking of drug experimentation.

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Once again, the heated exchange between the duo resumed, particularly after Yoko Ono, Lennon’s new love interest, started drawing a significant part of Lennon’s remaining warmth towards Harrison.

Even though Harrison’s songs like ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ and ‘Something’ were regarded as late ’60s masterpieces, Lennon and McCartney’s creative superiority over Harrison persisted. This tension originated even when The Beatles were in the nascent stage of their career, playing at gigs in Germany. Lennon had assumed the band’s baton, setting the stage for his relationship with Harrison, which was often charged.

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Their early journey was not devoid of camaraderie, though. While touring Germany, the band’s members, including Lennon, McCartney, and their then-drummer Pete Best, had their fair share of backstage incidents, even witnessing a pivotal moment in Harrison’s personal life with a local woman. However, the foundation of their dynamic, demonstrating Harrison in a lesser role, remained unaltered.

The breaking point of their association happened during the recording of ‘Let It Be,’ The Beatles’ final album. As per George Martin, the band’s producer, Lennon and Harrison engaged in a physical dispute, leading to Harrison leaving the band, a rare instance in Beatles’ history. Norman recalls Harrison’s words before he departed, ‘Okay, see you around the clubs,’ before he headed home.

Following Harrison’s exit, Lennon considered inviting Eric Clapton as a suitable replacement, describing him as ‘just as good and not so much of a headache’. However, after an extensive discussion hosted at Ringo Starr’s residence, Harrison decided to reunite with The Beatles after ten days. Yet, this reunion wasn’t meant to last.

Paul McCartney’s decision to quit the band in April 1970 marked the end of an era. The relationship between Harrison and Lennon, although did continue, it was tinged with memories of old wounds. Harrison’s celebratory triple album ‘All Things Must Pass,’ released in 1970, received a lukewarm ‘alright’ from Lennon, critiquing it for being overly lengthy.

Another fallout between the pair occurred in 1971 after Harrison contributed to Lennon’s solo album ‘Imagine’. Four months after the official split of The Beatles, Harrison planned ‘The Concert for Bangladesh’ in Madison Square Garden. Big names like Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, and Eric Clapton joined the performance. Lennon was also slated to participate, yet withdrew at discovering the slight of not involving Yoko in the invite.

The strain continued in their relationship. After Harrison released his autobiography, titled ‘I Me Mine,’ back in 1980, Lennon expressed his shock at the minimal mention of himself. He was reportedly taken aback by Harrison’s mention of every other less significant artist he interacted with except himself, as he voiced in a Playboy interview.

Norman theorizes that the reactions following Lennon’s death were the result of years of Harrison living under the shadow of Lennon and McCartney. Shortly after the Playboy interview, Lennon would unfortunately meet his end, assassinated by Mark David Chapman on Dec. 8, 1980. The initial response and ongoing narrative around Lennon’s death reflect the complex dynamic between the two Beatles and underline the trials and tribulations of their shared existence within one of the most celebrated music groups in history.

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