Tuesday, November 29, 2011

 ...hard to believe he's been gone for a decade now...

Ten years ago, George Harrison departed this world and that's been on my mind today. Ten Years. When Abe Lincoln died, it was said that "now he belongs to the ages". To apply that to members of The Beatles startles me a bit. My first Beatles' album was "Yesterday and Today", after which I got their subsequent later albums...Sgt. Pepper, White Album, Magical Mystery Tour, White Album, Abbey Road, Let it be, etc. Back in 1966, when I got  "Yesterday and Today", I found out it contained a whole bunch of singles I'd heard on the radio, "Yesterday", "Day Tripper", "We Can Work It Out" and "Nowhere Man" plus the rest of the tunes were cool, too. George Harrison wrote one song on that album, "If I Needed Someone" which has a whole different flavor...it was jangly, the lyrics were fairly morose, and it went in a different direction; the song was strangely moody and haunting. With that tune, George began writing some major songs, every bit as good as Lennon-McCartney. He provided a sort of "counterpoint"; his dark tunes contrasting with the bubbly Lennon-McCartney compositions that occupied the majority of Beatles albums. George's songs were generally darker than the Lennon-McCartney tunes which made up most of the Fabs' repertoire.
The Dark Horse...
"All Things Must Pass", George's 1970 solo triple LP, contained songs that Lennon-McCartney had rejected outright in the past. George's songs carried a dark element throughout; a sort of gloom with maybe some light at the end of the tunnel. Ironically, the group's early albums, such as "Meet The Beatles" or "Beatles VI" were albums I got after they broke up. And those early albums invaded my consciousness ,same as if I'd bought them in the heyday of Beatlemania. During my junior year in high school, I was wheelin' and dealin' for Beatles albums. That's how I got my first copies of "The Early Beatles" and "A Hard Day's Night". It was amazing how good their early songs sounded to me, even if some of that material had been released 4 or 5 years previously (an eternity when I was a kid). When KJRB radio (in Spokane, Washington) played a full weekend of Beatles Music once it was announced that the group had broken up, I was all ears and liked what I heard. And things just went from there . Turns out  I'd heard some of that early stuff before; I just didn't know the song titles, but once they hit the turntable, they sounded amazingly familiar.

In 1970 I found my recently-acquired copy of "Meet The Beatles" (which originally came out in '64), contained a similar George Song, "Don't Bother Me", which is far away in musical flavor from the Lennon-McCartney songs that dominate the album. The song is gloomy. It's an Early George song; he downplayed the significance of that song, but I thought it was as good as any Lennon-McCartney tune and its inclusion gave the album a different sort of flavor. Many of George's tunes contain that dark element, whether it be "Taxman", "Love You To" (both from the "Revolver" album), "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", "I Me Mine", "Long Long Long" (from the White Album) or "Think For Yourself" (from "Rubber Soul"). Perhaps it was how he heard rock and roll. Yes, the Beatles recorded some not-so-good songs, and George wrote his share of clunkers, but he gave Beatles albums a unique sort of depth. Later on, after the group broke up, George started up a record label, and he named it "Dark Horse". I think that's how he saw himself. He once said that he considered himself and Ringo as "economy-class Beatles". I think George was more than that. Much more. I'm not sure about Ringo, although he was/is a great instinctive drummer. Or perhaps it was the combination of such wide-apart personalities that made The Beatles what they were. The only other group that comes close in terms of chemistry is U2. The depth of feeling that U2 puts into their tunes immediately sets them apart. Led Zeppelin was also like that. I really do think they were "The Beatles of the '70s" in terms of inventiveness. Now don't go running off because I mentioned Zeppelin. They recorded some nice tunes, dabbling in folk and pop music. Think "Going To California", "That's The Way", or "All My Love". Nice stuff.

RECORD RESEARCH BEFORE THE INTERNET: It's hard, now, to imagine life B.C. ("Before Computers"). Way back in the day, though, if one wanted to know anything about anything, he/she would visit the Bookstore or library. My friends and I would talk about music, and they would ask me how I could remember such things as record-chart positions, groups, history of various songs an particulars. I'd tell them that I wasn't smart, I just read everything I could get my greasy hands on. If I had the opportunity to shave 30 years off my age, I'd want to be a record store owner. Or an album reviewer. I may not be much of a musician, but I'm one hell of a great listener. I was always intrigued by music, records and song lyrics. So here's a couple of really important books that I've used; they're fun to research with, learn from, or to enjoy as light reading...
The Rolling Stone Record guide has provided me with so much priceless information over the years. They contain capsule-type comments about record albums and assign them 'star value'; a "1" album is mediocre; a "5" means it's a great album, and a small black square means the record should be burned and forgotten about forever. I ordered the "Red" book from a bookstore in 1978, and I found a used copy of the "Blue" book for cheap at a used book store. There are probably over a hundred artists in the "Red" book that aren't in the "Blue" book, and vice versa, which is why I keep both books handy. As you can see, the "Red" book was falling apart at the seams due to overuse. Duct Tape to the Rescue! Looks like my "blue" copy is about ready to fall apart, too. Handle with care, eh? The "red" book stops at albums issued 1978 and before, while the "blue" book goes up through 1984.

Recently, I was on Facebook, exchanging messages with an old high school friend. I had posted that if I had to choose My One Favorite Song by Anybody, it would have to be "Hey Jude". And her response was, "Puh-leeze, our ladies' knitting group could do better than that." Which made me feel as if a knitting needle had been stuck in my eye. My own take is, that if someone does not like the Beatles, I'm probably not going to get along well with that someone. I'm not being one-sided about this. I can't stand opera of ANY kind, so I probably wouldn't get on well with someone who's an opera buff. And I kinda feel the same way about classical music. Ack.
Finally, I want to address a topic that really bugs me. In fact, it really Ticks Me Off. I keep hearing/seeing television ads that name anything having to do with Christmas as "The Holidays". A holiday is a day where you celebrate something. So what do "The Holidays" celebrate, if not "Christ", who the holiday was Named For? I'm no religious wacko; I'm quite the backslider actually, but Christmas is Christmas, whether you're atheist, agnostic or a fervent disciple. If you're not Christian, perhaps you can use Christmas to honor who you do believe in. There's no competition in religions here. It's supposed to be a time of peace no matter who you are or what color your skin is. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, as long as you don't blow the smoke in my face. There. Sermon over.


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