Beatle George

Here Comes George Harrison

The Group Genius known as TheBeatles means John, Paul, George & Ringo acting together in harmony to create and record great music. They became recording artists of distinction when, with the support of George Martin, they got their group songwriting, arranging and recording right with Please, Please Me; with the help of their friends. George Martin was moved to say, “gentlemen you have just recorded your first number 1.’ Curiously they had most of these elements in place, including three part harmonies, five years earlier when George Harrison passed the audition with Lennon on a bus back in 1957 by playing Raunchy. I first heard him in 1963 when a friend played me the Beatles first album Please Please Me and George sang Do You Want to Know a Secret?  

Back then we knew George as the lead guitarist in the breakthrough MerseyBeat group the Beatles; so we looked to what he was interested in as a guitarist. But George was unusual as a lead guitarist, he didnt play lead guitar lines, like Hank Marvin in the Shadows or, his later best friend, Eric Clapton in Cream. He played lead guitar in songs and helped amplify the quality of Lennon and McCartney compositions. And, just like John and Paul, he spent the fifties in love with Rock and Roll and, like them, helped overturn the classics. There is a playlist of this post on YouTube and this video has great pix of George; based on a live recording at the BBC with an interview by Alan ‘Fluff’ Freeman. George can Roll Over Beethoven;  

George was thought to be the quiet one working out masterful guitar lines behind Beatle songs, but on the Beatles second album With The Beatles (Meet The Beatles in the USA) he gained his first songwriting credit (he had already written with Lennon and recorded the instrumental Cry For A Shadow  in 1960), perhaps hinting at being unhappy with the demands of fame, for Don’t Bother Me

Ironically the first time most of us saw he was a good singer was when we saw the film Hard Days Night when George got to sing a Lennon song in a typically inventive ‘video’ created by the the director Richard Lester. On the Hard Days Night album George was experimenting with the ‘jangly’ sound of the Rickenbacker guitar which was to inspire The Byrds. Written for George to sing as he still wasn’t confident in his abilities (who would be against John & Paul at their most prolific and who wrote all of this album?) this is both a great performance and video; I’m Happy Just to Dance With You;

George met Patti Boyd whilst filming Hard Days Night, and she was at his 21st birthday party in February 1964. George seems to have been sufficiently inspired by her to write some of his early, gentle love songs, as well as some his later more sophisticated songs. By the time of filming HELP! the follow up to Hard Days Night, he had a couple of love songs in his locker. The official video from HELP! has been taken down by Allen Klein, but here is a more appropriate video for this blog with pix of Patti and George on his rather plaintive and yearning song from the movie; I Need You

George had two songs on HELP! which, along with Beatles for Sale, represent for me the period when the Beatles were experimenting with what it meant to be recording musicians, trying out different instruments such as electric pianos and acoustic guitars, as well as various sound effects. This was George’s first song that ended up on a Beatles album even though it  hadn’t been featured in a film. Great images of George on this video for You Like Me Too Much

George was always quoted as saying that he found Rubber Soul and Revolver as a connected pair of albums both of which he really enjoyed making. Personally I think the Beatles changed massively between the two, but then George was a Beatle, so what do I know! Certainly his own work takes a big step forward on Rubber Soul so I think he means that it was on these two albums that he felt equal to Lennon and McCartney. Certainly he’s got a word or two for us, go where you are going to and dont follow leaders and Think For Yourself; 

Rubber Soul was positioned by Capitol as a folk-rock album to cash in on that music boom which, ironically, had been inspired by a combination of the Beatles Ed Sullivan performance and the Rickenbacker jangly sound George had brought to Hard Day’s Night. David Crosby, the musicological ‘Brian Jones’ of the Rickenbacker-driven Byrds, had introduced George to Ravi Shankar’s sitar music after George had discovered the instrument during the Indian restaurant scene in HELP!  On Rubber Soul he is perhaps more famous for his sitar work on Norwegian Wood but George was writing good folk-rock, featuring his distinctively clean guitar lines too, here is  If I Needed Someone; 

Now the breakthrough, Revolver. George writes the song that opens the Beatles greatest album, so great that Pitchfork magazine wont even hold a poll on the greatest album of the 60s as Revolver will win it hands down. Right from the ambiently cocky threat of the opening count-in this is a supremely confident rock band. So confident that Paul plays lead on George’s composition, Lennon’s just on back up vocal and Ringo’s drives four to the floor. Geoff Emerick mikes the bass with loudspeakers and really bottoms out the sound; whump! No messing with the cool guys in granny glasses; Taxman

Enter the Sitar; George was perhaps the most interested in music per se out of the Beatles and following his friendships with Dylan, Crosby and Clapton was now seeking out new musics and musical forms to play with and write about. You dont get time to hang your sign on me, pure semiotics! George wanted us to “make love singing songs’ anticipating the pure Summer of Love in 1967 with Love You To ;

George quit The Beatles after the traumatic summer world tour of 1966 when they were waiting to be either shot on stage in the USA, or arrested in the Phillipines. Being a Beatle was so mad so they coped by becoming Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band instead, giving them alt.identities to explore and play with. George went full on with his Indian links and rehearsed with the sitar for months before producing the musical lynch pin of the album, coming at the start of Side 2 after the giddy Mr Kite,  Within You Without You

George’s independence of mind and interest in Indian culture meant he spent time as Ravi Shankar’s pupil and through that interest in Indian culture he also became interested in a Guru, Maharaj Ji. When Epstein died the Beatles were with the Guru in Bangor and, to compensate, rushed of to make the film Magical Mystery Tour in just 24 days. Hated in the UK, where it was shown in black & white (!), but loved in the USA, here is George floating colourfully between the friends who have lost their way (Epstein and Sexy Sadie?) on Blue Jay Way;  

In the summer of 1968 as the Beatles worked on the 40 songs which would produced the 30 track White Album, Yellow Submarine the movie was released with four new Beatles tracks. At the time it was George’s track which impressed me the most, here is my story about seeing the film and hearing the song which my brother also loved sent us rushing out of the cinema in Harrogate with as big a buzz as Hard Days Night had done four years earlier. But as George says, Show me that I am everywhere and get me home for tea, which is pure Syd Barrett English rural psychedelia. This video is a fascinating aural remix of the mono and stereo versions (film version here) with info about the track starts 1′ 20″ in but it sounds great on headphones; Turn it up to 11 with It’s All Too Much

In May 68 all the Beatles went round to George’s house, Kinfauns and spent two days recording what I call The Beatles Unplugged (or From Kinfauns to Chaos as the video has it), 27 tracks sung and recorded acoustically as demos for “The Beatles”. George had taken them to Rishikesh, the exact opposite context to their 1966 Goldfish Bowl world tour, and they had become prolific in the Himalyan foothills of India, India, then he brought them home to his house and they prepped the album with acoustic guitars inspired by Donovan. This is George’s video diary of India with a soundtrack of one of the many unreleased Beatles tracks of the time,  Dehradun;  

George was now almost leading the Beatles musically whilst John and Paul set up Apple as Western Communism. He was the one finding ways of making the Beatles work when they were beset with the everyday management problems of losing Epstein whilst being at their musically most creative. He could even view life as a chocolate box and see mate Clapton as spoilt by his sweet tooth. Brilliant… Pass the chocolate box and take the piss George!  Savoy Truffle

When we first heard the White Album in November 1968 there was a split on what was the best track. At the time we always tried to find the Beatles album track which was good enough to be a single, and my choice was While My Guitar Gently Weeps. There are various version of this but, as Lennon would show in the Rolling Stones Rock n Roll Circus, bring in another musician and The Beatles would raise their game. So on guitar it’s both George and Eric on While My Guitar Gently Weeps;  

But George wasnt just rocking out with Eric, he was starting to write a great series of still under-rated songs, Not Guilty wasnt even on the album, nor Sour Milk Sea;  Long, Long, Long was but buried away. When the Remasters came out this was one of the 10 songs I reckoned most benefitted from being presented afresh. Gladly many George fans feel the same and here is a sadly resonant video tribute of so many tears to the late George Harrison by   as it really is now so Long, Long, Long;

George’s massive influence on the magisterial White Album wasnt the end of his Beatles work, he was off to India recording the soundtrack to the film Wonderwall, and releasing the solo album on Zapple that inspired the Oasis. George was prolific in a number of fields beyond the Beatles and ended with a stack of unreleased and unrecorded tracks that would form the basis of Everything Must Pass in 1970. He brought Jackie Lomax to Apple and recorded the brilliant Sour Milk Sea before dashing off For You Blue for the doomed Get Back. Some great film shots flesh out this light and breezy blues, Lennon on slide guitar, Go Georgie Go! For You Blue;  

Some Beatles tracks were overlooked at the time, I didnt release how brilliant I’ve Got A Feeling is until Let It Be…Naked came out, but Old Brown Shoe still isnt recognised. This is a ferocious rock performance, probably better than Gently Weeps, possibly the best late period Beatles performance, featuring guitar worthy of Cream. In fact Eric Clapton liked it so much he brought George in on Cream’s final album Goodbye to play like this on Badge. So Beatles Rock Band, great organ, great guitar, play it forward and earn an encore, Old Brown Shoe;  

Abbey Road; and after leading off Revolver, co-ordinating the White Album, and ‘saving’ the Get Back project by bringing Billy Preston in, George got the ultimate accolade by having the next Beatles single being his solo composition; the greatest love song of the 20th Century according to Frank Sinatra. Abbey Road both had George at his peak and saw him ready to be master of his own destiny, perhaps no longer needing to “see you round the clubs” as he had said during Let It Be. The official video focusses on the Beatles relationships but suddenly, in the way he moves, there was Something;  

And then George got so pissed off with the recording studio acrimony on Abbey Road that he popped over to Eric Clapton’s house and on a nice sunny day sat down in Eric’s garden and wrote Here Comes The Sun, both a celebration of light and freedom, and a signal that he was off, and ready to record his own Magnum Opus, All Things Must Pass, now that the gnomes were in a state of collapse. George would later sing about this with affection on When We Was Fab. He also went on to create the form we now know as the celebrity Concert fundraiser with the Concert for Bangladesh, but by 1969 he’s all grown up and ready to go. It’s All Right now for George as Here Comes The Sun;   

If you liked this post you might like Happy Birthday Ringo or Paul’s Bass.

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7 Responses to “Beatle George”

  1. […] post on this blog (April 2011) is Beatle George; Here Comes George […]

  2. Great article! He made a lot of amazing songs both with the group and solo. I think “I Me Mine” is pretty underrated.

    • Hey Adam, thanks. My view is that The Beatles are John, Paul, George and Ringo and it is what they each brought to the table that made them so great. In writing this I realised how much George did to keep them together after Epstein died, and how important he was to both the White Album and Abbey Road. I haven’t commented on his marvellous solo career as this is a Beatle blog. Thanks again 🙂 Fred

  3. […] A Beatles YouTube Album Beatles YouTube Archive « Beatle George […]

  4. […] was updated on 25 October 2011 and is part f a series with Beatle George and Paul’s Bass Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

  5. […] money. If you want my  full analysis of George’s time with the Beatles then you should like Beatle George where I discuss his role as the hidden musical director of the Beatles. […]

  6. […] contribution to the Beatles will complete the quartet on Ringo’s Skins, Paul’s Bass and George’s Weeps. The second key post will be The Beatles in Hamburg. I visited Hamburg recently and gathered a lot […]

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