Friday, November 17, 2006

George Harrison Tells It Like It Is

Interview appeared in FLIP, Feb 1970

Get back Lennon and McCartney. Stand up George Harrison and tell FLIP how you’ve become The Most Improved Beatle of 1969. How you’re beginning to rival John and Paul as a prolific and creative songwriter. And where you see your own future now that Paul’s got his own composing to think about, Ringo became a movie star, and John got wrapped up with the Plastic Ono Band. – Keith Altham

“I’m twice the writer I was when we did ‘Revolver’. Simply, I just know how to do it better now because I do it more often. I’m writing songs day and night – I can’t stop. And I want to record them myself, like ‘Something’, because I figure that if I’m gonna sing I might as well sing my own songs.

“The reason I feel impelled to write now is that I believe you can say more in two or three minutes of a song than you can say in any way else in ten years. Add the music and there’s more feeling. More truth.

“Not that everything I do has to be some big message thing – because music should be fun. Like the other week, when I decided to sit down and do a number just for the exercise.

“I didn’t have any idea about its construction before I wrote it…and yet I knew it was there, and that it was country and western. Really, it’s just the process of bringing it out.

“Like Donovan said once, songs are there, all around. All you have to do is reach out and capture one.

“Think of all the beautiful music that ever was written; all the beautiful music that’s being written and all the beautiful music that will be written. It’s like past, present and future itself.

“There’re a lot of people saying nice things about ‘Something’, like it’s the best thing I’ve ever written, and I must admit it’s a great encouragement.

“It took me a long time to get into the way it’s flowing now, though. I guess it was about a year ago that I first started feeling something inside and it became like I felt the whole universe was made of music. I started to notice the things people said, the phrase, the rhythm of it, and I’d suddenly say, ‘hey, that’s a song’ and rush away and write it.

“Anybody can do anything if they put their mind to it. And I did, and I’m going to level with you about the reason why.

“The real reason was that after a certain time, I got thinking well, if John and Paul can write songs…if they can write songs…then why not me? The trouble with me is that sometimes I hang back. I don’t push. It takes something to set me into motion, like the first number I ever wrote I did because I was ill in bed and I had nothing better to do. I thought well, I’ll write something, and I did, and it wasn’t very good – it was ‘Don’t Bother Me’. But it was a start.

“Getting going on something like that took a bit of time, as I kept forgetting to do it. It’s like brushing your teeth. If you’ve never done it before, it’ll take you time to get into the habit.

“Another thing, and let’s face it, is that if you follow Paul and John’s earlier songs, they just weren’t as good. And I’ve been like that…from bad to better, to better still.

“I’ve got about 40 songs stacked up and I think they’re really good. Some of them I wrote about three years ago and I kept them hidden because I reckoned they were too far out. One was called ‘The Art of Dying’. But I’m going to record it.

“Another hang-up I always had, and one that held back my development as a composer was the bit of going into a studio and saying: ‘Look, fellers, I’ve got a song here and I’d like to play it and see how you feel’.

“It was always inhibiting, standing there with your guitar, trying to get them to get with it on the first time of playing, and they’re standing there saying, ‘Yeah, yeah’, and you’ve got the feeling they’d rather be somewhere else. I’d be standing there visualizing it, hearing the whole thing in my head, finished…but it’s always embarrassing having to rely on somebody else’s imagination.

“I was inhibited by having to go through that self-inflicted ‘audition’ thing with the other Beatles, and there were lots of song I’d decide to hold back because I didn’t reckon they’d go for them.

“It was shyness on my part, and in a way, I also had this hang-up that I hated to ‘compete’ with John and Paul. The standard of my work had to be good because they were so acclaimed.

“There was, of course, the other consideration that I didn’t want to inflict crap upon the other Beatles just because I wrote it. And I wouldn’t want them to inflict crap upon me just because they wrote it.

“Maybe now it’s just that I’m more cocky than before. Now, I don’t care if the other Beatles don’t like my work. Mind you, I still take the easy way out if I can. I pick out the nice tunes, the ones I think they’ll get first time. I did that for the ‘Abbey Road’ album. Like that track called ‘Here Comes The Sun’…the reason I put that forward, rather than that other song, was only because I knew they’d be able to hear basically how it went without any trouble.

“As far as ‘who-gets-what’ on a Beatles album, sometimes it’s a matter of personalities, as to who gets how many songs included. And who’s gonna push the hardest.

“Sometimes I just shrug and sit back and wait until somebody would like to do one of my tunes. What I’ll have to do, and I’ll do it soon, is get out an album of my own songs. Because at the rate I’m writing at the moment – and the rate I’m getting them recorded – it’ll be ten years before they see the light of day.

“And by then I’ll have written more…and more…and more.”

[George Harrison]

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