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George HarrisonGeorge

Harrison

 

1943 -2001

 

When We Was Fab

 

Part 3

 

GW: Dylan inspired you guys lyrically to explore deeper subjects, while the Beatles inspired him to expand musically, and to go electric. His first reaction on hearing the Beatles was supposedly, "Those chords!" Did you ever talk to him about the way you influenced each other?

 

Harrison: Yes, and it was just like you were saying. I was at Bob's house and we were trying to write a tune. And I remember saying, "How did you write all those amazing words?" And he shrugged and said, "Well, how about all those chords you use? So I started playing and said it was just all these funny chords people showed me when I was a kid. Then I played two major sevenths in a row to demonstrate, and I suddenly thought, Ah, this sounds like a tune here. Then we finished the song together. It was called "I'd Have You Anytime," and it was the first track on "All Things Must Pass."

 

GW: Paul told me that "Rubber Soul" was just "John doing Dylan." Do you think Dylan felt that?

 

Harrison: Dylan once wrote a song called "Fourth Time Around." To my mind, it was about how John and Paul, from listening to Bob's early stuff, had written "Norwegian Wood." Judging from the title, it seemed as though Bob had listened to that and wrote the same basic song again, calling it "Fourth Time Around." The title suggests that the same basic tune kept bouncing around over and over again.

GW: The same cross-fertilization seemed to be going on between the Beatles and the Byrds around that time. Your song "If I Needed Someone" has got to be a tip of the hat to Roger McGuinn, right?

 

Harrison: We were friends with the Byrds and we certainly liked their records. Roger himself said that the first time he saw a Rickenbacker 12-string was in A Hard Day's Night, and he certainly stamped his personality onto that sound later. Wait - I'll tell you what it was. Now that I'm thinking about it, that song actually was inspired by a Byrds song, "The Bells of Rhymney." Any guitar player knows that, with that open-position D chord, you just move your fingers around and you get all these little maladies...I mean melodies! Well, sometimes maladies. [laughs] And that became a thrill, to see how many more times you could write around that open D, like "Here Comes The Sun."

 

GW: When you did that tour with Eric Clapton in Japan, you opened with "I Want To Tell You," from "Revolver." The song marked a turning point in your playing, and in the history of rock music writing. There's a weird, jarring chord at the end of every line that mirrors the disturbing feeling of the song. Everybody does that today, but that was the first time we'd heard that in a rock song.

 

Harrison: I'm really pleased that you noticed that. That's an E7th with an F on the top, played on the piano. I'm really proud of that, because I literally invented that chord. The song was about the frustration we all feel about trying to communicate certain things with just words. I realized the chords I knew at the time just didn't capture that feeling. So after I got the guitar riff, I experimented until I came up with this dissonant chord that really echoed that sense of frustration. John later borrowed it on "Abbey Road." If you listen to "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" it's right after John sings "it's driving me mad!" To my knowledge, there's only been one other song where somebody copped that chord - "Back on the Chain Gang" by the Pretenders.

 

GW: Around the time of "Rubber Soul" and "Revolver," you met Ravi Shankar and went to India to study Indian classical music, which is full of microtonal slurs and bends. When you came back, your guitar playing became more elastic, yet it was very precise. You were finding more notes between the cracks, like you can in Indian music - especially on your slide work. Is there a connection there?

 

Harrison: Sure, because whatever you listen to has to come out in some way or other. I think Indian music influenced the *inflection* of how I played, and certain things I play certainly have a feel similar to the Indian style. As for slide, I think most people - Keith Richards, for example - play block chords and all those blues fills, which are based on open tunings. My solos are actually like melodic runs, or counter melodies, and sometimes I'll add a harmony line to it as well.

 

GW: Like on "My Sweet Lord" and the songs on your first solo album [All Things Must Pass].

 

Harrison: Exactly. Actually, now that you've got me thinking about my guitar playing and Indian music, I remember Ravi Shankar brought an Indian musician to my house who played classical Indian music on a slide guitar. It's played like a lap steel and set up like a regular guitar, but the nut and the brudge are cranked up, and it even has sympathetic drone strings, like a sitar. He played runs that were so precise and in perfect pitch, but so quick! When he was rocking along, doing those real fast runs, it was unbelievable how much precision was involved. So there were various influences. But it would be precocious to compare myself with incredible musicians like that.

 

GW: When you came back from India, did you intentionally copy on guitar any of the techniques you learned there?

 

Harrison: When I got back from this incredible journey to India, we were about to do "Sgt. Pepper's," which I don't remember much at all. I was into my own little world, and my ears were just all filled up with all this Indian music. So I wasn't really into sitting there, thrashing through [sings nasally], "I'm fixing a hole..." Not that song, anyway. But if you listen to "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," you'll hear me try and play the melody on guitar with John's voice, which is what the instrumentalist does in Hindustani vocal music.

 

GW: Paul told me you wanted to do a similar thing on "Hey Jude," to echo his vocal phrases on the guitar, and that he wouldn't let you. He admitted that incidents like that were one of the causes of the band's breakup. And Ringo said you had the toughest job, because Paul in particular and George Martin as well would sometimes try and dictate what you should play, even on your solos.

Harrison: Well, you know, that's okay. I don't remember the specifics on that song. [pauses] Look, the thing is, so much has been said about our disagreements. It's like...so much time has lapsed, it doesn't really matter anymore.

 

GW: Was Paul trying to just hold the band together, or was he becoming a control freak? Or was it a bit of both?

 

Harrison: Well...sometimes Paul "dictated" for the better of a song, but at the same time he also pre-empted some good stuff that could have gone in a different direction. George Martin did that too. But they've all apologized to me for all that over the years.

 

GW: But you were pissed off enough about all this to leave the band for a short time during the Let It Be sessions. Reportedly, this problem had been brewing for a while. What was it that upset you about what Paul was doing?

 

Harrison: At that point in time, Paul couldn't see beyond himself. He was so on a roll - but it was a roll encompassing his own self. And in his mind, everything that was going on around him was just there to accompany him. He wasn't sensitive to stepping on other people's egos or feelings. Having said that, when it came time to do the occasional song of mine - although it was usually difficult to get to that point - Paul would always be really creative with what he'd contribute. For instance, that galloping piano part on "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" was Paul's, and it's brilliant right to his day. On the Live in Japan album, I got our keyboardist to play it note for note. And you just have to listen to the bass line on "Something" to know that, when he wanted to, Paul could give a lot. But, you know, there was a time there when...

 

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