Friday, November 17, 2006

George Harrison Interview

George talks about The Beatles Anthology in 1995...

You’ve been sitting round, rummaging through your own life. Did anything surprise you?

What surprised me was there was actually a lot of footage around that we’d never seen. I mean, that we’d never seen. Because everybody’s made their documentaries about the Beatles and everybody must have gone fishing for footage. But there were a lot of interesting things I didn’t see before.

You, Paul and Ringo have all been interviewed specially for the film – John comes to us via the archives…

In a way he’s lucky because he doesn’t have to talk about it now and so you have pictures of him when he was youthful, whereas we are all now in our fifties, so that’s a bit of a bonus for him.

When you recall something twenty-five years later, it doesn’t have the same energy to it as it did in those days and in some ways I would have preferred to have found some interviews that I did a long time ago.

How was the film put together?

Well, Neil Aspinall had strung together all the footage that we’d filmed of ourselves or that we owned of ourselves or whatever he could get hold of, newsreel, and put into a chronological order that was the basis for the programme. It was tentatively titled ‘The Long and Winding Road’ but that was back in 1971 when people had had enough and we’d had enough of all that.How did it feel, sitting back and watching yourself?

There are some old interviews, one of the earliest interviews we did – it must have been 1963 – and part of it’s used in the Anthology. Every time I look at it I think it looks as through I’d had my brain removed before I did the interview. 

But even in 1963 you see them talking about John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison and you just feel as if it’s somebody else. Throughout all this madness I see it as somebody else. I’m not really Beatle George – sorry to disappoint you. I mean there is much more to me than the Beatle George. And I don’t really go round thinking that I’m in the Beatles…

Are you wiser for the whole Beatles experience?

Well, a little bit more wise, but I think in a way the human condition contains wisdom.

There’s a mirror, but the mirror has layers of dust and dirt on it so you don’t get to know about the wisdom until you figure out how to clean the mirror.
Every human soul is potentially divine: the goal is to manifest that divinity. And it’s a bit of a trick to do it. There’s an underlying reality that we must discover and I think the blessing is the realisation that there is actually something that exists other than our daily mundane life.

What do you think was the emotional trade-off between you and the fans?

The fans gave, the record companies gave, the media gave, but we gave our nervous systems. We were the ones that were hounded day and night, regardless of where we were or what country we were in and it was a nervous system thing. That’s why when we went to India in 1968, that was such a great thing, because it was to get rid of stress and people don’t think of that.What do you think was the essence of the Beatles’ appeal?

There was an honesty that we had, a very simple, naïve honesty and I think that had a lot to do with where we came from as well… I can’t illustrate that but I just know the people up there have a sense of humour to live in a place like that, and you know everybody who comes out of Liverpool thinks they’re a comedian and we were no exception.

And it was that which kept us going, got us through a lot of bad times. I think we must have been pretty tough, because I’ve heard of people cracking up and having nervous breakdowns with not even a fraction of what we went through.

When did it start to get stressful?

The thing is, it became so big that the novelty started to wear off until it became a pain in the neck. Really it was just like a ball and chain; you couldn’t go anywhere.

I had a car without blacked out windows, and I suppose it was like having a light on my head. There was a period in the 60s when it was almost like we did have a light on our heads. 

“There they are, the Beatles!”

You couldn’t sneak anywhere. It became terrible. It made you just stay home, just visit your close friends and everything you said or did was in the next morning’s newspaper. It wasn’t much fun.

Was it ever dangerous?

There were occasions when we were supposed to jump in the car to go and make our escapes and the cars got jumped on and the roofs were squashed down to the seats. And all kinds of horror started happening, like when we were in Canada. The French were having an argument with the British or something, and so they decided that when we came to Montreal, somebody was going to shoot Ringo! Our nervous system was taking a real beating.

And there was a pilot I met in the 70s who said, “George, don’t you remember me? I’m the pilot from the American Flyers Electra plane that we did the tours on.”
He said: “You’d never believe that plane! It was just full of bullet holes – the tail, the wings, everything – just full of bullet holes.”

And I said, “How come?”

He said: “Just jealous fellows who’d be waiting around, knowing that the Beatles would be arriving at such-and-such a time. They’d all be there trying to shoot the plane."

There were people who were supposed to be psychic who were saying, “Oh yes. The Beatles are going to die in a plane crash on September 14.” On September 14 we’d have to get on our plane and see if she was right…

How unfinished was Free As A Bird?

John never completed the middle, and also if you hear the original version you know that John plays very different chord changes in it as well. Historically what we’d say would be, “Hang on. I’m not sure about that chord there, why don’t we try this chord here?” So we took the liberty of doing that: of beefing the song up a bit with some different chord changes and some different arrangements, and we finished the lyrics. We actually produced the song and put John into it.Does it sound like a Beatles song?

It does now. When you say it sounds like the Beatles some people may expect it to sound like ’65 or ’68. It’s very similar to Abbey Road in some respects, because it has the voicing, the backing vocals like Because. But the whole technical thing that has taken place between 1969 and 1995 is such that, you know, it sounds more like now.

Was it very emotional listening to John?

Maybe I’m peculiar but to me he isn’t dead. When I never saw him for years before he died I thought, “Oh well, he’s living in New York and I just haven’t seen him in a while.” It’s kind of still like that. Ok, the physical body falls off, but the soul lives on, we’re going to meet again. It was a terrible thing that his death occurred and it made me feel terrible at the time, but in retrospect life is just shadows, we are just shadows on this sunny wall and that’s all it is.

I miss John in as much as we could have a good laugh and also, I think he was a good balance. I miss him in the context of the band because he wouldn’t take any shit and I think that aspect’s missing now, so in some ways I feel that I’m trying to make up for that aspect of John, because I don’t like to take much shit either. What I mean by that is, I want truth. John was good at that.

Is it possible, with Anthology to paint a complete picture?

Well, there’s a way of twisting history – because if you find a roll of film in the cupboard, that’s going in the documentary. I may have been doing something far more important on the same day, but because I didn’t film it, it’s no longer important. I think it’s shown me that all history must be rubbish, because if even we can’t tell our story – and we’re still alive - God help the Romans, or Alexander the Great or … anyone!

What does the future hold?

The Beatles will go on and on, on those records and films and videos and books and whatever, and in people’s memories. It’s become it’s own thing now. And the Beatles, I think, exist without us.

I think that’s the thing: we can carry on being individuals. Beatle George was a suit or a shirt that I once wore, and the only problem is, for the rest of my life people are going to look at that shirt and mistake it for me.


From Q magazine 1995

[George Harrison]

1 comment:

Chelsea said...

Thanks for posting this! I enjoyed it. For someone who didn't ever get past secondary education (did he even graduate high school?), George certainly had some moments of real wisdom. Shows you the value (or lack thereof) of traditional education ... Maybe I'm crazy, but I definitely feel like his soul is still around. I can just feel it! And I hope that when I pass away, I can meet George in heaven. He seems like a fun guy to hang out with. Maybe he'd even play some music with me!

Anyway, thanks for posting this. :)