Why George Harrison accused the Bee Gees of being “greedy”

George Harrison was always regarded as the mystic, mellow member of The Beatles.

But George Harrison also had his moments, where he’d exhibit his tongue was sharper than his fellow outspoken former bandmate John Lennon.

There was one instance where he didn’t hold back, in a 1979 interview with Rolling Stone magazine.

For the most part of the decade since The Beatles called it a day, George would seldom partake in interviews, due to his disinterest in discussing his life and work with the media.

He changed tack slightly ahead of his 1979 self-titled album, in a conversation which spanned his new music, nostalgia for his former band, and his reactions to the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band film which had opened in London that week.

The musical jukebox film starring the Bee Gees and Peter Frampton was based on the off-Broadway musical of the same name which came out five years before.

Based on The Beatles’ discography, both the film and the musical featured much of the music from the album of the same name.

George wasn’t impressed by either effort, branding the Bee Gees and their manager Robert Stigwood as greedy.

During the interview with music journalist Mick Brown, they paused to watch a TV news broadcast of a brief interview Harrison had taped earlier that day, about his reactions to the jukebox film.

George reacted: “Maybe we should go and do The Robert Stigwood Story or something” and laughed, “although I suppose the Sgt. Pepper film is all right because they’ve paid the copyright on the songs and made up their own storyline”.

When Brown asked George if he’d seen the film yet, the ‘My Sweet Lord’ artist replied: “No. The reports on it were so bad that I didn’t want to see it. But maybe it’s good. I don’t know.”

He answered “no” when asked if he thought the film had insulted The Beatles’ memory, but then he did continue to say he “felt sorry” for the Bee Gees, Frampton, and Stigwood for making the film in the first place

“I just feel sorry for Robert Stigwood, the Bee Gees, and Pete Frampton for doing it, because they had established themselves in their own right as decent artists.”

“And suddenly… it’s like the classic thing of greed. The more you make the more you want to make, until you become so greedy that ultimately you put a foot wrong.”

You could safely bet the main driver behind making a film based on the music of the most impactful band of the 20th century would be commercial gain, or greed as George put it.

George wasn’t to know if Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band would be a success or not, but it in fact was a major flop.

It’s been reported that the film grossed $20 million against a budget of $18 million. So whilst it recouped the costs and then some, it was certainly not an enormous success.

Especially when you consider that Universal Studios billed the film as “this generation’s Gone With The Wind”, it was a blockbuster gone wrong, an embarrassment in many ways.

Despite the film’s failure, George presumed it would be a commercial success: “And even though Sgt. Pepper is no doubt a financial success, I think it’s damaged their images, their careers, and they didn’t need to do that.”

“It’s just like The Beatles trying to do The Rolling Stones,” he told Rolling Stone.

Later in the interview, George was asked how he felt about nostalgia for The Beatles and their music in the decade since their split.
“We’ve been nostalgia since 1967. It’s fine. There was a time when I don’t think any of us liked it – that 1968 to 1969 period.

“But now it’s funny,” he grinned. “It’s like being Charlie Chaplin or Laurel and Hardy. But the music still stands up, still sounds very good, a lot of it.”

It’s a fair point – nostalgia for The Beatles didn’t wane, and is unwavering still, despite the Bee Gees’ misfire of a movie.

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