George Harrison became known as the “dark horse” of The Beatles after surprising many listeners with his solo career. However, this was no surprise to long-time Beatles producer George Martin who had a theory on why Harrison had an easier time transitioning into a solo career than Paul McCartney and John Lennon.
George Martin said George Harrison benefitted in his solo career from being a ‘loner’
George Harrison contributed plenty to The Beatles with his stellar guitar skills, but he had limited opportunities to write songs that proved his knack for songwriting. Mainly because Paul McCartney and John Lennon took on most of the songwriting duties for the band. They also didn’t collaborate with Harrison, who wrote most of his songs by himself.
In a 1971 interview with Melody Maker, Martin said he had an easier time transitioning to being solo because he learned so much about music production while working alone.
“He’s done tremendously because it’s a sort of devotion to duty as far as he’s concerned. We forced him into being a loner, I guess … he could never collaborate with anybody in his writing and therefore when the split came he had more strength because he was forced to be alone. He learned an awful lot about producing, studio techniques, and so on, so that he was able … obviously, any one of them had the power – because they had the money – to spend as much time in the recording studio as they liked, and I know that when George made his album he spent six months doing nothing but overdubbing his own voice 16 times and producing his album. To have the tenacity to do that in itself is something of an achievement, but to go along and actually produce good sounds and good music and good lyrics with it is tremendous.”
Martin felt McCartney and Lennon ‘suffered by comparison’
At the time of this interview, Lennon and McCartney also recently began their solo careers. McCartney released his first two albums, McCartney and Ram, while Lennon debuted his first album, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band in 1970. While these projects were successful, Martin didn’t believe they were of the best quality and said they had “indulged themselves in their own way.”
“John’s become more obvious in a way … ‘Power To The People’ is a rehash of ‘Give Peace A Chance,’ and it isn’t really very good,” Martin admitted. “It doesn’t have the intensity that John’s capable of. Paul, similarly with his first album … it was nice enough, but very much a homemade affair, and very much a little family affair. I don’t think he ever really rated it as being as important as the stuff he’d done before.”
Harrison had success by himself before the other Beatles
While Paul McCartney has had the most success in his solo career, George Harrison had the earliest success after The Beatles broke up. His first album, All Things Must Pass, reached No. 1 on the charts in the U.K. and the U.S. His single for “My Sweet Lord”, also reached No. 1, making him the first Beatle to reach that accomplishment solo.
McCartney and Lennon both had their share of hits, but Harrison’s early success proved that there was a musical genius within The Beatles ready to be unleashed.