Why Did George Harrison Leave The Beatles? The True Story Behind That 'Get Back' Scene

Get Back is Disney+'s new documentary about The Beatles, which takes us into the room where the Fab Four were working on their final album, Let It Be. As viewers can see in the doc, tensions were high with the band at the time – not least because the band were being recorded for a TV documentary.

At the end of the first episode, things become a little too much for one of The Beatles. After a morning working on the song "Get Back," in which Paul McCartney keeps criticising George Harrison for "vamping" on the song (and where Harrrison does not look happy to be there), Harrison finally has enough. He leaves the rehearsals, simply saying: "I'm leaving the band now."

Though we do not hear it in the film, the other members of the band also discuss how he said he would "see you round the clubs."

He is equally laconic in his diary as it appears in the Disney+ doc. "Got up," he writes, "went to Twickenham. Rehearsed until lunch time – left the Beatles – went home."

When did George Harrison leave The Beatles?

george harrison left the beatles
George Harrison in "The Beatles: Get Back." The Beatle would leave the band the same day this shot was taken. Disney+

Thanks to these recordings and Harrison's diary, we know exactly when he exited the band – January 10, 1969, a Friday.

This made him the second member to leave the group within the space of six months. Ringo Starr had also temporarily exited the group in August 1968 during the sessions for that year's The Beatles (aka the "White Album").

In previous Beatles documentary Anthology, Starr paints a picture of each member of the band feeling isolated from the others: "I left because I felt two things: I felt I wasn't playing great, and I also felt that the other three were really happy and I was an outsider... I went to see John... I said, 'I'm leaving the group because I'm not playing well and I feel unloved and out of it, and you three are really close.' And John said, 'I thought it was you three!'

"So then I went over to Paul's and knocked on his door. I said the same thing: 'I'm leaving the band. I feel you three guys are really close and I'm out of it.' And Paul said, 'I thought it was you three!' I didn't even bother going to George then."

When Ringo left the band, The Beatles recorded "Back in the USSR" with John on the drums – a move that led to the cruel (and unfair) joke among fans of the band that Ringo was not even the best drummer in The Beatles.

Why did George leave The Beatles?

The Beatles: Get Back
Ringo, Paul, John and George performing on the Savile Row rooftop in London. This would be their final performance before splitting up. Apple Corps Ltd.

These tensions were still simmering in early 1969 and played a part in Harrison's exit. However, Harrison said it his fighting with McCartney that tipped him over the edge.

In Anthology, Harrison said: "They were filming us having a row. It never came to blows, but I thought, 'What's the point of this? I'm quite capable of being relatively happy on my own and I'm not able to be happy in this situation. I'm getting out of here.'

"Everybody had gone through that. Ringo had left at one point. I know John wanted out. It was a very, very difficult, stressful time, and being filmed having a row as well was terrible. I got up and I thought, 'I'm not doing this any more. I'm out of here.'"

In that same interview, he also reveals a two other factors – McCartney's attempts to control the recording sessions and reluctance to listen to other people's contributions, and the relationship between John Lennon and Yoko Ono (who can be seen throughout Get Back).

In his book Luck and Circumstance, Michael Lindsay-Hogg (the director who was filming the band) gave an insight into the lunch at which Harrison said his goodbyes: "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."

Harrison claims that while The Beatles returned to the studio for more rehearsals, he went home and wrote "Wah-Wah," a song that would appear on his 1970 solo album All Thing Must Pass. That song is about being free of tension, and for that reason is seen by Beatles scholars as his reaction to leaving the band.

Ironically, this song features both Ringo Starr (who left The Beatles before Harrison did) and Eric Clapton, the guitarist the band suggested they replace Harrison with if he did not return to the band.

We see the band's reaction to Harrison leaving in the Disney+ doc. After a few jokes at Harrison's expense, the remaining three dive into an experimental jam session, with Ono providing her signature screeching vocals. In what can be read as another dig at Harrison, the band also perform a song by The Who titled "A Quick One, While He's Away."

When did George rejoin The Beatles?

WARNING: The following contains potential spoilers for The Beatles: Get Back

Initially, he would be out of the band for just five days, returning on January 15.

His main condition was that the group would not perform the live show they had been rehearsing for when he exited the group. Sessions for Let It Be then continued in the studio of The Beatles' studio in the basement of their company Apple Corps. The band convened their to continue working on the album on January 20, and sessions ended on January 31, when filming also came to an end. After a few more sessions featuring various combination of Beatles members, Let It Be came out in May 1970.

By that point, the band was on its last legs. Lennon exited the group in September 1969, while McCartney left the band in April 1970, the date that many mark as the official end of the group, even if they were not dissolved as a legal entity until December 29, 1974.

The Beatles: Get Back airs November 25, 26 and 27 on Disney+.

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