George Harrison helped The Rolling Stones get signed in selfless move

George Harrison discusses John Lennon in 1990

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This week, February 25, 2023, marks the 80th birthday of The Beatles star George Harrison. The Liverpudlian was born in 1943, and almost 20 years later, he was known as a musical phenomenon with the rest of his band who came to be known as the Fab Four. But he didn’t hoard his glory. Paul McCartney recently revealed The Quiet Beatle helped The Rolling Stones get signed in the first place.

McCartney recalled the story in his book The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present. In the tome he looked back on the stories and anecdotes behind the countless songs he and the rest of The Beatles penned over the decades.

One story involved Harrison attending a cocktail party where he chatted with Dick Rowe, an executive at Decca Records. The same label boss had previously turned The Beatles down and lived to regret it. So Rowe started prodding Harrison for advice.

Rowe explained how he had already “made one mistake” and wanted to know who the next up-and-coming band was.

Harrison obliged: “Yeah, they’re called The Rolling Stones. You should try and sign them.” What happened next proved Harrison knew what he was talking about. 

Harrison told Rowe the Stones frequently played The Station Hotel in Richmond. The story goes that, when he attended to see them play, he signed them “pretty much on the spot”.

McCartney remembered that shortly thereafter he was approached by the Stones’ singer Mick Jagger at a party. Jagger told him they had recently been signed. McCartney knew his wise friend, Harrison, was to thank for this major step up for The Rolling Stones.

The Beatles did not stop helping the Stones there, however. Although the London rockers were successful, they didn’t truly break into the mainstream until they were gifted one of The Beatles’ tracks, I Wanna Be Your Man, in 1963. This song got them to number 12 on the singles charts and skyrocketed their notoriety.

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The rest, as they say, is history. The Rolling Stones became a worldwide phenomenon, and it was all thanks to The Beatles’ collected efforts.

At the time, rumours hit the newspapers that there was some kind of rivalry between the Fab Four and the Stones, but McCartney later confirmed nothing could be further from the truth.

“Mick [Jagger] used to come over to my house in London,” McCartney wrote. “So that I could play him all the new American records while all this was being written.”

McCartney added: “Stones, Beatles – we were big buddies, forever and ever, but the fans started to believe there was some truth in the manufactured rivalry. There never was.”

Jagger had a different story to tell. He inducted the band into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame back in 1983. When he did so, he made a speech about their decades together in the music industry.

He said: “We went through some pretty strange times. We had a lot of rivalry in those early years, and a little bit of friction.”

He did admit The Beatles and The Rolling Stones “always ended up friends,” however. He continued: “I like to think we still are, ’cause they were some of the greatest times of our lives.”


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