By Brian Arsenault
Has always seemed to me that George Harrison had the most interesting post Beatles artistic career of the Fab Four.
John, who was taken from us way too young, had drifted into his particular brand of social commentary mixed with Yoko’s avant garde silliness. But what the heck, he loved her. Still, the music lacked the energy and much of the humor of his Beatles days. By the end and especially after his murder, the scene became late flower child cult of personality which I think he would have hated. Hope so anyway.
Ringo has always brought a smile but strictly pop stuff although various iterations of the All Star Band have been quite good in concert, and better than expected. He does round up some memorable if largely forgotten talent.
And Paul, who appropriately became Sir Paul, has by his own admission devoted himself largely to “silly love songs” and light later albums. His live show is essentially a nostalgia act which the Rolling Stones have largely avoided by staying hard rockers. Paul’s act more clearly resembles Elton John shows. I keep expecting the announcement that Pauly has signed a 20 month engagement in Vegas.
George, though – introspective, inventive, sometimes dark and moody, nearly despairing but always seeking the light and frequently shining it brightly on life – continued to write and perform moving songs. I can’t always dig that Eastern spirituality, I’m too Western cynical, but one must respect a true seeker after truth in whatever guise.
In widow Olivia’s touching Introduction to I Me Mine, I was stopped bam in my reading when she writes that George once said “I wish I knew more words” to express his need to say more. He joins the king of the English written word James Joyce in that frustration. Joyce’s Nora once found him storming through a dictionary and asked if there weren’t enough words. “Just not the right ones” came the reply.
One of the great delights of I Me Mine is the hand written lyrics, often on hotel stationery or whatever was at hand, with cross out and arrows moving lines. Insight into an artist at work. My own notes scribbled about the book I later realized were in one place dabbled around a partial grocery list: eggs, dip, milk, wine. I flatter myself that George might have liked that.
Still, he’s a song writer and musician so the words without the music; the singing, the playing, the guitar set in with the band, do not fully reveal the meaning, the magic. While going over lyrics or song titles I would frequently bellow Alexa, play this song or that. Then I wouldn’t write or read for a while, I’d just listen. That’s the point, isn’t it. This big heavy book should always take one back to the music.
I like that the book was dedicated to “gardeners everywhere” since I’ll struggle this spring to make my poor little white garden a bit better. Kath is a better gardener as I am too impatient and can’t understand why one has to wait for blooms.
What blooms most for me in George’s work — I just can’t use only his last name as we all felt unjustifiably close to the Beatles, didn’t we — is his testament to the possibility of goodness. That’s needed in this age. Any age.
He warns us to “Beware of Darkness”
Watch out now, take care
Beware the thoughts that linger
Winding up inside your head –
The hopelessness around you
In the dead of night
Beware of sadness
He has been a “Breath Away from Heaven”
As the morning light was painting whispers of a joy . . .
Enchanting beauty shimmering magically. . .
And he wonders why people can be
So hateful of anyone that is happy or ‘free’
They live all their lives, without looking to see
The light that has lighted the world (title)
A bit hippy dippy I admit but it’s our fault isn’t it that the nasty, vicious and violent is seen as “reality” while “whispers of joy” are seen as dreamy nonsense. Our fault.
The title of I Me Mine is of course typical George Harrison irony about the ego he sought to banish with Eastern philosophy. It never quite goes away in the West or in George but we don’t have to take it all that seriously. Maybe that’s one of the keys to his work.
And oh yeah, the pictures are great.