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When the early Beatles — John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Pete Best, and Stuart Sutcliffe — were first beginning to see success as performers, they nearly destroyed it. Lennon and McCartney took an impromptu hitchhiking trip together. The rest of the band was so upset to have been left behind that they began looking for other groups to join.

John Lennon and Paul McCartney took a hitchhiking trip without their bandmates

After playing shows in Hamburg, Germany, The Beatles returned to Liverpool triumphant. While they were not yet mainstream successes, they were on their way to fame. This all almost fell apart, though. 

Lennon invited McCartney on a hitchhiking trip through France and Spain using his birthday money. To go, they ditched several Beatles gigs and seriously angered their bandmates.

A black and white picture of Paul McCartney and John Lennon wearing suits and sitting at a dinner table.
Paul McCartney and John Lennon | William Vanderson/Fox Photos/Getty Images

“Accordingly the two just took off together, wearing matching bowler hats — the Nerk twins reincarnated,” Philip Norman wrote in his book Paul McCartney: The Life. “George and Pete Best were so disgusted at being left in the lurch that both started looking around for other bands to join while Stu Sutcliffe in Hamburg told Astrid [Kirchherr] and several other people that The Beatles had broken up.”

Meanwhile, Lennon and McCartney happily bounced around France together. 

George Harrison felt that his Beatles bandmates often overlooked him

While The Beatles remained together, the hitchhiking trip provided Harrison with a preview of how his time with the band would shake out. Lennon and McCartney wrote together for years and prioritized their songs above his. Harrison believed they were so caught up in one another that it was impossible for them to pay attention to anyone else.


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“[Lennon] didn’t realize how I was, and this was one of the main faults with John and Paul,” he said, per the book George Harrison: Behind the Locked Door by Graeme Thomson. “They were so busy being John and Paul they failed to realize who else was around at the time.”

Though Harrison didn’t think he was that good of a songwriter in his earliest years with The Beatles, he began to take himself more seriously over time. He wrote some of the band’s most enduring songs, but this often wasn’t enough for his bandmates. They wanted to be the primary songwriters.

George Harrison and Paul McCartney hitchhiked together before they were in The Beatles

Several years before Lennon and McCartney set off for France, the latter took a similar trip with Harrison. 

“I often think of George because he was my little buddy,” McCartney told The New York Times in 2020. “I was thinking the other day of my hitchhiking bursts. This was before the Beatles. I suddenly was keen on hitchhiking, so I sold this idea to George and then John.”

They played a show together long before they were selling out stadiums in The Beatles.

“I remember making a guitar with George, going on hitchhiking holidays… I was a big hitchhiking fan, so I would persuade George and John, mainly, to come on holidays,” McCartney told GQ. “So George and I hitchhiked one time to Wales. We went to Harlech and stayed in a little place there and played a little gig, just me and George.”

McCartney said that these are some of his favorite memories.