Thursday, 29 December 2011

Harrison Exclusive Tribute


The BBFC has produced an exclusive 80-page A4 size full-colour magazine, HARRISON EXCLUSIVE, a tribute magazine with a difference.

Packed with features by top quality writers, including some of those who knew George personally, HARRISON EXCLUSIVE covers George's life and career, from his childhood through to his untimely passing in 2001.

Post and packing for this item: UK £2.50, Europe £3.50, ROW £5.00

Special offer for BBFC members in UK and Europe: £4.50 including postage and packing.

To order your copy, visit the 
BBFC Shop


However, there was so many people with fabulous memories of George that we couldn't fit all of them into the magazine.  Here, as a BBFC Website Exclusive, is a wonderful contribution from Spencer Leigh.


TALKING GEORGE HARRISON

By Spencer Leigh

Over the past 30 years I have been fortunate enough to interview music personalities for my BBC Radio Merseyside programme, On The Beat. Invariably, I seek out any Beatle connections and if there aren’t any, I ask for a favourite Beatles track. It sounds as though I do my interviews on autopilot but by asking for a favourite Beatles track, I find I receive all kinds of different answers and they are rarely the same. By way of a tribute to George, here are some comments from my guests about George Harrsion.

Session guitarist and former member of Wings, Laurence Juber told me, “When I worked with George Harrison, he told me that when he was 13, he had some jazz guitar lessons from someone on the boats who was familiar with Django Reinhardt. Those diminished chords that George uses came from Django, so he was a very sophisticated guitar player.”

Chris Curtis, drummer with the Searchers: “George was wonderful on the guitar. His little legs would kick out to the side when he did his own tunes. He’d go all posh and say, ‘I’d like to do a tune now from Carl Perkins, ‘Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby’, and it’s in A.’ Who wanted to know what key it was in? But he always said that.”

Billy Kinsley of the Merseybeats: “The Beatles sang ‘A Shot Of Rhythm And Blues’ in unison and then broke into a little harmony with some backing vocals from George. ‘Some Other Guy’ was also in unison and it became a Liverpool thing to sing in unison. George had a monotone Scouse accent and he sang like that when doing harmonies, which was the perfect way to do it. You wanted that in there because John and Paul were so melodic. That was good luck – they thought, ‘Doesn’t it sound great?’ and did it.”

With The Beatles contained the first George Harrison song, the sulky and self-protective ‘Don’t Bother Me’. Bill Harry, the editor of the Mersey Beat newspaper, says, “When everyone was going on about the Lennon-McCartney partnership, I felt that the others should come to the fore in some creative way. I kept on at George Harrison by saying, ‘Look, the first original number the Beatles ever recorded was one of yours, ‘Cry for a Shadow’ in Hamburg, so why don’t you write some more?’ He would say, ‘I can’t be bothered.’ That led to him writing ‘Don’t Bother Me’ ’cause I was always on his back. When I met him after its release, he said, ‘Thanks very much. I’ve already made £7,000 in royalties.’”

In the US, George Harrison bought a 12-string guitar, which he used in A Hard Day’s Night. Roger McGuinn of the Byrds: “George Harrison was playing a Rickenbacker 12 string and he gave me the idea for getting one too. His method of playing lead was to play up and down the G string as he got more punch out of it. I emulated that style and it sounded really good.”

Rory Gallagher: “I liked the Beatles a lot, particularly the way they revived an interest in Carl Perkins and Buddy Holly. Most of the string bending came from Paul, and John was a very powerful rhythm player. George Harrison was an underrated slide player, very accurate and very good in the Carl Perkins vein. He worked within the song and he had unusual phrases and didn’t fit into the Eric Clapton/ Jeff Beck area. He could play great ethnic rock’n’roll and rockabilly guitar.”

Music writer Paul Du Noyer: “George Harrison came out of Liverpool, unlike the other guitar heroes of British rock who were nearly all Home Counties boys like Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page. They had been brought up on the blues but Liverpool was steeped in country music and so Chet Atkins was a bigger influence on George. You can hear that single note picking, rather than long, sustained blues notes, in his early work. It gave the Beatles a very different sound and once it was developed you get ‘Ticket To Ride’ and ‘Day Tripper’, which have very intricate guitar playing. George had taken what he had learnt and put it into a new dimension. The southern boys went for the blues and that developed into psychedelia and heavy rock.”

Neville Marten, lead guitarist with Marty Wilde’s Wildcats: “I was turned onto music by George Harrison. John and Paul were casual, easy-going musicians but George was very studious, always taking great care, and I thought, ‘That’s the guy I want to be’. It was said that the Stones could play and the Beatles could write songs but George Harrison played some lovely guitar on their records. The solo in ‘Something’ is a classic, a song within a song. ‘And I Love Her’ on the classical guitar is an absolute example of understanding an instrument as it relates to a song, which is what many guitarists fail to understand today.”

The Hollies recorded George’s song, ‘If I Needed Someone’ for a single: it scraped into the Top 20 but deserved to go higher. Allan Clarke: “The only Beatles number that the Hollies ever did was ‘If I Needed Someone’. It was written by George Harrison and we got slated for it. Even George said it was terrible and we didn’t like that ’cause it dented our egos. It was a lovely song that had the Hollies’ ingredients written all over it but somehow the public didn’t accept it. They accepted the Rolling Stones doing a Beatles song but not us.”

Graham Nash, also from the Hollies: “I was sad that George didn’t like it as we certainly didn’t want to upset him. We were honouring his songwriting and it was a great song and we did a good job of it. We did it a little too fast but the harmonies are pretty good.”

Barbara Dickson: “I recorded ‘If I Needed Someone’ in 2006 and I thought it was a very good song, very up-tempo and so not as fundamentally thoughtful as some of his songs. I sing it in concert in memory of George Harrison as he gets overlooked so much of the time. If he had been in another band, he could have been as big as Lennon or McCartney but he was overshadowed by them. He was such a sensitive soul and I love him for that.”

Ian McNabb, formerly of the Liverpool band, The Icicle Works: “George Harrison was into Chet Atkins and he was getting to be a really good guitarist around 1966. ‘Taxman’ can’t have sat too well with his Indian gurus as you’re not supposed to be bothered with worldly goods if you’re into Gita.”

Beatles historian, Mark Lewisohn: “I like ‘Taxman’ for several reasons. First and foremost, it’s George Harrison’s writing. He had been writing a few songs over the years and although they’re very pleasant, there’s nothing especially great about them. They hadn’t got the depth that Lennon and McCartney’s songs had but that changed with ‘Taxman’, which is a very clever composition and typically George Harrison because the stories of his fascination with money are legion. He always wanted to know what they were owed and what they were earning. The fact that they were paying a great deal in tax rankled George a lot more than it did Paul, John or Ringo, so he wrote this stinging song to show how bitterly he felt about it all and he rounded it off with some of the best playing on any Beatles record.”

Bill Nelson from Be Bop Deluxe: “I loved jazz guitar and I looked down a bit on the earlier Beatles stuff and then, when they did Rubber Soul and Revolver and became more experimental, they got my attention. Now I love the early stuff as well as I can see the value of it. I liked George Harrison as he was a big fan of Chet Atkins and he played a Gretsch Chet Atkins guitar which I lusted after when I only had cheap guitars. The productions were so inspiring. My all-time favourite is ‘Baby, You’re A Rich Man’. I just love the vibe of it.”

Actor Victor Spinetti: “I said to George Harrison, ‘I can’t get it together with Eastern music’, and he said, ‘Vic, don’t listen to it. Let it happen to you. Western music is all maths, but Eastern music is the flow and you can jump in and out whenever you want.’”

Mike Heron from the Incredible String Band: “I loved everything that George Harrison did. It’s very clever to write songs that are commercially acceptable and yet have spiritual messages. I’ve tried to do that but he was a master at it.”

EMI historian, Brian Southall: “‘Only A Northern Song’ was George’s dig at Northern Songs having his publishing. John and Paul as co-owners and directors and shareholders in Northern Songs earned almost as much as George Harrison did from his songs and that caused resentment. George felt he had been conned and it is true that he wasn’t given any independent advice. Seemingly, every lawyer and every accountant who advised the Beatles was retained by NEMS, which was Brian Epstein’s management company.”

Jackie Lomax from the Liverpool band the Undertakers recorded George’s song, ‘Sour Milk Sea’: “I was signed to Apple Publishing with a view to writing songs for other artists to record. George Harrison heard my stuff and wanted me to work with him. I had to wait for him to come back from India where they had been with the Maharishi. George had written ‘Sour Milk Sea’ out there about the ages of the world. They believe that every 26,000 years, the world changes. In between there is a just a sour milk sea where nothing happens. It was a heavy driving rock song at a time when everyone was doing ballads and we thought it would be a hit. Apple released four singles on the same day and mine got lost in the crush.”

When Jackie Lomax’s album was issued on CD in 1991, Billy Kinsley from the Merseybeats was on the bonus cuts. “‘Going Back To Liverpool’ was great because George Harrison produced it. George was a wonderful producer as he was very methodical and never looked at his watch: he just wanted everything to be precisely right. Paul could be like that too, but he also went for feel. If it sounded okay, that was fine. ‘Going Back To Liverpool’ is a wonderful track and I remember doing the backing vocals with George, Billy Preston and Tim Rennick. That is when I realised how high George could get with his falsetto. We had a competition to see who could get the highest, but I can’t remember who won.”

Billy Kinsley also saw the animosity between the Beatles: “George Harrison had a big bar of Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut and he gave pieces to me, Pete Clarke and Derek Taylor. Paul McCartney walked in and saw us all eating chocolate and wanted some. George, very deliberately, put the last piece in his mouth. (Laughs) It’s childish, and I’ve done things like that in the Merseybeats, but Paul was really annoyed that George didn’t give him his last piece of Fruit and Nut. (Laughs)”

The film, Wonderwall, was a psychedelic love story starring Jane Birkin. Its director was Joe Massot: “I asked George at the opening of the Beatles’ boutique if he would like to do the music for Wonderwall. I told him that it was a silent film and his music would provide the emotion for the characters. Quincy Jones told me that it was the greatest soundtrack he had heard but the movie was too far out for some audiences. It did well in London though.”

Donovan: “George introduced me to Indian music and he gave me a tambura, and it is still making music. I put it on ‘Hurdy Gurdy Man’ and it is the drone in between the verses. George did write a verse for that song, but because of the guitar solo, we didn’t include it on the record. I include it in my concerts now. Yeah, George.”

Billy Bob Thornton: “I like George Harrison’s songs, and ‘Here Comes The Sun’ is one of my favourite Beatles songs. It’s a fantastic song. George seized his chance on Abbey Road: ‘Quick, while the others aren’t looking!’”

Richie Havens: “I thought ‘Here Comes The Sun’ was the happiest, simplest, clearest wishing well for the world of all the songs that they had ever done. It is a message for all of us. The sun is going to come up tomorrow, no matter what. You’ve got to be prepared, it’s going to be all right. Things are not as hard as you’re making it. That was the message of the time that needed to be heard. I said that to George and he said, ‘It is a song about finding the light, the real light, the sun.’”

Donovan: “All psychedelia points to one thing and one thing only: there is a spiritual path that the world needs and it was the singers and painters and dancers and filmmakers and poets that presented this path to the world. Now the doors of perception are open and George pointed the way by singing, ‘Here comes the sun, And I say, It’s all right.’”

Louise Harrison: “George wasn’t particularly made up that Frank Sinatra had recorded ‘Something’. Once I was staying with him at the Plaza in New York and he spent the night hiding from Frank’s guys who were after him. Sinatra wanted him to write a whole album for him and he felt that these weren’t the sort of people you said no to.”

John York of the Byrds: “The power struggle helped George grow as an artist in a strange sense so that when he put out All Things Must Pass, everyone went ‘Wow’, because he had been held down.”

Alan White, whose drumming was featured on All Things Must Pass: “I don’t agree that George had copied the Chiffons’ ‘He’s So Fine’ for ‘My Sweet Lord’. That song changed so much in the studio and to me, it was and always will be legitimate. George was the sweetest guy in the world. A really, really great guy and he wouldn’t harm anyone or anything. The vibe and the atmosphere when we recorded ‘My Sweet Lord’ were incredible. We played music all day every day for three weeks and it was a great group of people.”

Joe Brown’s late wife, Vicki, was a fine singer in her own right, having an uncredited No.1 with J J Barrie on ‘No Charge’. Vicki Brown: “George lived five minutes away from us and when he was doing the soundtrack for Shanghai Surprise, he asked me to help to demo a song for Madonna. He had worked out some great harmonies and we did the duet. Two weeks later, the producers wanted Whitney Houston to do it instead, but he said, ‘I think you should do it.’ We sang it on the soundtrack but they didn’t release it as a single as the film flopped.”

Klaus Voormann recalled going to see George in 2001: “George Harrison was in Austria and he was in bad shape. It was a lovely day and the sun was shining and we were sitting outside. Olivia explained about his treatment and it took him ages to come down because he was so weak. He couldn’t get up easily and getting shaved and dressed was agony for him. He wore a gardening hat and he took it off and he had no hair, but he was happy. He was laughing. His concern was to make me feel good. It was the opposite of what I expected, that is, for me to try and make him feel good. He said, ‘If I die, that’s okay, and if I live on, that’s okay too. My body in not important, that is just my shell. My spirit will stay with you always.’ It was lovely that he felt like that and he wasn’t scared. He was still fighting for his life but he knew he was going somewhere better. If everybody could feel that way, it would be great.”

‘Goodnight, George’ at the end of Fate’s Right Hand by the singer/ songwriter Rodney Crowell is a reference to George Harrison. “We were rehearsing the song ‘This Too Will Pass’ and I got a phone call from my daughter Hannah who lives in Los Angeles and is an incredible Beatles fan. She was in tears because George had died. I went back and told Pat Buchanan and Michael Rhodes who were on the session with me and as we were recording the play-out at the end, I just said, ‘Goodnight, George’. It was just an emotional thing. We went into the control room and Pat had tears down his face and he said, ‘Do you realise how similar this song is to All Things Must Pass?’ I hadn’t thought about it until that moment, but he’s right. We left ‘Goodnight, George’ on the song and decided to end the record that way.”

Klaus Voormann remembered his final meeting with George Harrison: “That last day I met him, he had had a video of himself when he went to the dentist to have a tooth out and he was singing, ‘How does it feel to be one of the beautiful people?’”

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