Here are some interviews I selected. I hope you'll find interesting things in them.
GEORGE HARRISON: As a musician I don't think I've done that yet; as an individual, just being able to sit here today and be relatively sane. That's probably my biggest accomplishment to date.
QUESTION: What is the possibility that you and the rest of the Beatles will join together and become the Beatles again?
GEORGE: It's a very slim possibility at the moment. Everybody's enjoying being individuals; we were boxed together for ten years, and personnally I'm enjoying playing with this band.
QUESTION: You said in your bio in 1964 that meeting the Beatles was one of the biggest break in your musical life; in '74 leaving the Beatles.
GEORGE: The biggest break in 1963 was meeting the Beatles, thebiggest break since then, I mean retrospect, was getting out of them.
QUESTION: Is there any reason why Jim Keltner, Eric Clapton and Klaus Voorman didn't accompany you?
GEORGE: Oh well, Eric's out on his own; Klaus has been living in America so I haven't seen him all year; and during that time I met Andy Numark and Willy Weeks. It's just a time for change.
QUESTION: Why would they perform on an album and not in concert?
GEORGE: They performed on the album because they were there at the time. I didn't meet Willy Weeks and Andy Numark, they're bass and drums, until about July this year.
QUESTION: Are you getting divorced?
GEORGE: No, I mean that's as silly as marriage.
QUESTION: Allen Klein is suing the Beatles. How is that affecting you? Do you have to sell more albums now?
GEORGE: No. To tell the truth, there's a whole lot of money wich is in receivership since Paul McCartney sued us and actually it's fortunate he did sue us, because the money's in receivership so at least nobody can spend it. There's a lot of millions of dollars from the Beatles partnership, and we either give it to the lawyers or we give it to the Revenue.
QUESTION: How do you see the role of the entertainer as concerned with causes and charities?
GEORGE: Well, I don't think we have any relation to causes and charities. I don't think that's particularly an entertainer's job. I think it's up to each individual to do what he can. I do what I can through music, but I don't think it's particularly just isolated to musicians.
QUESTION: What are the hopes of Dark Horse Records?
GEORGE: I wan it to be resonably small. To tell the truth, I've been here just over a week and if I signed all the people who gave me tapes, I'd be bigger than RCA, but fortunatly I don't have time to listen to them.
QUESTION: I'm writing for "Women's Pages" and you are married. May I ask you? Does your wife cook for you?
GEORGE: First of all, I don't have a wife anymore, but when I did, she used to cook sometimes and I learned how to cook myself. I cooked vegetarian Indian food. Although I like other food as well, I'm a vegetarian. I don't eat fish, I don't eat chicken and I don't eat meat. That's why I'm so pale and thin.
QUESTION: Are sales down for the concerts?
GEORGE: Oh no.
QUESTION: What's your relationship now with John and Paul?
GEORGE: It'S very good actually.
QUESTION: Do you see them often?
GEORGE: I haven'T seen John because he's been in the States, although I've spoken to him quite a lot on the telephone, and he sounds to me like he's in great shape. It's as if we've done right 'round the cycle and we're back at the beginning again. I just met Paul recently and he's...Everybody's really friendly. But it doesn't mean we're going to form a band.
QUESTION: Will the publicity from your lead to the re-release of the "Raga" Ravi Shankar documentary?
GEORGE: I'm not too sure if it even got released, you know. It may; it depends on people's interest. The problem is with people who distribute movies. It's very difficult to get a look in there. The film industry, this is my personal opinion, needs a kick in the behind, because it's got too much control by people who own the teathers, who own the distribution networks. It's like if you don't work on Maggie's farm, you don't get your movie on.
QUESTION: Do you still meditate?
GEORGE: It's too difficult a question to answer really. I must say there's a state of consciousness wich is the goal of everybody. I haven't sat down and done meditation like that for some time, but at the same time I constantly think of the Lord in one fashion or another. My thing is just to remember and try to see him within all of you, and that feeling itself is a meditation.
QUESTION: There's a paradox there between lifestyles.
GEORGE: It is difficult, yeah, but the point is it'S also good practice in a way. As they say, "to be in the world, but not of the world." You can go to the Himalayas and miss it compeletely, and you can be stuck in the middle of New York and be very spiritual. I mean, I noticed in certain places, like Switzerland, I find a lot of uptight people there, because they're living within themselves. If you're stuck in New York, you have to somehow look within yourself; otherwise, you'd go crackers. So , in a way, it's good to be able to go in and out of both situations. Most people think when the world gets itself together, we'll all free ourselves from the chains we ourselves have chained ourselves to. But I don't think that suddenly some magic happens and the whole of us will all be liberated in one throw.
QUESTION: Do you pay much attention to what critics say?
GEORGE: I canceled all my newspapers five years ago, to tell you the truth, so I don't really know what people say. If I do see a review of an album, I'll read it, although it doesn't really make too much difference what they say, because I am what I am whether they like it or not.
QUESTION: Would you ever want top live permanently in India?
GEORGE: When I get through with all this madness. There's a word called karma and it means that whatever we are now we cause by our previous actions. Whatever is going to be in the future is what we cause by our actions now. I'd like to be able to cause my actions to lead me to end up sometime in India.
QUESTION: Who are some of the contemporary artists you admire most?
GEORGE: There's so many. Smokey Robinson. I am madly in love with Somkey Robinson. Smokey Robinson is my favorite, but I like Dicky Betts. There's a lot of guitar players. Ry Cooder, I think, is sensational.
QUESTION: What about big groups like the ROlling Stones?
GEORGE:The Stones, yeah they're fine, you know, they're nice. I like the Stones. I think variety's the spice of life.
QUESTION: Are you involved in any serious negotiations to get the Beatles back together for one night?
GEORGE: No, you've been reading "Rolling Stone". I thought the fifty million for one shot... after reading that, I was a bit disappointed at Bill Graham saying he could make us four million, especially as Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young made eight. I mean, sure we could make more then that. The point is, it's all fantasy, the idea of putting the BEatles together again. If we ever do that, I'll tell you, the reason will be that everybody's broke. And even then, to play with the Beatles, I'd rather have Willy Weeks on bass then Paul McCartney. That's the truth, with all respect to Paul. The BEatles was like being in a box. It's taken years to get to play with other musicians, because we were so isolated together. It became very difficult playing the same old tunes day in, day out. Since I made "All Things Must Pass", it was so nice for me to be able to play with other musicians. I don't think the Beatles are that good. I mean, they're fine. RIngo'S got the best backbeat I've ever heard and he'll play a great backbeat 24 hours a day. He hated drum solos. Paul is a fine bass player, a little overpowering at times, and John has gone through his scene, but it feels to me like he's come around. I mean, to tell you the truth, I'd join a band with John Lennon any day, but I couldn't join a band with Paul McCartney. But that's nothing personal. It's just from musical point of view.
QUESTION: What do you think of Lennon's solo material?
GEORGE: His new record, I think, is lovely.
QUESTION: How is it you don't what to do personal interviews?
GEORGE: There's nothing to say, really. I'm a musician, not a talker. I mean, if you just get my album, it'S like "Peyton Place". It'll tell you exactly what I've been doing.
QUESTION:Did you do a musical rebuttal to "Layla" on that album?
GEORGE: What do you mean, musical rebuttal? That sounds nasty, doesn'T it? I'd like to sort that one out. I love Eric Clapton . He's been a close friend for years. I'm very happy about it. I'm very friendly with them. Sure.
QUESTION: Why are you happy about it?
GEORGE: Because he's great. I'd rather she (Pattie) was with him than some dope.
QUESTION: Is it conceivable you could get together the BEatles to generate some money for charity?
GEORGE: Well, if you're a promoter, I'd say no. I wouldn't rule anything out in life. People think we plan, but we don't plan anything. It's all at the mercy of the Lord and I'm sorry to keep talking about the "Lord" to y'all, but He'S there. I have experiences something in my life, and I know He's there.
QUESTION: You said you had an experience which made you believe in the Lord. Was this a specific experience?
GEORGE: Just certain things happened in my life which left me thinking "what's it all about, Alfie?" and I remembered Jesus said somewhere "knock and the door shall be opened," and I said, (knock knock) "Hellooo!" It's very difficult. From the Hindu point of view each soul is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest the divinity. The word yoga meand union and the union is supposedly between the mind and the body, and spirit, and yoga isn't lying on nails or just standing on your head. I mean, there's various forms of yoga and they're all branches on one big tree. The Lord has got a million names. Whatever you call Him, it doesn't matter as long as you call Him. Jesus is on the mainline, tell Him what you want. Going back to self-realization, one guru said he found no separation between man and God saving man's spiritual unadventurousness, and that's the catch. Everybody's so unadventurous. We're all conditioned. Our consciousness has been so polluted with material energy that it's hard to try and pull it all away in order to really get at our true nature. It's like everyonr of us has within us a drop of the ocean, and we have the same qualities as God, just like a drop of the ocean has the same qualities as the whole ocean. Everybody's looking for something and we are it. We don't have to look anywhere. It's right there within ourselves.
GEORGE: The Carl Perkins show was really for me. It was done because I like Carl and I ought to do something. Otherwise, I'd get so out of it I might never want to do that kind of thing again. It's hard to step back out after you've not done any shows. So I did it thinking, "Well, Carl Perkins' music is so enjoyable and such fun it's the kind of thing I should be able to do without too much worry."
QUESTION: I was reminded of the days when you called yourself Carl Harrison.
GEORGE: Yeah! Well, that's really going back before the Beatles. It was when we got our first semiprofessional job backing singer in England called Johnny Gentle. We really didn't have any money for outfits, so we bought these real cheap white shoes and black shirts. We thought we should have stage names, so we all made up silly ones. But 'Carl', to me, always seemed so cool. Apart from his tunes, which are so good, Carl Perkins is just such a nice man. That's the main reason why tat show came across so well. I mean, everybody's out there with their egos, but at the same time it's all concentrated for the love of Carl. I thougt that really came across.
QUESTION: It was mutual admiration society.
GEORGE: And it was nicely presented. Did you hear what he said? "Look at you guys, all in your nice, clean shirts and little guitars." He was so blown away. I mean, there was one point where he was almost in tears, saying, "It's been thirty years since I wrote this tune and I've never enjoyed it so much as with my rockabilly buddies." He's so sweet. QUESTION: What about playing live?
GEORGE: Well, obviously I haven't really played live. It's very difficult. I mean, I do enjoy it. Once you get to do it, it's really enjoyable. There's nothing nicer than being in a band when it's all rocking, but to actually get to that stage... It's the sort of thing you must do permanently, I think. Eve Eric Clapton said to me, "God, I'm getting so I can't play. My fingers are jamming up all that." It's the kind of thing you,ve got to do all the time, and he takes gigs in-between his own albums and tours. He plays on everybody else's stuff and plays in everybody else's bands. And I admire that because he's never lost his touch by stopping. Yet, at the same time, to just go on stage after not doing it is very ard. I did two nightsof the Prince's Trust Concerts this year and I was so nervous. On the actual record it didn't sound bad. I likes the show on TV except that I really don't like watching myself. It was very nerve-racking.
QUESTION: So it's hard coming back playing live again?
GEORGE: It is, unless you're gonna rehearse for a long time. And having done that, there's no point in just doing three or four shows.
QUESTION: Well, you'd have to be on the road with people you'd really like being with.
GEORGE: eah, but even then it's one thing, just say, with travel. I mean, I enjoy being in different places but hate that bit of going from one place to another. Don't forget you're only on stage for a couple of hours and the rest of the time you,re stuck in weird little motels and airplanes. You're away from your familly and all the things that make life pleasant. I can see it when you're younger. Although for people like B.B. King who keep touring all the time, that,s become their life. But for me, the point when we stopped touring because it just became too difficult, we really lost our touch for doing it and the desire to do it again.
QUESTION: Someone told me ou were repotrtedly recording a whole batch of old rock'n'roll classics for a possible album, rather like John's "Rock'n'Roll" album.
GEORGE: It's not true, actually. But I've tried to write those kinds of tunes because years ago Leon Russell always used to say to me, "That's the kind of record you should make, a rockabilly album." Because that's the kins of music I'm good at playing. The night before we did that show Carl came over to my house with Dave Edmunds and a couple of the guys from the band. We had dinner and a couple of bottles of wines and atarted playing guitars. I said to Dave Edmunds and Carl, "It's a pity that these days there's not the kind of songs that are so simple and yet really clasic tunes." So Carl started playing some new songs he'd written and they were killer. I mea, if they could be recorded like his Sun records, just done really nicely, up-to-date but with that sound, those songs are as good as the original hits. He did one new tune, "I Was There When They Invented Rock'n'Roll," and it talks about the Beatles, the Stones, and all tha kind of stuff.
QUESTION: Are you still playing the sitar?
GEORGE: I just play it for my own amusement. It's such a great instrument with a wonderfull sound.
QUESTION: Are you nostalgic about those days?
GEORGE: I'm able now to really see the fun tha it was and I think more about the good things that appened. As opposed to maybe ten years ago, it was just thinking about all the lawsuits adn teh negative stuff. a lot of that has just gone away with time. It's quite enjoyable to think about the things we did and the things that happened.
QUESTION: How do you like the CD versions of the old albums?
GEORGE: Well, I know there's a big controversy over wheter they're any good or not. I know that the first batch of CDs, as George Martin said in "Billboard", they were only made in mono, so you can't really make them sound like the digital things. That's it, they were mono. But some of the others, like "Sgt. Pepper", I was frankly a bit disappointed. I don't know exactly what happened where the mix itself...you know, the balance that we had...because everything is really down to a mix. It become one thing in the mix, but on this CD, somehow you can see behind it and you hear things sticking out too much.
QUESTION: I'm sure you can hear a lot of more things we don't hear as well.
GEORGE: To me, it just sounds like a rough mix. It seems that some of the hard work we did to get them to sound like they sounded has been undone. And I don't know if that's just the result of the digitalizing of these songs or not, because you have to remember most of them were either done on two or four-track machines and now we're getting into the later ones. I think "Abbey Road", our last album, was an eight-track. I also heard a strange story that Geoff Emerick had one CD mixes and somebody at EMI had a cassette copy of tem, and the copy was faulty and they listened to it and said, "Oh, these are terrible." So somebody went in and redid them, but actually Emerick's mixes were good. But I'm as out of touch now with the old Beatles stuff as everybody, because we no longer have that deal with Capitol-EMI. They no longer really consult us about anything and so we just know what we read and hear.
QUESTION: What about all the reports that there are lots of unreleased Beatles recordings still in the vaults?
GEORGE: It's not true because there were only ever a couple of songs I ca remember that weren't put out. Like there was a song I did with John and Yoko called "What's the New Mary Jane?"
QUESTION: That's on the Sessions bootleg.
GEORGE: There are some things wich people may regard as being performances, but they're really not and shouldn't have been released. I know there's a version of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" with just me and an acoustic guitar.
QUESTION: That's on that Sessions albums, too.
GEORGE: Well I haven't even heard that. Someone I talked to yesterday has put it on a casette for me.
QUESTION: Are you still interested in Formula One racing?
GEORGE: Yeah, I am, actually. I follow the world championship. In fact, I got to my hotel last night and was really tired. I was going to have an early night and I was just going through the channels and heard Jackie Stewrat's voice. It began with the Portuguese Grand Prix from last Sunday. So I ended up sitting up until 2:30 in the morning watching all that.
QUESTION: What originally interested you in racing?
GEORGE: I don't know. When I was a kid, they used to have races at a place in Liverpool called Aintree and I used to go and watch the motorbike racing and the car racing. There was a World Championship Grand Prix there, I think, in 1954 won by Manuel Fangio, who was one of the greatest racers of all time. I was always into watching racing.
QUESTION: What did you think of all the nostalgia surrounding the Summer of 1967? I mean, you personally seemed to be in the eye of the hurricane of that whole thing.
GEORGE: I don't suppose you got to see the TV show that was made about the Summer of 1967? It's quite interesting as a historical piece. I suppose it was to be expected, because nostalgia is a big part of our lives. I know, because ever since I can remember they,re always showing Hitler on television in England. think it become more romanticized as time goes by.
QUESTION: Do you look at that period and say, "Boy, we were young and stupid?"
GEORGE: Yeah, we were a bit. But at the same time I think there was a lot of good come out of it, too. Although people considered us to be the leaders, we were just as much caught up with what was happening as the rest of the people. Although I suppose we were being innovative, a bit more so than others. don't know. There was a lot of energy in those days.
QUESTION: You were quoted as saying you'd had enough fame for one lifetime. Do you still feel tat way?
GEORGE: Yeah, I do, really. This is the conflict I have: I like making records and writing songs. When you do that and go to all that trouble, it's nice to get people to hear them. It's such a hudge business now that, unless I make a video, unless I do an interview, the public just doesn't know it exists. So somewhere you have to make a compromise. I would really prefer just to make records and put them out. I don't really enjoy the self-glorification, or whatever you call it, becase I had my fill of ego fulfillment during all those years. Although now it's easier because I think I'm more mellow. I can handle that and I enjoy doing it. But sometimes it gets too crazy when you're talking about yourself and your past all te time.
GEORGE HARRISON: Oh, yeah. Before Hamburg, we didn't have a clue. [laughs]We'd never really done any gigs. We'd played a few parties, but we'd never had a drummer longer than one night at a time. So we were very ropy, just young kids. I was actually the youngest-I was only 17, and you had to be 18 to play in the clubs-and we had no visas. They wound up deporting me after one second year there. Then Paul and Pete Best [the Beatles' first permanent drummer-GW Ed.] got deported for some silly reason, and John just figured he might as well come home. But when we went there, we weren't a unit as a band yet. When we arrived in Hamburg, we started playing eight hours a day-like a full wokday. We did that for a total of 11 or 12 months, on and off over a two-year period. It was pretty intense.
GW: Paul McCartney told me that playing for drunken German sailors, trying to lure them in to buy a couple of beers so you could keep your gig, was what galvanized the band into a musical force.
HARRISON: That's true, because we were forced to learn to play everything. At first we played the music of all our heroes-Little Richard, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, the Everly Brothers, Carl Perkins-anything we'd ever liked. But we still needed more to fill those eight-hour sets. Eventually, we had to stretch and play a lot of stuff that we didn't know particularly well. Suddenly, we were even playing movie themes, like "A Taste of Honey" or "Moonglow," learning new chords, jazz voicings, the whole bit. Eventually, it all combined together to make something new, and we found our voice as a band.
GW: I can see how all this musical stretching gave you the tools to eventually create your own unique sound. But it's hard to believe drunken sailors wanted to hear movie ballads.
HARRISON: No, we played those things because we got drunk! If you're coming in at three or four in the afternoon with a massive hangover from playing all night on beer and uppers, and there's hardly anybody in the club, you're not going to feel like jumping up and down and playing "Roll Over Beethoven." You're going to sit down and play something like "Moonglow." And we learned a lot from doing that.
GW: Did those tight, Beatles vocal harmonies also come out of Hamburg?
HARRISON: We'd always loved those American girl groups, like the Shirelles and the Ronettes. So yeah, we developed our harmonies from trying to come up with an English, male version of their vocal feel. We discovered the option of having three-part harmonies, or a lead vocal and two-part backup, from doing that old girl-group material. We even covered some of those songs, like "Baby, It's You," on our first album.
GW: When you broke through in America, Carl Perkins and Scotty Moore, Elvis' guitarists, were clearly your main influences as a guitarist. And, like them, you were using a Gretsch guitar. What was it about that rockability style that captivated you?
HARRISON: Carl was playing that simple, amazing blend of country, blues and early rock, with these brilliant chordal solos that were very sophisticated. I heard his version of "Blue Suede Shoes" on the radio the other day, and I'll tell you, they don't come more perfect than that. Later, we met Carl, he was such a sweet fellow, a lovely man. I did a TV special a couple of years ago and I used the Gretsch Tennessean again for that, the one I like to call the Eddie Cochran/Duane Eddy model. And you have to understand how radical that sound was at the time. Nowadays, we all have this digital stuff, but the records of that period had a certain atmosphere. Part of it was technical: the engineer would have to pot the guitar [adjust its level and tone] up or down or whatever. It was a blend that was affected by the live "slap echo" they were using. I loved that slap bass feel-the combination between the bass, the drum and the slap, and how they would all come together to make that amazing sound. We used to think that the drummer must be drumming on the double bass' strings to get that slap back-we just couldn't figure it out.
GW: The other major factor in your playing was Chuck Berry. I remember being a kid and hearing you do "Roll Over Beethoven" and thinking it was a Beatles song. We never heard black artists om the radio in those days.
HARRISON: Oh, that's still happening. We did a press conference in Japan when I played there with Eric Clapton [in 1991], and the first question was, "Mr. Harrison, are you going to play 'Roll Over Beethoven' in concert?" And when I said yes, the whole hall stood up and applauded! It was such a such a big thing for them, which seemed so funny. Then I realized they must still think I wrote it.
GW: Going back to the Beatles' early touring days, Ringo Starr told me that you all gave up on playing live because you literally couldn't hear other, due to all the screaming and the primitive amplification.
HARRISON: We couldn't hear a thing. We were using these 30-watt amps until we played Shea Stadium, at which point we got those really big 100-watt amps. [laughs] And nothing was even miked up though a P.A. system. They had to listen to us just through those tiny amplifiers and the voal mikes.
GW: Did you ever give up and just mime?
HARRISON: Yeah, sometimes we used to play absolute rubbish. At Shea Stadium, [during "I'm Down,"] John was playing a little Vox organ with his elbow. He and I were howling with laughter when we were supposed to be doing the background vocals. I really couldn't hear a thing. Nowadays, if you can get a good balance on your monitors, it's so much easier to hear your vocals and stay in pitch. When you can't hear your voice onstage, you tend to go over the top and sing sharp-we we did often back then.
GW: The Beatles stopped touring in 1966 around the time of Revolver. That album was a quantum leap in terms of the band's playing and songwriting. Rock could now deal with our inner lives, alienation, spirituality and frustration, things which it had never dealt so directly with before. And the guitars and musio warped into a new dimension. What kicked that off? Was it Dylan, the Byrds, Indian music and philosophy?
HARRISON: Well, all of those things came together. And I think you're right, around the time of Rubber Soul and Revolver we just became more conscious of so many things. We even listened deeper, somehow. That's when I really enjoyed getting creative with the music-not just with my guitar playing and songwriting but with everything we did as a band, including the songs that the others wrote. It all deepened and became more meaningful.
GW: Dylan inspired you guys lyrically to explore deeper subjects, while the Beatles inspired him to expand musically, and to go electric. His first reaction on hearing the Beatles was supposedly, "Those chords!" Did you ever talk to him about the way you influenced each other?
HARRISON: Yes, and it was just like you were saying. I was at Bob's house and we were trying to write a tune. And I remember saying, "How did you write all those amazing words?" And he shrugged and said, "Well, how about all those chords you use?" So I started playing and said it was just all these funny chords people showed me when I was a kid. Then I played two major sevenths in a row to demonstrate, and I suddenly thought, Ah, this sounds like a tune here. Then we finished the song together. It was called "I'd Have You Anytime," and it was the first track on All Things Must Pass.
GW: Paul told me that Rubber Soul was just "John doing Dylan." Do you think Dylan felt that?
HARRISON: Dylan once wrote a song called "Fourth Time Around." To my mind, it was about how John and Paul, from listening to Bob's early stuff, had written "Norwegian Wood." Judging from the title, it seemed as though Bob had listened to that and wrote the same basic song again, calling it "Fourth Time Around." The title suggests suggests that the same basic tune kept bouncing around over and over again.
GW: The same cross-fertilization seemed to be going on between the Beatles and the Byrds around that time. Your song "If I Needed Someone" has got to be a tip of the hat to Roger McGuinn, right?
HARRISON: We were friends with the Byrds and we certainly like their records. Roger himself has said that the first time he saw a Rickenbacker 12-string was in A Hard Day's Night, and he certainly stamped his personality on that sound later. Wait-I'll tell you what it was. Now that I'm thinking about it, that song actually was inspired by a Byrds song, "The Bells of Rhymney." Any guitar player knows that, with that open-position D chord, you just move your fingers around and you get all those little maladies...I mean melodies! Well, sometimes maladies. [laughs] And that became a thrill, to see how many more tunes you could write around that open D, like "Here Comes The Sun."
GW: When you did that tour with Eric Clapton in Japan, you opened with "I Want To Tell You," from Revolver. The song marked a turning point in your playing, and in the history of rock music writing. There's a wierd, jarring chord at the end of every line that mirrors the disturbed feeling of the song. Everybody does that today, but that was the first time we'd heard that in a rock song.
HARRISON: I'm really pleased that you noticed that. That's an E7th with an F on the top, played on the piano. I'm really proud of that, because I literally invented that chord. The song was about the frustration we all feel about trying to communicate certain things with just words. I realized the chords I knew at the time just didn't capture the feeling. So after I got the guitar riff, I experimented until I came up with this dissonant chord that really echoed that sense of frustration. John later borrowed it on Abbey Road. If you listen to "I Want You(She's So Heavy)"it's right after John sings "it's driving me mad!" To my knowledge, there's only been one other song where somebody copped that chord-"Back On The Chain Gang" by the Pretenders.
GW: Around the time of Rubber Soul and Revolver, you met Ravi Shankar and went to India to study Indian Classical music, which is full of microtonal slurs and bends. When you came back, your guitar playing became more elastic, yet it was very precise. You were finding more notes between the cracks, like you can in Indian music-especially on your slide work. Is there a connection there?
HARRISON: Sure, because whatever you listen to has to come out in some way or another. I think Indian music influenced on the infection of how I played, and certain things I play certainly have a feel similar to the Indian style. As for slide, I think most people-Keith Richards, for example-plays block chords and all those blues fills, which are based on open tunings. My solos are actually like melodic runs, or counter melodies, and sometimes I'll add a harmony line to it as well.
GW: Like on "My Sweet Lord" and the songs on your first solo album [All Things Must Pass].
HARRISON: Exactly. Actually, now that you've got me thinking about my guitar playing and Indian music, I remember Ravi Shankar brought an Indian musician to my house who played classical Indian music on a slide guitar. It's played like a lap steel and set up like a regular guitar, but the nut and the bridge are cranked up, and it even has sympathetic drone strings, like a sitar. He played runs that were so precise and in perfect pitch, but so quick! When he was rocking along, doing those real fast runs, it was unbelievable how much precision was involved. So there were various influences. But it would be precocious to compare myself with incredible musicians like that.
GW: When you came back from India, did you intentionally copy on guitar any of the techniques you learned there?
HARRISON: When I got back from the incredible journey from India, we were about to do Sgt. Peppers, which I don't remember much at all. I was into my own little world, and my ears were just all filled up with all this Indian music. So I wasn't really into sitting there, thrashing through [sings nasally], "I'm fixing a hole..." Not that song, anyway. But if you listen to "Lucy In The Sky with Diamonds," you'll hear me try and play the melody on the guitar with John's voice, which is what the instrumentalist does in Hindustani vocal music.
HARRISON: Paul told me that you wanted to do a similar thing on "Hey Jude," to echo his vocal phrases on the guitar, and that he wouldn't let you. He admitted that incidents like that were one of the causes of the band's breakup. And Ringo said you had the toughest job, because Paul in particular and George Martin as well would sometimes try and dictate what you should play, even on your solos.
HARRISON: Well, you know, that's okay. I don't remember the specifics on that song. [pauses] Look, the thing is, so much has been said about our disagreements. It's like...so much time has elapsed, it doesn't really matter anymore.
GW: Was Paul trying to just hold the band together, or was becoming a control freak? Or was it a bit of both?
HARRISON: Well...sometimes Paul "dictated" for the better of a song, but at the same time he also pre-empted some good stuff that could have gone in a different direction. George Martin did that too. But they've all apologized to me for all that over the years.
GW: But you were pissed off enough about all this to leave the band for a short time during the Let It Be sessions. Reportedly, this problem had been brewing up for a while. What was us that upset you about what Paul was doing?
HARRISON: At that point in time, Paul couldn't see beyond himself. He was on a roll-but it was a roll encompassing his own self. And in his mind, everything that was going on around him was just there to accompany him. He wasn't sensitive to stepping on other people's egos or feelings. Having said that, when it came time to do the occasional song of mine-although it was usually difficult to get to that point-Paul would always be really creative with what he's contribute. For instance, that galloping piano part on "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" was Paul's, and it's brilliant right to this day. On the Live in Japan album, I got our keyboardist to play it note for note. And you just have to listen to that bass line on "Something" to know that, when he wanted to, Paul could give a lot. But, you know, there was a time there when...
GW: I think it's called being human-and young.
HARRISON: It is...[sighs] It really is.
GW: How difficult was it to squeeze your songs in between the two most famous songwriters in rock?
HARRISON: To get it straight, if I hadn't been with John and Paul I probably wouldn't have thought about writing a song, at least not until much later. They were writing all these songs, many of which I thought were great. Some were just average, but, obviously, a high percentage were quality material. I thought to myself, If they can do it, I'm going to have a go. But it's true: it wasn't easy in those days getting up enthusiasm or my songs. We'd be in recording situation, churning through all this Lennon/McCartney! Then I'd say, [meekly] can we do one of these?
GW: Was that true even with an obviously great song like "My...uh...
HARRISON: "Piggies"? You mean "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"? [laughs] When we started actually recording "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" it was just my playing the acoustic guitar and singing it [This solo version appears on the Anthology 3 CD-GW Ed.] and nobody was interested. Well, Ringo probably was, but John and Paul weren't. When I went home that night, I was really disappointed, because I thought, Well, this is really quite a good song, it's not as if it shitty! The next day, I happened to drive back into London with Eric Clapton, and while we were in the car I suddenly said, "Why don't you come and play on this track?" And he said, "Oh, I couldn't do that. The others wouldn't like it."
GW: Was that a verboten thing with the Beatles?
HARRISON: Well, it wasn't so much verboten; it's just that nobody had ever done it before. We'd had oboe and string players and other session people in for overdubbing, but there hadn't really been other prominent musicians on our records. So Eric was reluctant, and I finally said, "Well, sod them! It's my song and I'd like you to come down to the studio."
GW: So did that cause more tension with the others? How did they treat him?
HARRISON: The same thing occured that happened during "Get Back", while we were filming the movie [Let It Be, (Apple Films)1970}, Billy Preston came into our office and I pulled him into the studio and got him on the electric piano. And suddenly, everbody started behaving and not fooling around so much. Same thing happened with Eric, and the song came together nicely.
GW: Yet, rumour has it that you weren't satisfied with your perfomance on the album. Why?
HARRISON: Actually, what I was really disappointed with was take number one. I later realized what a shitty job I did singing it. Toilet singing! And that early version has been bootlegged, because Abbey Road used to play it when people took the studio tour. [laughs] But over the years I learned to get more confidence. It wasn't so much learning the technique of singing as it was just learning not to worry. And my voice has improved. I was happy with the final version with Eric.
GW: Did you give Eric any sense of what you wanted on the solo? He almost sounds as if he's imitating your style a bit.
HARRISON: You think so? I didn't feel like he was copying me. To me, the only reason it sounds Beatles-ish is because of the effects we used. We put this "wobbler" on it, as we called ADT. As for any direction I may have given him, it was just, "Play, me boy!" In the rehearsals for the Japanese tour, he did make a conscious effort to recap the solo that was on the original Beatles album. And although the original version is embedded in Beatles' fans memories, I think the the version capured on the live album us more outstanding.
GW: Want to play rock critic for us and critique his playing?
HARRISON: Ah, well, he starts out playing the first couple of fills like the original, and the first solo is kind of similar. But by the end of the solo he just goes off! Which is why I think guitar players like to do that song. It's got nice chords, but it's also structured in a way that gives guitar players the greatest excuse just to wail away. Even, Eric played it differently every night of the tour. Some night he played licks that almost sound flamenco. But he always played exceptionally well on that song.
GW: You talked about the pluses and minuses of working with Paul. What about John? He was a much looser, more intuitive musician and composer. Did you help him flesh things out?
HARRISON: Basically, most of John's songs, like Paul's were written in the studio. Ringo and me were there all the time. So as the songs were being written, they were given ideas and structures, particularly by John. As you say, John had a flair for "feel." But he was very bad at knowing exactly what he wanted to get across. He could play a song and say, "It goes like this." Then he'd play it again and ask, "How does that go?" Then he'd play it again-totally differently! Also his rhythm was very fluid. He'd miss beats, or maybe jump a beat...
GW: Like a lot of old blues players.
HARRISON: Exactly like that. And he'd often do something really intereting in an early version of a song. After a while, I used to make an effort to learn exactly what he was doing the very first time he showed a song to me, so if the next he'd say, "How did that go?" we'd still have the option of trying what he'd originally played.
GW: The medley on side two of Abbey Road is a seamless masterpiece. It would probably take a modern band ages to put together, even with digital technology. How did you manage all that with just four- and eight-track recorders?
HARRISON: We worked it all out carefully in advance. All of those mini songs were partly completed tunes; some were written while we were in India a year before. So there was just a bit of chorus here and a verse there. We welded them all together into a routine. The we actually learned to play the whole thing live. Obviously there were overdubs. Later, when we added the voices, we basically did the same thing. From the best of my memory, we learned all the backing tracks, and as each piece came up on tape, like "Golden Slumbers," we'd jump in with vocal parts. Because when you're working with only four or eight tracks, you have to get as much as possible on each track.
GW: With digital recording today you can also do an infinite number of guitar solos. Back then, did taking another pass at a solo redoing the entire song?
HARRISON: Almost. I remember doing the solo to "Something" and it was dark in the studio and everyone was stoned. But Ringo, I think, was also doing a drum overdub on the same track, and I seem to remember the others were all busy playing. And every time I said, "Alright, let's try another take"- because I was working it out and trying to make it better- they all had to come back and do whatever they'd just played on the last overdub. It all had to be squeezed on that one track, because we'd used up the other seven. That's why, after laying down the basic track, we'd work out the whole routine in advance and get the sound and balance. You'd try and add as much as possible to each track before you ran out of a room. On one track we might go, "Okay, here the tambourine comes in, then Paul, you come in at the bridge with the piano and then I'll add the guitar riff." And that's the way we used to work.
GW: "Something" was your most successful song. I think every guitar player wonders, did you get that riff first?
HARRISON: No, I wrote the song on the piano. I don't really play the piano, which is why certain chords sound brilliant to me-then I translate them onto the guitar, and it's only C.[laughs] I was playing three-finger chords with my right hand and the bass notes with my left hand. And on the piano, it's easy to hold down one chord and move the bass note down. If you did that on the guitar, the note change wouldn't come in the bass section; it would come somewhere more in the middle of the chord.
GW: But you did play that Beatles-sounding bridge riff in "Badge" on Cream's Goodbye album, didn't you?
HARRISON: No, Eric played that! He doesn't even play on that song before that. We recorded that track in L.A,: it was Eric, plus Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce, and I think the producer, Felix Pappalardi, played the piano part. I was just playing chops on the guitar chords and we went right through the second verse and into the bridge, which is where Eric comes in. Again, it sounds Beatles-ish because we ran it throught a Leslie speaker.
GW: Any contemporary bands that strike you as having a bit of the same spark that your early heroes had?
HARRISON: I can't say I've really heard anything that gives me a buzz like some of that stuff we did in the Fifties and Sixties. The last band I really enjoyed was Dire Straits on the Brothers In Arms album. To me, that was good music played well, without any of the bullshit. Now i'm starting to get influences from my teenage son, who's into everything and has the attitude. He loves some of the old stuff, like Hendrix, and he's got a leather jacket with Cream's Disraeli Gears album painted on the back. As far as recent groups, he played me the Black Crowes, and they really sounded okay.
GW: You made music that awoke and changed the world. Could you sense that special dimension of it all while it was happening, or were you lost in the middle of it?
HARRISON: A combination of both, I think. Lost in the middle of it-not knowing a thing- and at the same time somehow knowing everything. Around the time of Rubber Soul and Revolver it was like a sudden flash, and it all seemed to be happening for some real purpose. The main for me was having the realization that there was definitely some reason for being here. And now the rest of my life as a person and a musician is about finding out what the reason is, and how to build upon it.
GW: Finally, any recent acid flashbacks you care to share?
HARRISON: [laughs] No, no, that doesn't happen to me anymore. I've got my own cosmic lighting conductor now. Nature supports me.
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