On January 10th, 1969, in the midst of the 'Get Back' sessions (that would later be repurposed as 'Let It Be', the final Beatles album), George Harrison quit The Beatles.
For decades, very little was known about the infamous day/conversation that led to the brief split of the world's most famous band 53 years ago today, but thanks to Peter Jackson's 'Get Back' documentary released late last year, we've finally got a much clearer picture.
The Beatles were in the beginning stages of writing their new album at Twickenham Studios - which proved to be a shitty location choice that only added to the tension in the room - and George's ideas had been getting shot down by Paul and John all day. This came to a head when the band was working on the song 'Get Back' itself, and Paul accused George of 'vamping' too much on the track, so George said "fuck this" and left. He was collaborating with Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton and The Band at this time and getting along great with all of them, but felt extremely creatively stifled in his own band. He had enough.
In the most casual manner you could possibly imagine, he told John, Paul, Ringo, and everyone else in that room that he would be leaving The Beatles....
George Harrison: "I think I'll be leaving - I'm leaving the band now."
John Lennon: "When?"
George Harrison: "Now. Get a replacement. Write into the NME and get a few people."
Mal Evans: "I'll ask George [Martin] to see about paying residuals."
George Harrison: "But he shouldn't be bothered with that, you know - that's why we've got Apple. So that, you know, we attend to it ourselves."
There was no "FUCK YOU, I QUIT!" moment, and George never said, "AND WHILE WE'RE AT IT, WHY THE FUCK DO YOU KEEP BRINGING YOKO TO THE STUDIO?!" - it was just an extremely relaxed: "I think I'll be leaving - I'm leaving the band now."
Director Michael Lindsay-Hogg (who filmed all of the footage from 'Get Back' in 1969) wrote about the moment he found this out in his book, as George was just as laid back with him as well....
"At the morning rehearsal, I could tell by his silence and withdrawal that something was simmering inside him, and so in my role as documentarian, I'd asked our soundman to bug the flower pot on the lunch table. "
"We'd finished the first course when George arrived to stand at the end of the table. We looked at him as he stood silent for a moment. 'See you 'round the clubs,' he said. That was his good-bye. He left."
George's own words, from his diary, were: “Got up, went to Twickenham, rehearsed until lunch time—left the Beatles—went home.”
Pretty fucking crazy. I mean, with the animosity that had built up that day (off the heels of Brian Epstein's death), and all of Harrison's outside endeavors fulfilling him at this point, I think he truly believed that was the end for him and the Fab Four - at least in that moment. There's some melancholy ass footage of John, Paul, and Ringo discussing it the next morning included in 'Get Back' where you could tell they were taking this very seriously as well.
George would be convinced to rejoin the group to finish the 'Get Back' project a few days later after a couple meetings with the band, and Billy Preston joined the recording sessions shortly afterwards/they moved from Twickenham to Apple, making for a much more friendly/upbeat environment overall - but this moment will be storied and talked about forever.
Plus, Harrison wrote 'Wah-Wah' in the time between quitting and rejoining the band, which is a fucking GREAT tune that wound up on 'All Things Must Pass', the best Beatles solo album in my opinion….