The suspect's mother tells British press that her son had recently become obsessed with the Beatles, believing the band to be "witches."
The guitarist, who penned such classics as "Here Comes the Sun," "Something," and "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," suffered a collapsed lung and is recovering in a London hospital.
The attack comes nearly 19 years after John Lennon was gunned down outside his New York apartment building by a crazed fan.
Harrison's spokesman said the 56-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Famer was in stable condition after fighting off the assailant at the musician's sprawling estate in Henley-on-Thames, west of London. He's expected to be released in a few days. His wife, Olivia, slightly wounded in the attack, did not require hospitalization and is at her husband's bedside.
"Since he's been in a hospital bed, he's been getting much better and is comfortable," a hospital spokesperson said. "Generally, they are very happy and concerned to let the world know they are recovering well."
Harrison, stabbed four times, did not require surgery for his collapsed right lung, but had been fitted with a chest drain to remove fluid build-up. Doctors say Harrison was lucky to survive the attack--the knife just missed a major chest artery.
The 33-year-old attacker, who hails from the Beatles' hometown of Liverpool, was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder at the 100-room, heavily guarded mansion where the Harrisons have lived for 20 years. (No immediate word on how the intruder got by the security and into the house.)
He has been identified in British media reports as Michael Abram, and his mother is quoted in a Liverpool newspaper as saying he "has been running in pubs shouting about the Beatles...he hates them and even believes they are witches." Lynda Abram says her son has had a history of mental-health problems, and she says he recently became obsessed with the Beatles.
That's eerily similar to Mark David Chapman, an obsessed fan who believed he was on a religious crusade when he killed John Lennon on December 8, 1980.
A member of the Harrisons' staff reported the attack at 3:30 a.m. London time. Harrison and his wife managed to fight off Abram and, with the help of house staffers, held him until police could arrive.
"The intruder has head injuries, so there was a serious struggle put up by Harrison and his wife," Bailey said. The man was treated at a nearby hospital and then discharged into police custody.
Apple, the Fab Four's record label, said the surviving members of the band, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, as well as Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, had all been informed of the attack and were being updated on Harrison's condition.
"Thank God that both George and Olivia are all right," McCartney said in a statement. "I send them all my love."
Added Ringo: "Both [wife] Barbara and I are deeply shocked that this incident has occurred. We send George and Olivia all our love and wish George a speedy recovery."
"He is a very peaceful person who hates violence of any kind," former Beatles producer George Martin told Reuters. A deeply spiritual person, Harrison introduced the band to Eastern religions and convinced the group to travel to India to study with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
A fiercely private man, Harrison announced to the world last year that he was battling throat cancer.
(ORIGINALLY POSTED 12/30/99 at 8:20 a.m. PT)