The Beatles retired from live performing in the late 1960s as their fame became too much of a crutch for them as they travelled the world. By 1966, the Fab Four were working hard on what would be their eighth album – but they wanted to majorly switch it up. Instead of just stringing together another batch of singles into an album, the band’s primary songwriters, Paul McCartney and John Lennon, wrote a concept album: Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
The album has become one of The Beatles’ biggest and best-known albums of all time. Not only did it include such iconic hits as its title track and Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, but it also housed With a Little Help from My Friends and A Day in the Life.
Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band has since become The Beatles’ best-selling album of all time, with more than 32 million copies sold worldwide (via Far Out).
However, when the record was first brought to life, George Harrison was not a fan of how it was going. In fact, he couldn’t stand what the band were making.
Author Joshua M Greene wrote in Here Comes The Sun: The Spiritual And Musical Journey Of George Harrison: “Paul had come up with an innovative idea for their current album. The Beatles would pretend to be someone else, a make-believe group called Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and every time one of the Beatles sang, he would pretend to be someone in the made-up band.”
Greene went on to say: “The idea left George cold and bored. They had been working on the album since November, and there was still no end in sight.”
He added that, at the time, Harrison was on his own personal quest. He “wanted to know who he was and who God was”. As a result: “Anything unrelated, however innovative, failed to hold [Harrison’s] interest.”
The writer described Harrison as not wanting to be a “fab Beatle” again. “The band was his job,” he posited. “And as a responsible member he would continue to play lead guitar and sing harmony, but meditation was revealing to him an inner person with creative energies and original ideas straining to be expressed.”
Harrison himself even commented on this turbulent time in his life.
Harrison’s apathy for the band was growing with each album that The Beatles recorded. During the recording of their final album, Let It Be, these feelings of worthlessness and indifference prompted him to quit the band. He stood up during a recording and announced: “I think I’ll be leaving the band now.”
Years later, while reflecting on his time in the more turbulent times in the band, Harrison said: “My problem, basically, was that I was in another world. I didn’t really belong; I was just an appendage.”
A lot of the strain came from the fact that Harrison was never asked for his opinion during the songwriting process. Lennon and McCartney took over most of the songwriting sessions, leaving him feeling like he was being ignored.
Harrison’s ex-wife, Pattie Boyd, later looked back on when the Beatles star quit the band in the middle of the recording session.
Boyd said: “The Beatles made him unhappy, with the constant arguments. They were vicious to each other. That was really upsetting.”
She added that it was “even more so” upsetting because of Harrison’s new spiritual avenue of Hare Krishna.
The star’s ex-wife, who divorced Harrison in 1977, said that he was being sidelined by the rest of the band. “Like a little brother, he was pushed into the background,” she said. “He would come home from recording and be full of anger. It was a very bad state that he was in.”