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George HarrisonGeorge

Harrison

 

1943 -2001

 

When We Was Fab

 

Part 1

 

George Harrison looks back at the days when he played lead guitar in The Beatles, the greatest rock and roll band the world has ever known.

 

"So, you're a real loony too," laughs George Harrison, with that familiar droll, nasal Scouse (as they call it in Liverpool) accent. "Remember lying in that room all day, needle in your arm, feeling dazed, staring up at that ugly lime green ceiling?"

Well, yes, actually I do. And no, we weren't shooting dope together in some dive. The lead guitarist for the most important group in rock history is reminding me of when we met a few years back in Dr. Sharma's clinic in London. Sharma is an M.D. who is also an internationally recognized expert in alternative medicine - in particular, homeopathic and Indian Ayurvedic medicines - and it was these treatments that appealed to Harrison's Eastern philosophical bent.

 

Her waiting room looked like backstage at Live Aid: Tina Turner and members of the Police, Pink Floyd - and of course an occasional Beatle - were drifting in and out. Through Sharma, I'd been promised an interview with George, and now - 10 years later - we were finally sitting down to talk. It was late 1992, and George was promoting "Live in Japan" (Warner Bros.), the concert album of his 1991 tour with Eric Clapton and the last album he has released to date.

 

So why is this interview finally finding its way into print eight years after the fact? Simple: it was lost. Parts had appeared in "Guitar World" and other places, but the body of the tape disappeared when the famous 1994 L.A. earthquake turned my apartment into a cosmic Cuisinart.

 

Recently, while I was cleaning out a closet, the long-lost tape literally fell into my lap. The timing couldn't have been better: "All Things Must Pass," Harrison's superb 1970 solo album, has just been issued in a remastered and expanded format. What's more, the massive "Beatles Anthology" (Chronicle Books) has once again put the Fabs back in the limelight; but while the book is crammed with minutiae that will fascinate anyone with any interest in the Beatles, it contains little information on how the group created its music, the source of its internal conflicts or how those two elements interacted over the years.

 

I found that Harrison needed a bit of prodding before he would discuss the band's inner turmoil. Once he opened up, though, he gave a most revealing and candid interview in which he expressed his true feelings for his fellow band mates. Although Harrison was the first lead guitarist to become an equal in a major band (pre-Beatles guitarists like Scotty Moore, from Elvis Presley's band, were clearly hired guns), he was sandwiched between the two most towering songwriters in rock history - and they often wanted to control his playing - or even do it for him. And of course, getting a decent hearing for his songs was no picnic either.

 

Perhaps it is for these reasons that Harrison has a reputation as the most dour of Beatles; yet he was witty and upbeat during our talk. He forgave Paul McCartney's controlling tendencies and John Lennon's indifference - but, it was clear, he hasn't forgotten. He seemed emotionally evenhanded, even when angry, balancing the good with the bad and always seeing the positive dimension to all his struggles.

 

"I'm a Pisces, you know," he joked. "One half always going back where the other half has been."

 

George was also surprisingly willing to talk about The Beatles from the unique perspective of a guitarist as well as that of a composer. He told how he developed a guitar style that combined the music of the Mississippi Delta with that of India's Ganges Delta, thereby creating his distinctive sound. He spoke of his relationships with Lennon and McCartney: who was more stimulating - and difficult - to work with, and why. He also described how he sneaked Eric Clapton into the studio to rescue one of Harrison's greatest songs, "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." And he answered the long-standing question about whether he was bored during the making of "Sgt. Pepper's."

 

This may well be the most comprehensive, free-ranging discussion Harrison has ever granted on his years with the Beatles. So, now, here's the man from the band you've known for all these years: Mr. George Harrison.

 

George Harrison Interviews

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