Here in 2014 the legacies of each of ‘The Fab Four’ are pretty much intransigent. You’ve got Lennon’s legacy of the peace loving long haired family man. Then we have Paul who seems to have done everything in his power to destroy the image of the doe eyed trailblazing genius of the 1960’s to become the bastion of cheese that we see today. Then there is Ringo who managed to piss off his entire home town by saying he didn’t miss a thing about it, and then piss off an entire legion of fans by using YouTube to tell those who had made him rich and famous never to bother him again. Peace & love indeed. Which leaves us with George sitting in the position, even 40 plus years after their split, with the legacy of being the coolest Beatle
So, although his name is an anagram of Rogering A Horse, George was the coolest Beatle. But what exactly was it that puts him in that position?
1. All Things Must Pass
Being the third best song writer in a band is not usually something to brag about. But put up against Lennon and McCartney it’s the equivalent to finishing 3rd behind Barcelona and Real Madrid. Always eyed with suspicion by his band mates Harrison rarely got the chance to show off his talents whilst part of the Fab Four hence when they finally split he went creatively mental releasing the imperious All Things Must Pass.
All Things Must Pass was released in 1970, just 7 months after the Beatles split up. The fact it was a triple album points to it containing a large number of tracks which did not make it onto Beatles albums for one reason or another. The album to this day still receives universal critical acclaim. You will be hard pushed to find any published words criticizing it. The album was produced by Phil Spector using his ‘wall of sound’ approach and spawned the superb ‘Wah-Wah’, ‘What is Life’ and ‘My Sweet Lord’ amongst an array of others
All Things Must Pass out sold any of the other solo Beatles Albums. His 6 million sales outflank that of Lennon’s ‘Double Fantasy’ and ‘Wings’ ‘Band on The Run’.
2. Concert for Bangladesh
Following the success of All Things Must Pass, George went a step further and brought some conscious back to Rock n Roll with his concert for Bangladesh. He brought together some of the day’s biggest players including a semi-retired Bob Dylan to play at Madison Sq. Garden in aid of victims of the Bangladeshi Liberation War. The gig, played over two nights to 40,000 punters made $240,000 for charity and in the process set the precedent for future fund raisers such as Live Aid.
This act alone put Harrison in the driving seat of actually doing something about “peace & love” as opposed to sitting in bed with your bird or sticking your thumbs up at every opportunity
3. Living In The Material World
In 2011 Martin Scorsese, one of the most iconic film producers of all time released his biopic of George. All three and a half hours of footage are epic especially the bit about him getting a blowjob whilst playing George Formby songs on the Ukulele. The fact Scorsese showed no interest in portraying Paul McCartney: Band On The Run or Ringo Starr: Beaucoups Of Blue speaks volumes.
4. Within You Without You
When interviewed in 1979 George spoke of his frustration with the McCartney half of the song writing ‘firm’. “You’d have to listen to 59 of Pauls songs before he’d listen to one of yours’ he stated. So whilst recording Sgt Peppers George recorded the mind blowing ‘Within You Without You’ without any other Beatles. Just him and a load of Indian musicians. Paul, according to George, was very dismissive of what he described as ‘those Indian-type tunes’
All of this happening whilst Paul was fannying about writing when I’m 64.
Tying in with his foresight on ‘Within You Without You it’s fair to say innovation and pushing the boundaries was a massive part of what Harrison was all about. For example he introduced the Wah Wah peddle to ‘I Need You’ on the ‘Help’ album and Harrison was the first ‘popular’ musician to bring the sitar into songs which was first heard on ‘Norwegian Wood’
In terms of psychedelic Beatles George was again the one behind the most ‘out there’ stuff. For example ‘It’s All Too Much’ from ‘Yellow Submarine’ is one of the strongest songs on the album and if it was released today it would still sound like the future.
It’s certainly better than McCartney’s ‘All Together Now’ anyway.
Harrison became involved in a bizarre love triangle that has been well documented, but he dealt with it in the coolest way possible and in a way the majority of us in his position could only dream of. When one of Harrison’s best mates Eric Clapton wrote ‘Layla’ about his desires for Harrison’s then wife Patti Boyd trouble was on the cards. When Boyd finally left the then Indian obsessed Harrison and subsequently wed Clapton there was no blood shed or vengeful songs released. Quite the opposite, in fact Harrison attended their wedding and said, “I’d rather she was with him than some dope.”
To be fair the subject of women is a funny one with George due the fact he allegedly bonked Ringo’s wife Maureen, and there were also allegations that he had a bit of how’s yer father with Ronnie Wood’s wife. Although if we are taking allegations into account here, he also allegedly got it on with Madonna in the 80’s and that is rather cool.
7. He Was Hard As Fuck.
In 1999 his Henley-On-Thames mansion was broken into by a Beatles obsessed nut job. During the attack Harrison was stabbed 7 times. Despite this he wouldn’t lie down and be defeated. Instead he fought back and chinned the intruder with a fire poker and restrained him until he was arrested.
If Mark Chapman had of aimed a gun at him it’s odds on he would’ve caught it in his teeth then smacked him round the chops with a copy of Catcher In The Rye until the plod came.
8. Life of Brian
After EMI pulled funding at the last minute, Life of Brian was destined to be thrown on the scrap heap and would never have made the millions of people laugh it since has. That was how things were going until Harrison got wind of the developments and stepped in. He remortgaged his house and handed over a cool 3 million quid to the see the film get finished. His reasons for doing this? “I wanted to see the film”. As Eric Idol said at the time “That’s one expensive film ticket”
9. The Travelling Wilbury’s.
If you’re going to do a ‘super group’ there is no point pissing about. Which is what pretty much ever super group has done and generally the results are abysmal (Mike and The Mechanics, anyone). Apart from the majestic Sumner – Marr – Tennant – Lowe – Bartos collaboration that was Electronic I’m actually struggling to think of one that was any good. Apart from The Travelling Wilbury’s that is.
For The Travelling Wilbury’s Harrison put together big hitters Roy Orbison, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan and Jeff Lynn for what was originally intended to be a session for a Harrison B side. Not surprisingly, when the track was submitted to the label it was deemed too good and instead a full album was requested and the subsequent Travelling Wilbury’s volume one was a total success.
10. One Liners
Although often described as the shy Beatle it appears that Harrison was anything but that. In fact some of his dry humour and one liners are legendary. For example when George Martin, out of politeness asked if there was anything in the studio they didn’t like, Harrison replied ‘For Starters I don’t like your tie’. During the middle of one American tour, the group members were asked how they slept at night with long hair. Harrison fired back. “How do you sleep with your arms and legs still attached?” When asked what his hairstyle was called back in 1964 he responded with ‘Arthur’
Maybe the best one liner and a quote which sums up why George is the most underrated and the coolest of all The Beatles was from Frank Sinatra. When he was asked, “what is your favourite Lennon – McCartney song’” he replied “Something”. Of course, this is a Harrison penned number.
And with that we are done, and I haven’t had a chance to wax lyrical about Whilst My Guitar Gently Weeps (the acoustic version on Anthology 3 is superb), or his observations of San Francisco Hippy movement or coining the now household term ‘Wonderwall’ or the fact he managed to outdo Thatcher, The Breakfast Club and Michael Jackson by summing up the 80’s in one single image with the cover of Cloud Nine.
But there you go, happy Birthday George, beware of darkness. X