Question: Who’s the best Beatle? Not your favourite. Not the most talented, or successful, or revered. The best Beatle. The one who has the best blend of Beatles attributes. The most Beatleness.
Answer: George Harrison
George would be dismayed, I’m sure, but it’s true. Here’s why.
- He was the funniest one. Yes, they were all witty, and Ringo and John could be terrific clowns, but George’s sense of humour was relentless. Listen to the last verse of Cockamamie Business.
- He was the most reserved. One of the hallmarks of Beatlemania was the Beatles themselves saying, “look, we don’t know what’s going on, we’re just trying to make music.” George maintained that posture until the day he died.
- He was the boldest. Yes, John did all the grandstanding and Paul was the mouthpiece, but who explored further afield? Who took the biggest risks that his fans might not get it? Sitars? Hare Krishna? George.
- He was all about excellence. First and foremost, The Beatles were the best band in the history of rock. George never strayed, never compromised. He didn’t make records with Pattie or Olivia. He made them with John, Paul, Ringo, Billy, Eric, Bob, Tom and Jeff.
- He was wise. John ran away from being a Beatle. Paul went into denial for 20 years, then reversed himself to become chief curator of Beatles Memories Inc.. Ringo, because only he could, just carried on being Ringo. George didn’t try to deny his past even though it made him uncomfortable. He had other priorities (see points 1-4).
Like most people, I adore(d) them all. But, if we’re honest with ourselves, all of them occasionally put us in a “I-wish-he-hadn’t-done-that” space. Easily done when you’re a brave, clever, witty, inventive, curious, smart, cheeky, talented, idolized musical genius blamed for creating a hitherto unknown form of mass hysteria. George had his moments, but he didn’t generate uneasiness as frequently – or as severely – as the others. He was the best at being fab.
If you’d ask him the question, George would probably have said, “oh I don’t know, I suppose the obvious answer is John, isn’t it?” Then he would have laughed and said, “but don’t tell Paul.” Fab.