Author’s note from September 2020: Eight years later, and I finally got to the point in the tapes where George quit the Beatles. So stop reading this post, and instead read my comprehensive retelling of this moment here.
The original post remains below.
Continuing to interrupt regular programming to offer up a quick one while he’s away. He, being George Harrison, who quit the band this very day in 1969, marking the second Beatle to leave the group in five months (Ringo having left briefly during the White Album sessions).
A comprehensive post on this moment will come in the future, but wanted to mark the occasion on the actual anniversary.
Director Michael Lindsay-Hogg describes the incident, which happened at lunch, in his 2011 autobiography, “Luck and Circumstance.”
George was usually with us, joining in the conversation, affable and friendly and interested in the give- and- take, but on the day of the Tunisian discussion, he wasn’t with us as the meal started. 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.
John, a person who reacted aggressively to provocation, immediately said, “Let’s get in Eric. He’s just as good and not such a headache.”
Paul and Ringo would not be drawn in, and after lunch we went back to the studio where Paul, John, and Ringo improvised a ferocious riff, half an hour of anger and frustration expressed with guitars and drums. Yoko sat on the edge of the rostrum on the blue cushion which had been George’s and howled into his mike.
Part of the jam was The Who’s “A Quick One, While He’s Away” — just one sliver of the song. And he indeed would “soon be home” — he was back with the group 11 days later when they moved the sessions to Savile Row, which was a condition of his rejoining.
George, meanwhile, was pretty productive once he got to his actual home.
From his autobiography, “I Me Mine”:
…[A]fter one of those first mornings — I couldn’t stand it; I decided this is it! — it’s not fun anymore — it’s very unhappy being in this band — it’s a lot of crap — thank you I’m leaving. Wah Wah was a ‘headache’ as well as a footpedal. It was written during the time in the film where John and Yoko were freaking out screaming — I’d left the band, gone home — and wrote this tune.
“Wah Wah” would never see life as a Beatles song, joining “All Things Must Pass,” “Hear Me Lord,” “Let it Down” and “Isn’t it a Pity” — four Harrisongs brought to the Get Back sessions for the Beatles to work on — on his solo debut instead.