“George is out”: John Lennon’s verdict on George Harrison’s disastrous 1974 tour

Music history has been kind to The Beatles. Since their heyday in the 1960s, the Liverpudlian Fab Four have consistently been hailed as the biggest band of all time, a title they earned not only through the creation of countless hits but through their wide-spanning impact on the music industry as a whole. From recording techniques to concept albums, the influence of The Beatles is still unwavering over half a century after they went their separate ways.

Though The Beatles may have earned heaps of praise during their decade-long existence, accruing even more acclaim since then, this didn’t absolve them of criticism. In fact, it just meant that millions of Beatlemaniacs were there to witness any career missteps and to voice their discontent accordingly. This remained true even after The Beatles broke up in 1970, as demonstrated by the reaction to George Harrison’s 1974 tour.

After the demise of The Beatles, Harrison delved straight into a solo career. He delivered one of the greatest solo albums to come out of the band, All Things Must Pass, in the same year. Despite his early success as a soloist, his first venture into touring without his former bandmates wouldn’t go quite so smoothly.

Harrison was embarking upon uncharted territory when he announced his ‘Dark Horse’ tour in 1974. Though it had been four years since the break-up and even longer since the Fab Four had last played live together, it marked the first time a Beatle set out on the road alone, taking to stages across North America. In the absence of his former bandmates, he brought sitarist Ravi Shankar along for the ride, creating a set that emphasised spirituality over sentimentality.

Those who attended the tour for their love of the Beatles would find themselves disappointed, as Harrison sprinkled only a few songs he had penned for the band into his set. As a result, responses to the tour were a mixed bag and even his former bandmate, John Lennon, was compelled to share his thoughts. Speaking about the tour during a conversation with Rolling Stone in 1975, the songwriter stated that it “wasn’t the greatest thing in history”.

Lennon’s verdict wasn’t too damning about the tour itself, instead suggesting that Harrison was merely the latest victim of the media’s fickleness. “It was probably his turn to get smacked,” he shrugged, “When we were all together, there was periods when The Beatles were in, The Beatles were out, no matter what we were doing.”

“George is out for the moment,” he concluded, even suggesting that it didn’t matter what he did on tour. Harrison had been in for the release of All Things Must Pass just a couple of years before, so it made sense that he was decidedly out by the time he took his solo work on the road. Perhaps it truly didn’t matter how Harrison orchestrated the first post-Beatles tour. He was always going to be subjected to backlash from fans and critics who expected a straightforward ode to the glory days.

Though their reputations may have wavered while they were still making music and playing shows, each taking it in turns to get “smacked”, The Beatles’ legacy has been decidedly stable ever since. In hindsight, they have come to be accepted as the biggest – and often best – band of all time, a statement few would disagree with.

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