George Harrison One Played an Elaborate Joke on Phil Collins

by Maria Hartfield
Credit: Cummings Archives / Contributor/Getty Images

Beatles lead guitarist George Harrison once played a funny joke on fellow musician Phil Collins that’s worth quite a laugh. Harrison was quite witty in his demeanor despite fans labeling him the “Quiet Beatle”.

Harrison performed in musical comedy classics including “A Hard Days Night” and “Help!” while participating in The Beatles’ many press conferences. He eventually left the four-piece band and went on to produce the Monty Python classic, The Life of Brian.

In 2001, Harrison couldn’t help but play a prank on his friend and fellow musician Phil Collins.

George Harrison recorded his first solo album All Things Must Pass in 1970. The song “The Art of Dying” featured former Beatle band member Ringo Starr on drums, Billy Preston on keys, Eric Clapton on guitar, and Phil Spector as the producer. Harrison insisted on finding a conga player for the session and recruited 18-year-old Phil Collins for the job.

A nervous Collins played his heart out during rehearsals resulting in brutal blood blisters on both hands.

George Harrison’s Ultimate Prank

Collins recounts the prank in an interview with Express.

“After about two hours of this, Phil Spector says, ‘Okay congas, you play this time.’ And I’d had my mic off, so everybody laughed, but my hands were shot,” Collins recalls. “…and just after that, they all disappeared. “Someone said they were watching TV or something – and I was told I could go.”

Once the album was released, Collins realized he’d been edited out of the song.

“There must be some mistake,” he thought. “But it’s a different version of the song, and I’m not on it.”

Fast forward thirty years, Collins purchased the home of Formula One driver Jackie Stewart. Stewart was also a close friend of George Harrison. Stewart mentioned to Collins that Harrison was remastering their single “All Things Must Pass” for a rerelease.

“And he said, ‘You were on it, weren’t you?'” she said. “And I said, ‘Well I was there.”

Harrison delivered a tape of the recording to Collins with a note that read: “Could this be you?” Collins recalls.

“I rush off and listen to it, and straight away I recognize it,” Collins describes. “It was a recording of ‘The Art of Dying.'”

Collins listened to the recording and hears the congas come in albeit “too loud and just awful”. He was devastated to hear Harrison at the end of the take saying, “Hey, Phil, can we try another without the conga player?”

Sometime later, Stewart calls Collins with Harrison on the line. “‘Did you get the tape?’ Harrison asked. “I now realize I was fired by a Beatle,” Collins grimaced. Harrison couldn’t stop laughing.

“Don’t worry, it was a piss-take. I got Ray Cooper to play really badly and we dubbed it on,” Harrison chuckled. “Thought you’d like it!”

Basically, Harrison did a whole recording session with a conga player who he purposely asked to play poorly just to get a laugh from Collins. And it worked.