George Harrison’s Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Acceptance Speech On Behalf Of The Beatles
Words by Riley Fitzgerald
Graphic by Press
When the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame was founded in 1983, it seemed like only a matter of time before the Beatles were inducted.
In 1988, it happened.
But before the Beatles could accept the honor they first had to be inducted by one of their peers.
And who else to perform the task but Rolling Stone Mick Jagger?
Both the Beatles and the Stones were at the spearhead of the British Invasion.
But before either group had taken off in the US, Jagger had become familiar with the Beatles, meeting them after the group had relocated from Liverpool to London in 1963.
In fact, it was witnessing McCartney and Lennon sitting down and effortlessly knock out ‘I Wanna Be Your Man‘ (later the Stones’ first UK hit) in a matter of minutes that prompted him and guitarist Keith Richards to shift their focus away from covering blues standards and begin writing their own songs.
The Beatles and The Stones had a lengthy history together after this.
But it’s one best told elsewhere.
Suffice to say when it came time for Jagger to deliver his indication speech, he had more than a few thoughts to share.
“When I got here tonight, I saw George Harrison and he said, ‘You aren’t going to say anything bad about me are you?'” he joked. “I couldn’t think of anything, really – on the spur of the moment – bad to say about – because in England during those very early days, just while the Beatles were recording their first songs, it was a real wasteland.”
“Anyway, this group,” he recalled, “they had long hair, scruffy clothes, but they had a record contract, and they had a record in the charts with a bluesy harmonica on it called ‘Love Me Do.’ When I heard the combination of all these things, I was almost sick.”
His opinion soon changed.
“A little later on,” Jagger added,”we were playing a little club in Richmond [London], and I was doing this song, and suddenly there they were, right in front of me, The Fab Four: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr, the four-headed monster. They never went anywhere alone at his point. And they had on these beautiful long, black leather trench coats. I could really die for one of those, and I — I thought even if I have to learn to write songs.”
Later on,” he continued, “they gave us our first big hit in England, which was a song they wrote called ‘I Wanna Be Your Man.’ And we were very grateful for that ’cause that really broke us in England. But the example of the way they wrote, and the original way that they crafted their songs wasn’t lost on us. And later on their success in America broke down a lot of doors that helped everyone else from England that followed. And I thank them very much for all those things.”
“We went through some pretty strange times,” he closed off, “We had a lot of rivalry in those early years, and a little bit of friction, but we always ended up friends. And I like to think we still are, ’cause they were some of the greatest times of our lives, and I’m really proud to be the one that leads them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.”
A slightly drunken Ringo Starr then took to the stage to offer his brief thanks before George Harrison delivered the Beatles’ acceptance speech.
“I don’t have to say much because I’m the Quiet Beatle,” George began. “It’s unfortunate Paul’s the one who’s not here because he’s the one who had the speech in his pocket.”
Engaged in a lawsuit with Harrison Paul declined the invitation to attend, but Harrison didn’t linger too long on the thought.
“We all know why John can’t be here, and I’m damn sure he would be,” he added. “It’s hard to stand here supposedly representing the Beatles. It’s what’s left I’m afraid. But we all loved him very much and we all love Paul very much. ”
“I supposed the reason we became a band was [because] of all the other people in the Hall of Fame already,” Harrison reflected. “Including Leadbelly. They stole his tunes and turned it into skiffle and we all became skifflers when we were 13.”
Here Harrison is, of course, referring to formative Beatles influence Lonnie Donegan.
“We just wanted to get guitars, get in a band,” George continued, “because we didn’t really have proper jobs at the time. Anyway, it sort of turned out fine and it’s gotten a bit bigger than any of us expected. It’s certainly wonderful to be here and certainly a thrill.”
“Thank you very much, especially all the rock and rollers,” he concluded, “especially Little Richard, it’s all his fault really.”
(The Beatles had opened for Little Richard early in their career.)
“And don’t forget Mumhamdi Ali!” Ringo interjected, referring to an awkward photoshoot the four were cajoled into sharing with the famous boxer in 1964.
“He picked us up in Miami beach one day,” George acknowledged. “Anyway, thank you all very much And on behalf of John I’m sure he’s well covered here with Yoko, Sean and Julian. Thank you all very much God bless.”
The Lennon family then rounded the speech out with their own thoughts on John before Ringo offered one final quip: “Alright! We’re all doing nothing! Give us the prize and let’s get on with it!”
Following this, one of the most memorably crowded moments in the Hall of Fame’s history ensued, with more than a dozen musicians climbed onstage to engage in a 10-song jam session which culminated with the Beatles ‘I Saw Her Standing There.’