John Lennon suggested Eric Clapton join The Beatles following George Harrison's temporary departure in 1969, according to new audio recordings

[L-R] John Lennon, Eric Clapton and George Harrison
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The Beatles almost fired George Harrison and replaced him with Eric Clapton during the production of Let It Be, according to newly unearthed audio recordings. 

The sound clips, reported by The Daily Mail, allegedly show John Lennon telling Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr in 1969: “If George doesn’t come back by [next week] we ask Eric Clapton to play.”

George Harrison temporarily left The Beatles in January 1969 after he felt that his songs didn't get as much recognition as contributions put forward by other members of the band.

In a quote taken from The Beatles Anthology – a multimedia set exploring the history of The Beatles – Harrison explains that composing songs with the band had become “stifling”.

“Although [Let It Be] was supposed to break away from that type of recording (we were going back to playing live), it was still very much that kind of situation where [Paul] already had in his mind what he wanted. He wanted nobody to play on his songs until he decided how it should go. For me it was like: ‘What am I doing here? This is painful!’”

And while Lennon was arguably ruthless in his stance to fire Harrison, the new audio reveals that he did have sympathy for the guitarist. 

In the clips, Lennon rationalizes that Harrison's attitude was “a festering wound and we allowed it to go deeper and we didn't even give him any bandages”. 

The new audio recordings are reportedly taken from The Beatles: Get Back, a forthcoming three-part documentary series directed by Peter Jackson examining the turbulent period the Fab Four endured while recording their swan song album.

Lennon's comments favoring Clapton might come as a surprise, after it was reported earlier this year that he wished Rick Nielsen had played on his second solo single, Cold Turkey, instead of Eric Clapton.

“I was in the studio, playing, and John looked at [Double Fantasy co-producer] Jack Douglas and said, ‘God, I wish I’d had Rick on Cold Turkey. Clapton choked up,’” Nielsen told Classic Rock.

The Beatles: Get Back arrives on Disney+ on November 25, and runs daily until November 27.

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Sam Roche

Sam was Staff Writer at from 2019 to 2023, and also created content for Total Guitar, Guitarist and Guitar Player. He has well over 15 years of guitar playing under his belt, as well as a degree in Music Technology (Mixing and Mastering). He's a metalhead through and through, but has a thorough appreciation for all genres of music. In his spare time, Sam creates point-of-view guitar lesson videos on YouTube under the name Sightline Guitar.