COLUMN SIXTY-ONE, JULY 1, 2001
(Copyright © 2001 The Blacklisted Journalist)
I never wrote about
George Harrison”s album, All Things Must Pass, at the time it came out.
Probably I was too close to it. I
remember sitting through some of the overdub and mixing sessions in London’s
Trident Studios, down an alley off one of t hose narrow, degenerate Soho
streets, where geeky looking characters in zooty suits with neckties pulled open
under their spread collars stood outside
the tiny clubs in the dim English night like lures to drag you into some
ready-made trouble, like dealers in the sinister, as obvious
as if they were wearing sandwich boards. Somehow, George reminded me of a
holy man going to his temple in the most sinful part of town.
What did it matter that he went in a Mercedes?
the studio door, whether it rained or not, there was always a handful of Apple
Scruffs, they called them---Beatles fans. One
was a girl all the way from Texas. Sometimes
George would record from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., and there they would be, waiting
through the night, beggars for a sign of recognition on his way in and out.
In the morning they'd go off to their jobs and in the evening they'd be
back outside the studio door again, Their grapevine was infallible.
I wasn't there a minute when they knew that “Big Al from New York”
I remember listening to the tracks for
the first time while sitting in front of the two giant speakers in the studio
control booth. It was as if I was
in the front row of some stage hung with curtains and curtains of sound.
I found myself stepping onto the stage and walking through the curtains,
brushing each curtain aside until the curtains were so bunched together I could
no longer find a path through them.
Even then, the melodies were too
enormous for me to fit
was a love song---for a lady, of course---but listen
the core of George's charm, perhaps, is that he always feels so inadequate to
repay the world for what the world has given him. Acts of kindness have become an art with George.
was My Sweet Lord and The Art of Dying and Beware
were too many tunes to hum when I first heard them.
I kept mumbling, "It'll be a smash, it'll be a smash,” thinking
all the while how lame I must be sounding.
was What Is Life" and Let It Down and the Ballad of Sir Frankie
Crisp, who built Friar Park, the estate that George now owns, with its
underground caverns and miniature Matterhorn and artificial lakes and a hundred
rooms full of surprises---including a carving of a monk that smiles at you when
you look at it one way and frowns at you when you look at it another way.
was at Friar Park that he first had sang me most of the songs, Friar Park, where
you can now see him on the cover of his album sitting on a stool surrounded by
four of the dwarfs who used to help Sir Frankle Crisp collect the thrupence from
each visitor who wanted to inspect Sir Frankie's own early version of a
George had first sang me two of the songs, All Things Must Pass and Behind
That Locked Door, on the Isle of Wight the year before. It’s
different, obviously, hearing George sing alone with
for example, off the Abbey Road album, has
the one land, he lights you up with a purity you used to think only could be
gotten from the folkies up at Cambridge. On the other hand, he dazzles you with
a showmanship of vocal trade secrets that only box office heroes know.
a high stool with an acoustic guitar in his lap is the way I've always seen
him," Derek Taylor used to say about George.
Probably I was just a bit disappointed when I heard his vocals buried in
the tracks, but then that might be only a sign of his modesty.
As Ralph Gleason keeps saying, "It's a gorgeous album."
Would it have sold more than two million copies if it had been done any other
way? What George's album
demonstrates is just how much of the Beatles’ sound came from George.
As for what's left of the Beatle sound, All Things Must Pass
proves that George has inherited it.
else has George inherited from the Beatles? Their magic, of course.
While John and Paul had gone out of their way to express disdain for this
treasure, squandering it as if they were Beckett, giving up his wealth as a test
of purity, George has remained its keeper, working hard to insure it remain
learned too much from being a Beatle to be left with disrespect for what he had
experienced. When John was asked
about the success of All Things Must Pass, his answer was that
after all those years of working together, some of it had to rub off on George.
After all those years of being the “invisible Beatle,” George had suddenly
become perhaps the most prominent Beatle.
remember the fall, of 1970 when George's first solo album was released, it had
been on the radio little more than a week when he came to my house in New Jersey
for Thanksgiving dinner. It isn't
that George's music is directed at teenyboppers but in the few steps it took him
to get from his limousine to my front door, a girl fitting the description of a
teenybopper caught a glimpse of George as she was walking her dog. She gasped
and put her hand to her mouth. By the time dinner was served, the house
was surrounded by kids from miles around, all trying to get a peek through
the window. That's Beatles magic.
also the Beatle curse. Who on earth wants to live that kind of life which your
privacy is under constant threat of
is the most agonizing
way to die
at your whim. The advantage,
rather, is in having the power to do the good works that holy men, through
the centuries, have found to be the last resort of their lives.
advantage is in being able to hold a press conference as he did before
his concert for Bangla Desh, not to advertise a concert or a record or his own
ego, but to help make the world aware that children were starving to
death among us---the most agonizing way to die that there is.
George said at his press conference, "Music should be used to attain a
spiritual realization.” As the
new keeper of the Beatle magic, George has placed it under a lock for which his
key is humility. As he also said at
his press conference, "It's a pity I know so little about music."
Beatles magic? George's announcement that he would play
George also said at his press conference, more important than the money he’s
going to raise is the awareness of the problem he's going to disseminate.
Before George first spoke out, you could hardly find a paragraph in the
back pages of any newspaper about the six million who fled into India to escape
the West Pakistani army. Now the news of this insult to mankind is suddenly
finding its way onto everybody’s lips. That's what the Beatle magic, as
administered by George, can do. What
we saw in the Garden turned out to be not only the major musical event of our
times but an event with far more significance beyond music.
remember when George's album finally came out and he was in
New York with his wife, Pattie, trying to do a little vacationing.
Allen Klein took us all bowling one night up in Riverdale near his house.
We drove down to Broadway, beneath the El, looking for some alleys that
weren't crowded and finally found one, a pure greaser joint, as ramrod
straight as a cop's night stick. They
weren’t ready for us, George with his long hair and beard, me with mine and
Allen with his sweater. They
weren't ready but they didn't crack.
We bowled unmolested for a while.
Then someone put My Sweet Lord on the juke box. A short time
later, a girl came in and said there was a call for a "Mr. Harrison"
on the wall telephone in the hall outside.
Allen took the call. Actually,
we’d bowled two games without really being bothered.
By the time we left, there were three or four greaser teenyboppers
waiting on the sidewalk.
kept building like that for the duration of George's
had a center table in front of the stage with everyone else in the room
breathing down the back of his neck.
After Badfinger's set, George went backstage to say hello. By the time he
was ready to leave, passage through the waiting crowd was almost impossible.
With promotion man Pete Bennett running
leaned back in the seat.
he said, laughing to himself with amazement, "it's Georgemania!”
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