Saturday, July 18, 2009

From the spiritual sky, such sweet memories have I

23 George Harrison, ‘Be Here Now’
The fabs’ solo years are problematic I know, but I am more familiar with them than I am the actual Beatle years. Throughout the seventies, when I was setting out on my record buying path, few years are as special as 1973. In that year all four fabs put out solo albums and Lennon’s comment was spot on – if you want a new Beatle album, just collect the best songs off the four solo albums and hey presto. The four albums in question were Ringo, Mind Games, Living In The Material World, and Red Rose Speedway. All great solo albums in their own write.

Here’s my selection for 1973’s 12 song single album by The Beatles called ‘Be Here Now’ (I thought about doing a double but that would have been stretching the quality control a tad too much):
Side 1
Mind Games – (John - vocals)
I’m The Greatest – (Ringo - vocals/drums; George – guitars; John – piano)
Little Lamb Dragonfly – (Paul - vocals)
Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth) – (George – vocals/guitars; Ringo - drums)
My Love – (Paul - vocals)
Be Here Now – (George – vocals/guitars; Ringo - drums)

Side 2
Big Barn Red – (Paul - vocals)
You Are Here – (John - vocals)
Photograph – (Ringo vocals/drums; George – guitars)
One More Kiss – (Paul - vocals)
Don’t Let Me Wait Too Long – (George – vocals/guitars; Ringo - drums)
Meat City – (John - vocals)

That’s a pretty damn good 1973, Beatles’ record. It’s got all four represented on merit. Ringo has a novelty song on side one, written by John – that’s appropriate, and a great Ringo song on side 2 (Photograph) written by George – also appropriate. It’s got a Paul rocker (Big Barn Red) and a John rocker (Meat City). It’s got cutsey Paul (One More Kiss) and romantic Paul (My Love). It has cosmic John (Mind Games) and romantic John (You Are Here). It has rocky George (Give Me Love), and it’s got a Long Long Long style Harrison ballad to close out side 1 that I adore. That song also lends itself to the album title as well – what, you thought Oasis had gone all Buddhist for their third album released in 1997? No such luck – they were merely quoting George, as they had done for Wonderwall.

Be Here Now (the George song) is an amazing piece of work and, for me, the standout track on this album, as Long Long Long was for The Beatles. Musically I find a lot similarities between the two – the same other-worldly space is there between the notes and the pace is similar.

The lyric to Be Here Now is very different though. This isn’t a direct love song to Patti (Long Long Long’s ‘I love you’ is pretty direct). Instead it’s a contemplation on life in general (‘Why try to live a life, that isn't real’), and George’s life in particular. He uses the song to give himself advice, ‘Be here now as it’s not what it was before’. This may be seen as an assessment of his love for Patti in a marriage that was falling apart. Next year’s Dark Horse album would address the failure in less oblique fashion.

It’s this kind of honesty that endears me to John Lennon and George Harrison. They certainly didn’t live blameless lives and did their share of stuffing up relationships. I mean if you were married to Patti Boyd would you fall out of love with her?

In her book ‘Wonderful Tonight’ she has some perceptive comments on George’s psyche, ‘I think owning that huge house and garden created confusion in him. It was a constant reminder of how rich and famous he was, and that gave him a sense of power, but in his heart knew was just a boy from Liverpool who was talented and had got lucky’.

Be Here Now is a musical artefact that provides further evidence. George wants to be alive in the moment; he exhorts himself in the lyric to ‘Remember. Now’. But in his heart he knows he’s trying to live a life that isn’t real. It’s interesting that he never got rid of the huge house and garden. Lennon’s plea to ‘imagine no possessions – I wonder if you can’ was something he also couldn’t actually do. They both lived their lives in the material world. George's album was called 'Living In The Material World'. It has songs about his trying to life a more spiritual life but it's on an album that exists in the material world of commerce. He, and John, made a lot of money from their albums and they are aware of this tension, confusion, and, I guess, guilt. In the end, it gave us some great songs.

It’s this searching and the honest examination that I love about them both. I’ll even buy Electronic Sound and Two Virgins for them!

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