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George Harrison said The Beatles agreed not to replace each other if someone left the band. The Beatles would only consist of John Lennon, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr. If one of the Fab Four left, that was the end of the group.

The Beatles in Hamburg, 1966.
The Beatles | Peter Timm\ullstein bild via Getty Images

George Harrison said The Beatles agreed not to replace each other

In the 1990s, the remaining Beatles, George, Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr, reunited to make The Beatles: Anthology documentary, which also became an album and book. John Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, gave them some of her husband’s demos so they could record two new Beatles songs, “Real Love” and “Free As A Bird.”

During an interview, George said the Anthology project was the perfect vehicle for The Beatles because, in their early career, they agreed that if any of them left for whatever reason, they’d cease to exist.

“We always had a thing between the three of us, the four of us at that time, but if any one of us wasn’t in it we weren’t going to get Roger Waters and go out as The Beatles or Dave Gilmour. So therefore, the only other person who could be in it was John.”

John suggested The Beatles replace George after he briefly left the band

Despite The Beatles’ pact to never replace each other if one of them left, John suggested the band get Eric Clapton to replace George after the guitarist abruptly quit while recording Let It Be. Although tensions were high then.

The moment unfolds in Peter Jackson’s The Beatles: Get Back. George and Paul started their infamous fight during rehearsals for “Two Of Us.”

“I never get any support or anything,” Paul said. “I’m not trying to get you,” he told George. “I’ll play anything you want me to play. Or I won’t play at all if you don’t want me to play,” George said. “Now, whatever it is that will please you, I’ll do it.”

Later, Paul and George fought again during rehearsals of “Get Back.” Paul tried to make the song sound less ordinary, but George didn’t understand him. “You need Eric Clapton,” George shot back. He shouldn’t have joked.

Suddenly, during lunch, Geoge nonchalantly quit. “I think I’ll be leaving the band now,” he said. “When?” John replied. “Now. Get a replacement. Write into the NME and get a few people,” George said. Leaving, George told the group he’d see them “’round the clubs.”

After lunch, The Beatles continued without George, and it all fell apart. “Just pretending like nothing’s happened,” John said. Filmmaker and Let It Be director Michael Lindsay-Hogg asked if they should say George was sick. John said if George leaves, he leaves. “If he doesn’t come back by Tuesday, we get Clapton,” he said.


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Paul said John’s spirit was with them when The Beatles recorded ‘Free As A Bird’

Whatever happened during The Beatles’ last months, none left until the band was truly over a year later. Later, when George, Paul, and Ringo recorded “Free As A Bird,” John didn’t miss out. According to, The Beatles felt John’s presence in the studio while they recorded the song.

“There were a lot of strange goings-on in the studio – noises that shouldn’t have been there and equipment doing all manner of weird things,” Paul said. “There was just an overall feeling that John was around.” When they recorded “Real Love,” Paul says John also tried to make his presence known by contributing to the recording.

“We put one of those spoof backwards recordings on the end of the single for a laugh, to give all those Beatles nuts something to do,” Paul said. “I think it was the line of a George Formby song. Then we were listening to the finished single in the studio one night, and it gets to the end, and it goes, ‘zzzwrk nggggwaaahhh jooohn lennnnnon qwwwrk.’ I swear to God. We were like, ‘It’s John. He likes it!'”

No matter what happened, The Beatles never continued without each other.