“Noise and nothing”: George Harrison thought punk rock was rubbish

By the time the 1970s ended, punk rock needed to make some sort of impact. Here were all of these washed-up rock stars trying their best to remain relevant with the times, but no one was saying their piece about what was happening on the street anymore. While The Clash and Sex Pistols did a good job bringing rock and roll back to its roots, George Harrison was no fan of any of them.

If it weren’t for The Beatles, though, there arguably would not have been any punk to begin with. That sounds weird to come from the same band that made tracks like ‘Eleanor Rigby’, but you have to go back to when the group were first cutting their teeth in the Liverpool club scene as well as their stint in Hamburg.

When working out rock and roll classics, they were known to play the songs in a ramshackle way, leading to them relying on attitude and charisma to get their point across. Even John Lennon remembered having massive respect for bands like Sex Pistols, saying that it was all too familiar for what he had been doing in the clubs in the early 1960s.

After Harrison left The Beatles in the 1970s, he was officially done with that sort of music. He had fully transitioned into making the kind of mellow music that suited his frame of mind, with songs that veered on the side of pop, country and the kind of Eastern flavours of rock that he picked up on from Ravi Shankar.

Compared to punk’s start in the late 1970s, Harrison was living the life that most rock stars dream of, living in his lush surroundings in Friar Park and gardening as much as he played guitar. He may have been minding his business, but when he heard the punks breaking into the business, he thought it was all just noise and screaming.

When asked about the surge of punk acts, Harrison said that most of it was the antithesis of music, telling Rolling Stone, “I don’t think punk was inventing anything except negativity. The old rock & roll singers sang fantastically. They had great drummers, great sax players. As far as musicianship goes, the punk bands were just rubbish – no finesse in the drumming, just a lot of noise and nothing.”

Looking at the kind of records he was making, Harrison was the last person to be interested in punk. Around the time he gave that interview, he was on the verge of releasing his self-titled album, which borders on the sounds of yacht rock throughout its runtime on pieces such as ‘Blow Away’ and ‘Faster’.

The former Beatle may have been selling the genre slightly short, though. The biggest names in rock and roll that Harrison took inspiration from got by on their brashness, like Little Richard, so what made the sounds of John Lydon any different? And since then, the way that punk has spread out proved that Harrison may not have judged it correctly. This music was about going against the system, and if it made elder statesmen mad, that was their problem.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *