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George Harrison: Living in the Material World – It’s Time for the ‘Quiet Beatle!

george harrison b and w
george harrison b and w

Martin Scorsese’s George Harrison: Living in the Material World (Part 1) gives me what I want and need for now. I already know the history well, but seeing the way in which the photos, sound clips, and film footage are put together in this new biopic on George brings it back to life, sheer enlightenment! But all of his songs, his works require further review, further consideration. In short, every documented moment of his life is worthy of a second glance.

Not that we need to worship him as a God, George wouldn’t like that, but rather we merely get a glimpse into the incredible experiences George went through, that led him to a good bit of spiritual enlightenment and peace of mind, that was a difficult goal to accomplish, with the madness surrounding the lives of The Beatles. Ravi Shankar, the sitar, and Indian music helped George along on a mecca to tolerance, happiness, and understanding.

Picking at bits of footage and popular quotes from a Beatle’s life is an exercise in futility; George preferred a ‘Big Picture Approach,’ and so that’s how I’ll plod along while saying nothing and everything without highlighting the obvious, such as George was an accomplished guitar player, or he acted as an adhesive for John and Paul’s marmalade-laced personalities. Huh?

The biopic is organic, unforced, anti-analytic, and this is why I like it so much. Part 2 will be on tonight and I have the recorder already set. Steve Job’s death yesterday plays in the back of my mind, but reflections on Steve’s life can be integrated in easily when listening to Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, which clips into the opening passage of the biography.

George was the ‘Quiet Beatle’ but could be snide and indigent when he wanted to be. George describes how John was playing a four string guitar and thought it was normal, but it turns out George actually taught John how to play his guitar, with chords like E or A or G. This is new to me. Claus Voorman’s descriptions of the raunchy Hamburg days brings some great insight.

The Beatles crashed in a smelly room behind a cinema house when working the red light district in Hamburg. Astrid Kerchherr ‘s black and white photographs of the Beatles (1961) open a window into their lives in those early days. This was real Rock ‘N Roll in Hamburg, with gangsters, naked ladies, drunkenness, and violence. Claus and Astrid gave them the ‘leather thing.’ Metamorphosis even then.

Another great thing about this biography, is much of the film footage of the crazy days of Beatlemania is shown against the sounds of George’s songs, and many of his obscure ones at that such as ‘There’s a fog upon LA. Please don’t be long.’ Don’t Bother Me (George’s first original composition) is explained terrifically; George was sick, so he was a little moody with his lyrics. Eric Clapton gives us a good bit of insight into those early days too.

It’s nice to see George again, it’s been a while. Lots of rare photos here, I’ve never seen. George in a motor car, George with Patty. “Basking in the sunshine of this immense creativity,” says Eric. Then If I Needed Someone from Parlophone’s edition of Rubber Soul. But my favorite is the religious portions – God is Death. “We found that money isn’t the answer.” When George Harrison learned this, we could learn it too. Paul says ‘controlled weirdness.’ Let’s get some more tonight.

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