George Harrison said seeing Cliff Richard inspired him to play guitar: "I could do better than that"

9 April 2024, 15:54

After seeing Cliff Richard perform, The Beatles' George Harrison was inspired to learn the guitar.
After seeing Cliff Richard perform, The Beatles' George Harrison was inspired to learn the guitar. Picture: Getty

By Thomas Curtis-Horsfall

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"Before Cliff Richard and 'Move It', there was nothing worth listening to in England."

That was the opinion of John Lennon, who once claimed Cliff Richard had a transformative effect on British pop music.

Despite later becoming chart rivals, the plucky singer actually had more of an influence on The Beatles than he would've perhaps realised himself.

Up until the release of Cliff Richard & The Shadows' 1959 hit 'Move It', rock 'n' roll hadn't quite yet made it across the Atlantic to the UK.

Cliff opened the gateway to a musical revolution on our shores, and made a lasting impact on another member of the Fab Four too.

In fact, insight from a new book reveals that George Harrison was inspired to pick up the guitar after seeing Cliff Richard perform.

Though unlike Lennon, Harrison wasn't as effusive in his praise for Richard's talent. Quite the opposite.

The Beatles in 1963. (Photo by David Redfern/Redferns)
The Beatles in 1963. (Photo by David Redfern/Redferns). Picture: Getty

Set for release on 11th April 2024, the new book All You Need Is Love has been described as "a ground-breaking oral history of The Beatles and how it all came to an end."

According to The Times, it also details what influenced George to learn the guitar - seeing Cliff Richard perform.

"I remember being a kid of about twelve, dreaming of big motorboats and tropical islands and things which had nothing to do with Liverpool, which was dark and cold," he said in a 1980 interview that has recently resurfaced.

"I remember going to see Cliff Richard and thinking 'f**k it - I could do better than that."

It was at that point that the rivalry between Cliff and The Beatles began, with George continually working on his guitar playing because of it.

Cliff Richard & The Shadows - Move It (The Cliff Richard Show, 19.03.1960)

All You Need Is Love is made up of interviews lifted from the controversial 1983 book, The Love You Make, which was written by Steven Gaines and Brian Epstein's personal assistant Peter Brown.

Despite spending four weeks on top of The New York Times bestsellers after its release, it was widely panned for being sensationalist to a fault.

"To the band and many of those around them, it was seen as a betrayal," writes Sisario in an interview with Brown from 2021.

"Paul McCartney accused Brown of misleading him by pitching it as a more general book about music in the 1960s," with McCartney reportedly tearing up the book after reading it.

All You Need Is Love is likely to be just as divisive, dredging up all of these interviews from 1980-1981 when they were initially conducted, though it's only Paul and Ringo Starr that are alive to dispute what was said.

George thought after seeing Cliff Richard perform: "F**k it - I could do better than that." (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
George thought after seeing Cliff Richard perform: "F**k it - I could do better than that." (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images). Picture: Getty

Elsewhere in the new book according to The Times, George even details why The Beatles "had to end".

They were "monkeys in a cage" said Harrison, who achieved unprecedented success with the band aged just 20, whose life changed forever.

It was likely the sheer oppressive nature of being so famous and influential that caused the four members to part ways.

"We kept realising we were getting bigger and bigger until we all realised we couldn’t go anywhere,” the musician said in the 1980 interview.

He admits it "became too much in the end", they felt "trapped" which made them all individually realise "it had to end", despite the many reasons that have been attributed to their demise.

Naturally one of the factors in their split has always been John's relationship with Yoko Ono, or at least that's what the public perceived to be the case.

Ono has had to refute claims in the new book that she encouraged Lennon to dabble with heroin, after a night in Paris when she herself tried it.

"It was just a nice feeling. So I told John that", Yoko said, though qualified her answer by adding that John "wouldn't take anything unless he wanted to do it".