After seeing Martin Scorsese’s terrific documentary on George, I dug up seven lesser known songs of Harrison’s, that show his diversity and especially his amazing capacity for collaboration with other musicians, to come up with a myriad of styles, attitudes, and philosophies of life, anywhere between a zealously religious one to a whimsically absurd point of view. Georgie did it all, so give it some thought, and fish around for a few examples of rarity in his oeuvre for yourself.
Don’t Bother Me is the Quiet Beatle’s first original composition. It’s been given a bad rap as showing George’s anti-social side and hostility towards others. Actually, he’d been sick and penned a tune to pass the time as he recovered. If you listen to the lyrics you’ll see he’s talking to another bird, who he’s not particularly interested in, but rather fancies this other bird, who’s off on holiday or something. A subtle love song.
The Inner Light is one of my favorite songs of George’s, since it puts me in a meditative trance that forces me to look within for understanding, the meaning of life and/or rhythms in nature that that may bring about some peace of mind, or harmony with my fellow man. Oddly enough, it was the B side to the single, Lady Madonna, and was released on March 15, 1968.
George had been in Bombay in January of 1968 recording the score for the movie Wonderwall, a soundtrack that is currently out of print. An incidental backing track, recorded after the completion of Wonderwall, was made with the same Indian musicians, recorded on a two-track recorder at an EMI studio in Bombay.
The instruments used were sarod, tablas and pakhavaj, shehnai, several sitars, surbahar, santoor, flute, tar shehnai, dholak, and harmonium. George doesn’t play an instrument on The Inner Light, but adds the lead vocal when returning to London (at the EMI Abbey Road studios, of course) on February 6th. Two days later John and Paul overdubbed just a bit of harmony at the end.
The lyrics wax Eastern philosophical, and are George’s take on a passage from Tao Te Ching, Book 47, or perhaps it’s Book 47, according to most English translations. You’ll want to read Harrison’s account of this song in I Me Mine (I’ve been searching for a copy of his autobiography, but am ever short, when visiting Half Price Books).
“Without going out of your door/You can know all things on earth/Without looking out of your window/You can know the ways of heaven. The further one travels, the less one knows.” I see this as a Yin/Yang sort of phenomenon, where physical travel is corporeal, and real travel is internal, within the spirit. Travel is a spiritual journey, not a physical movement through space.
The drone of the harmonium is haunting; the sober monotony of the lyrics offer the befuddling profundity of contradiction, where earthly perceptions and heavenly attainment are dualities exposed to the light by ancient Indian and Chinese sages.
George opened up to this type of thinking by way of his experiences with psychotropic drugs, as a complimentary backdrop. (For the pipings of a gifted musicologist, see Alan W. Pollack’s notes on Inner Light, which is on the internet).
Badge comes from Cream’s last album, Goodbye Cream, and has a great amount of sentimental feeling attached to it (for me), since it was used as introductory number for broadcasts of the morning news at my high school, Jesuit College Preparatory in Dallas, Texas. We had a closed-circuit TV system up there, which was fairly sophisticated for those times (1967-1971), technologically speaking.
Badge is actually half George’s song and half Eric Clapton’s song. On the recording, George plays rhythm guitar and does a distinguished arppeggiated riff, which introduces the bridge, right after the line “Then I told you ’bout our kid, now he’s married to Mabel.” The lyrics in the bridge are suggestive of Harrison’s Eastern influences. “Yes, I told you that the light goes up and down. Don’t you notice how the wheel goes ’round?”
The Karmic Interaction between Clapton and L’Angelo Misterioso is an Eighth Wonder of the World to behold! Charged rock energy of the highest caliber. No wonder I could get through my day marvelously All Those Years Ago! Listen also for how Jack Bruce’s bass is mixed way up front or hear some splendidly articulated piano and mellotron parts by none other than Mountain’s Felix Pappalardi.
Run of the Mill appears as the last track on side two of George’s masterpiece, All Things Must Pass, which was released in November of 1970. With its simple lilting melody and coded lyrics that are a parable of the The Beatles break-up, I find it to be the standout cut in a basket of outstanding ones.
“Tomorrow when you rise, another day for you to realize me, or send me down again. As the days stand up on end, You’ve got me wondering how I lost your friendship, but I see it in your eyes.” The magic was gone, and when he looked in the eyes of his old mates, the love and artistic kinship seemed to have disappeared. A few lines later express a recognition of greed and excessive ambition towards his old mates. “How high will you leap?”
I was reminded of Try Some Buy Some when Come And Get It – The Best Of Apple Records was released last year. The original version featured Ronnie Spector on vocals and had Phil’s characteristic Wall of Sound. George wrote it on a organ (I’ve heard) and it has a very complicated chord progression that reminds me of Beethoven’s symphonic craftsmanship, in terms of majestic up and down scaling.
The lyrics clearly describe George’s journey from the mirage psychedelic drug usage, morphing towards a more purely spiritual approach to an inner life of soul satisfaction. The Martin Scorsese documentary shows George talking about what happened to him when he visited Haight Ashbury in 1967, and saw mere decadence and lost kids, not a renaissance of artistic awakening with LSD as a catalyst. This song documents George’s disillusion with the ‘lysergic,’ as he calls it.
For an effect of a pleasant blast of nostalgia, Photograph, which can be credited to George and Ringo, is a superb example. It showed up on the album Ringo, but a single was released on October 5, 1973. Once again, you sense the nostalgia of this old musty photograph is a reminder of their glory days in the Fab Four (you suspect, though it could be anyone).
The musicianship on the recording couldn’t be any better, with Nicky Hopkins on piano, Klaus Voorman on bass guitar, the great Bobby Keyes taking the lead on tenor saxophone, Ringo and Jim Keltner on the drums (naturally), and George playing a 12-string acoustic guitar and helping on vocal harmonies.
“Ev’ry time I see your face, It reminds me of the places we used to go. But all I’ve got is a photograph, and I realize you’re not coming back anymore. I can’t get used to living here, while my heart is broke, my tears I cried for you. I want you here to have and hold, as the years go by and we grow old and grey.” Let the tears roll down your cheeks, don’t wipe em away.
I just saw Eric Idle’s video for Crackerbox Palace for the very first time on Sunday. It’s very funny, just like the song. This one, which was a single from Thirty Three & 1/3 (1977), is a return to the a secular, pop format, such as was Hare Georgeson’s stomping grounds in the 1960s. The homestead is a reference to an eccentric domicile of Lord Buckley from Los Angeles.
But Idle’s video makes the equally odd palace of George, Friar Park, as the setting for a crackers parable of circus freaks who inhabit the stage. Mr. Grief is in reality a man George met who was Lord Buckley’s former manager. In the ’70s I always thought Mr. Grief was John Lennon, and fancied the aforementioned parable to be the insanity of Beatlemania, which was its own ‘Crackerbox Palace.’ I still believe this today.