George Harrison's wife says her husband wasn't stifled by The Beatles

George Harrison in 1970, the year he released All Things Must Pass
George Harrison in 1970, the year he released All Things Must Pass (Image credit: Universal Music)

To coincide with the recent releases of Martin Scorsese's George Harrison documentary, Living In The Material World, and the CD Early Takes: Volume 1, a collection of Harrison's demos and unreleased recordings, Olivia Harrison (who oversaw the latter with Giles Martin), has done some interviews to discuss her late husband songwriting.

Speaking to Spinner, she said that Harrison's writing process was "an amazing thing to witness... It was just being born right then and there. I'd try not to interrupt; I'd put a pencil and a piece of paper by him, you know, just to make sure he had something if he wanted to write something down. I'd get the tape cassette player and put it there.

"With these early takes, for me anyway, I'm experiencing that this was the birth of something. Uncluttered, unproduced, unfettered, not too thought-out -- just that purity. That's the only reason for putting them out. I think they're really beautiful and intimate and revealing."

On the existence of more unreleased material:

"There is some more material. There may be a minute of something he was writing, and it will never be finished. I had an idea of giving unfinished songs to different people. Giving one to Paul [McCartney], maybe, or giving one to somebody else and saying, 'Here are the bones of a song, would you like to finish it?' I think that would be a nice idea."

On whether George compared The Traveling Wilburys to The Beatles:

"He just said he had a lot of fun with the Wilburys, and he had a lot of fun with the Beatles. He never really... I don't think there's anything you can compare to being in a band like the Beatles, is there? But he really had fun with Bob and Roy and Tom [Petty] and Jeff [Lynne]. He loved being a collaborator and loved not having to do all the work himself. I think that was the main thing. And he could hang out; he liked to hang out. He didn't always have guys and musicians to hang out with. He missed that."

On whether he felt stifled in The Beatles:

"He wasn't stifled as a writer. Nobody can stifle you as a writer. You can just keep writing; you might not get your song on an album. He developed later as a songwriter. It seems to be history that he was suppressed or something, but really, he developed later as a songwriter. Although there was so much material that John [Lennon] and Paul were writing, sure, it would be hard to get your songs on an album when they had been writing so many songs for all those years."

Joe Bosso

Joe is a freelance journalist who has, over the past few decades, interviewed hundreds of guitarists for Guitar WorldGuitar PlayerMusicRadar and Classic Rock. He is also a former editor of Guitar World, contributing writer for Guitar Aficionado and VP of A&R for Island Records. He’s an enthusiastic guitarist, but he’s nowhere near the likes of the people he interviews. Surprisingly, his skills are more suited to the drums. If you need a drummer for your Beatles tribute band, look him up.