JENNIFER PAULL pays tribute to
George Harrison, who died in November 2001
'The Beatles saved the world from boredom.'
-- George Harrison (1943-2001) English musician, guitarist, songwriter
It is very difficult for anyone not actually having lived through the
English 1960's to imagine the magnitude of the impact the Beatles had upon
the status quo. Madonna and Michael Jackson combined did not touch every
citizen with change and the breaking of stuffy convention in the amazing
way that they did. They were the first real threat to a lifestyle overburdened
by rigid ideas of conformity, ripe for challenge. The Beatles broke the
primness of post war mentality still worn like a cloak by society less than
twenty years after the end of World War Two.
When one sees them on film today with clean, shaped hair and well-pressed
suits, impeccable shirts, and knotted ties, one wonders how on earth they
were considered to be so utterly outrageous. It shows how restricted life
had become prior to their taking it by the scruff of the neck and shaking
many things into a collective, vibrant consciousness.
Musically, many of their melodies and lyrics rest as simply the best.
John's poetry and drawings were very much in a tradition with the Liverpool
poets. Paul has a gift for the melodic line which composers of all genres
envy. George, like Paul and John, was very serious about music. From what
I heard, although Ringo was a good, if not an outstanding drummer, he was
less into the actual structure of music than the others, and had always
been interested in acting. All four of them bubbled with a sense of humour
that was very much from Liverpool -- also my home town.
On the cover of Sargent Pepper, Paul is holding a cor anglais.
That was because of his then girlfriend, the actress Jane Asher. She lived
in Harley Street at the time, where her father was a surgeon, and her mother,
an oboe teacher at the Royal Academy of Music, close by. Paul's interest
in composition and orchestration stemmed from that time and went on to his
writing the Liverpool Cantata.
John met my good friend Cathy Berberian at the Abbey Road studios where
they were both working. She told me that she had asked him if he knew about
her husband's music -- the Italian composer, Luciano Berio. Not only was
he familiar with it, but he was able to cite the names of compositions and
talk about them with pertinent knowledge.
George went to India and studied with Shankar. He was really interested
in getting to the roots of many things in life and expanding his intellectual
and spiritual horizons. He too had much talent as a guitarist and songwriter.
They were far from being uneducated -- the ridiculous, condescending adjective
bandied about in the 1960's by a snobbish element which resisted their breaking
through the Establishment's 'sound barrier'. In Britain, we never knew the
riots that took place in 1968 in Paris, when the young challenged their
Establishment and much of the status quo was forced into another gear and
attitude. Perhaps the Beatles had done much of the groundwork for us?
'Try to realise it's all within yourself, no one else can make you change.
Life flows on with -- in you and with -- out you!'
How relevant today is John's Give Peace a Chance ? I think, unfortunately,
we all know the answer.
My Lord, my Sweet Lord was re-mixed by George just last year.
it as an epitaph.
I was lucky enough to have been present at one of their recording sessions
in Abbey Road. It is a souvenir I shall always cherish.
'If I had some more time to spend,
Then I guess I'd be with you my friend
If I needed someone.
Had you come the other day -
then it might not have been like this...'
Good luck, George, and thank you!
Copyright © 2 December 2001
Jennifer Paull, Vouvry, Switzerland
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