The album that made George Harrison realise how “screwed up” John Lennon was

John Lennon

Despite their close friendship while conquering the world as The Beatles, John Lennon wasn’t always convinced by George Harrison. Paul McCartney invited his younger friend Harrison to see his new band, B, play a small gig in early 1958. Harrison subsequently auditioned in front of Lennon. Although impressed by the youngster’s talent, he had reservations about the guitarist’s age.

Harrison was nearly three years Lennon’s junior. It may seem strange that such a minor detail should have an impact on the dynamic between the two. But Harrison would later admit that it did, for better or worse, for the rest of Lennon’s life.

After humoring Harrison as The Quarrymen’s new lead guitarist, Lennon morphed into Harrison’s older brother figure. He offered critique and guidance whether solicited or not. Lennon’s cheeky demeanor quickly rubbed off on Harrison. And the two became close friends amid much japing and goading.

Surprisingly, LSD allowed the pair to form a stronger bond in the late 1960s. “After we started taking acid together, John Lennon and I had a very interesting relationship,” Harrison explained in The Beatles Anthology. “The fact that I was younger or smaller was no longer an embarrassment to John. Paul continues, ‘I suppose we looked down on George because he was younger.’ People are delusory in this regard. It’s nothing to do with how many years old you are or how big your body is. It’s down to what your greater consciousness is and if you can live in harmony with what’s going on in creation.”

“John and I spent a lot of time together from then on, and I felt closer to him than all the others, right through until his death,” Harrison said. “As Yoko came into the picture, I lost a lot of personal contact with John. But on the odd occasion I did see him, just by the look in his eyes, I felt we were connected.”

LSD is a particularly potent substance, as Harrison and his fellow Beatles quickly discovered. Beyond recreation, it has consciousness-altering properties that can aid in the exploration of one’s psyche. These trips are, of course, dangerous, but Harrison believes they helped Lennon confront his childhood demons.

“In a way, like psychiatry, acid could undo a lot — it was so powerful you could just see.” “Harrison explained, “But I think we underestimated how messed up John was.” “For instance, you wouldn’t think he could get bitter because he was so friendly and loving, but he could also be nasty and scathing.”

Following the dissolution of The Beatles, Lennon released John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band in 1970. Unlike most of his work with the Beatles, the album ruminated on personal and political issues. It was with desperation and anger evident in the delivery. In particular, the lead single ‘Mother’ found Lennon channeling his recent primal scream therapy sessions with experimental psychotherapist Arthur Janov. Lennon confronted his childhood abandonment issues in the intensely personal song.

From the age of five, Lennon experienced maternal abandonment. It was when his mother, Julia Lennon, was put under increased pressure by her eldest sister, Mimi Smith, to give up care of her son. Mimi repeatedly expressed her dissatisfaction with Julia as a mother for John to Liverpool Social Services, citing her “sinful” ways. It’s unclear how accurate Mimi’s accusations about Julia were. But, likely, Mimi wasn’t happy with Julia’s fun-loving personality. She was known to be cheeky, good-humored, and impulsive, all of which were traits later attributed to Lennon.

His strict and prudent auntie Mimi finally took care of John Lennon in 1945. She would share parental responsibilities with her husband, George Smith. While allowed to visit his mother regularly, John became increasingly distressed by the separation. A drunk driving cop killed Julia 12 years later when Lennon was only 17 years old.

Harrison revealed in The Beatles/Anthology that, despite knowing about Lennon’s difficult childhood, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band surprised him. “It wasn’t until he made that album about Janov, primal screaming, that I realized he was even more screwed up than I thought.” As a kid, I didn’t think, ‘Oh well, it’s because his dad left home and his mother died,’ which in reality probably did leave an incredible scar,” he told me.


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