George Harrison 1943-2001 R.I.P.
Previously published in Wondrous Stories - the Official Journal of the Classic Rock Society
All rights reserved. February 2002
On February 25th George Harrison would have turned 59. Far too young to be gone from this world, but as George would have said himself, far too many years to exist in the material world. The cancer stricken lead guitarist from
The Beatles lost his long battle with disease on November 29th and since that day many words have been written praising his talents and contributions to music and humanity. To that end, we are compelled to offer our readers more.
George Harrison was the first figure from the music community to raise public awareness for needy peoples and charity causes by organizing the Concert for Bangladesh in 1971, setting the tone for Live Aid, Farm Aid, and the Nordoff-Robbins charity concerts. Also, Harrison was the catalyst that spearheaded Eastern Philosophy into the Western world. As a member of the most popular and influential music group of all time his contribution to music is almost impossible to chart.
The world will never have another Beatles, and the world will never have another George Harrison. In his memory, some of his peers have shared their thoughts and reflections on how much George meant to us all. While former band-mate Paul McCartney wrote in a press release that he was "very saddened to lose such a great man who was so important," perhaps it is Harrison himself who summed it all up when he said, "the search for God cannot wait."
Saxophonist Howie Casey is, like The Beatles, a native of Liverpool, England. In the early days he played in Derry and the Seniors and actually auditioned for talent agent Larry Parnes on the very same day as The Beatles in 1960. At the time The Beatles didn't have a drummer and John Lennon introduced them for the first time as the Silver Beatles. Later, in the seventies, Howie was picked to head up the horn section for Paul McCartney & Wings. Today, he is still active in the music community, playing sax, and most recently performed at a concert for the Rainbow Foundation, which was dedicated to George Harrison, with other members of Wings including Denny Laine.
"I first met George with The Beatles back in 1960 when they came over to Hamburg. My band was already over there playing a place called the Kaiserkeller and The Beatles came to play in a place called the Indra just up the road. We had some great times together, jamming. They'd finish earlier in their club and they'd come down and jam with us. George was seventeen so he really shouldn't have been in the country without permission. We all went without permission (laughs), but anyway... He used to come in and talk to our guitar player, a guy called Brian "Grif" Griffiths. "Grif" was a real hot guitar player from Liverpool at the time and he helped George a lot with riffs and things like that.
"We eventually all went back to Liverpool and worked around the north of England, so we used to see them all the time at the Cavern, the Iron Door, and various other venues. We played on the same bill for Sam Leach, [at] the Tower Ballroom in New Brighton.
It's a very sad day. You don't expect people that young to go that quickly. I mean, I'm an old bugger and I'm still going at 64. He'll be sorely missed. He was a great musician and a great guy."
Joey Molland also grew up in Liverpool, just a few years shy of The Beatles, and possesses the same sense of humor that so endeared us to The Beatles all those years ago. As guitarist in Badfinger he would work extensively with George Harrison during his most productive years as a solo artist. Joey Molland played guitar on Harrison's magnum opus All Things Must Pass and Harrison returned the favor when he produced Badfinger's Straight Up. Badfinger also joined Harrison onstage at the Concert for Bangladesh. Joey has recently released his third solo album, This Way Up (available at www.joeymolland.com), continues to tour, and has been participating in an authorized biography that is being written about his life. Joey recalls that the first time he met George was at Apple Headquarters.
"Coming down the stairs at Apple he told us that it was great that "Come And Get It" was a hit, but we should remember that we'd have to play it every day for the rest of our lives. He was making a joke, of course, but it turned out to be reality (laughs).
"He was a great guy. I enjoyed working with him. He joined our band when he produced us. He was like another guitar player in the band.
He showed real interest in the people around him. Maybe that's what came out in his music. Maybe that's why people loved him.
"I got a letter from him when I was a kid. Peter Kelly, The Beatles fan club secretary, told him that we had this band called the Masterminds and we were entering this competition and he should come and see us. We didn't win the competition. We came second. Anyway, George wrote me a letter on his photograph. He said, 'Dear Joe, Peter told me you should have won the comp with the Masterminds. Good luck and keep rocking.' And he signed it, 'George Harrison.' I've had that all my life.
"He was one of the most influential musicians of his age. No doubt about that. I listened to Abbey Road yesterday and it's just a stunning record. George was a huge part of music. They actually did vote him the most influential musician of the 20th Century. He was the guy who did tie the East and the West together. He was directly responsible for that. He was probably directly responsible for the western world even becoming aware of Ravi Shankar and people like that.
"Naturally, I'm sad. He was a great guy. I wonder what's going to happen to his Beatle Boots (laughs)?"
Spencer Davis needs no introduction. As leader of another influential British Invasion band his legacy is solidly engraved in the journals of music history. Most recently Spencer has been participating in the World Classic Rockers, a super-group of musicians that includes Denny
Laine, Randy Meisner of the Eagles, and former members of Steppenwolf. He, too, like Howie Casey and Joey Molland, participated in the concert to support the Rainbow Foundation. I would like to thank him and his peers who so graciously discussed George Harrison during their hours of grief. Talking about George perhaps helped us all get through.
"I knew George on a social basis. I met him many times at places like the Ad Lib or the Bag O' Nails - those clubs that we used to hang around in the sixties. George Harrison really hasn't gone. He's now left an eternal legacy of music. He's living forever, now. We knew that the earthly body wasn't going to make it through the end of the year. It's sad, but it draws attention to some of the causes that he supported, the famine in Bangladesh, and the cause that we're involved in now, the Rainbow Foundation for disadvantaged kids. A lot of those little children died from things like cancer. But as I said, he's not really gone. He'll be with us forever."
Written by Michael A. Cimino. © Cottage Views 2002.
Reprinted with kind permission.
Photos of Spencer Davis and Howie Casey courtesy of Michael Cimino Archives. Photo of Joey Molland courtesy of Joey Molland.
Photos of George Harrison courtesy of Apple/Warner Brothers.
RE-EXAMINING ALL THINGS MUST PASS
by Michael A. Cimino
George Harrison has re-mastered the historical recording All Things Must Pass and re-issued it with five bonus tracks, including a brand new version of "My Sweet Lord."
During the later part of the sixties, Beatle George Harrison became more spiritually aware and more and more conscious of his voice as a songwriter. Having to take a back seat to the talents of John Lennon and Paul McCartney many of his songs were left on the back burner, until that fateful day when it was apparent that the boys would no longer perform together. What spilled forth was a wealth of skillfully crafted songs, more than enough for a single LP. Originally released in November of 1970, All Things Must Pass, a whopping three record set (now a double disc), went on to become the biggest selling record of the year; all in five weeks time. It stands as Harrison’s magnum opus - a collection of beauty and depth that many skeptics hadn’t believed possible.
Thirty years later it has now been reissued for the third time, and finally carries bonus tracks and new liner notes from Harrison himself.
Re-examining All Things Must Pass in today’s age of cut and paste haste only reminds us that it just may be time to slow down and appreciate what the hippies had intended all along. What was then accused of being overly preachy lyrics can now be seen as the foundation of a philosophy for survival in the modern world. Harrison even parodies his desire for serenity by taking the original artwork (a photo shot at his own Friar Park) and superimposing luxury apartments, housing, and pollution spewing towers encroaching into his backyard.
His demand of “that’s where you should be” in “I Dig Love” speaks volumes, as we have witnessed the tragic murder of John Lennon, the capitalism of the sixties generation, and the music industry’s indifference towards it’s real artists.
Disc one opens with “I’d have you Anytime,” Harrison’s plea for us to open up and let him in. The song, cleverly written with Bob Dylan, at first appears to be a simple love song but soon unfolds as the prelude to his chart topping religious chant “My Sweet Lord.”
Lyrically, the entire album oozes with ideals and suggestions for our path to salvation as producer Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound basks us in aural ear candy. Whether we agree with Harrison or not we are still subject to some of the most engaging music and arrangements that Harrison has ever written.
Helping him out are a who’s who of the Rock world, including Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton and friends (who would soon become Derek and the Dominoes), Traffic’s Dave Mason, the entire original Badfinger band, Beatles’ sidekicks Billy Preston and Klaus Voorman, “Dream Weaver” Gary Wright, and others, who all put in fantastic performances.
Disc two concludes with the Apple Jam, now in it’s original running order. While it may not be the most inspiring of sessions, it was a bonus disc then and it’s nice to have it here now.
The one thing that has always plagued the Jam, and parts of All Things Must Pass, is Spector’s mix. All too many interesting guitar bits are buried in a peanut-butter-thick-all-encompassing sound.
In the liner notes Harrison explains that he was tempted to re-mix (arguably certain instances could have been made even more thrilling; the guitar work on “Art of Dying,” the vocals on “Awaiting On You All”) but wished to stay true to his, and Spector’s, original vision.
With five additional bonus tracks, including a new version of “My Sweet Lord,” the 30th anniversary edition of All Things Must Pass should not be passed up.
© 2002 Cottage Views
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