I LOVE the HBO documentaries. Martin Scorsese did one on George Harrison. I found it so moving and interesting, I had to share.
You can't help being interested in George Harrison. (Get it, Help? Why am I not writing for Spin!) Beatles trivia is always interesting. I am personally intrigued by the British Invasion. I think it's the accents, fur vests, and pixie haircuts. Scorsese included footage in this documentary I had never seen before and believe me--I've seen EVERYTHING. There were also interviews with Pattie Boyd and Eric Clapton--FRANK interviews. I mean, how can you sit there, Eric Clapton, and talk about how much you miss George Harrison when we all know you wrote "Layla" to [successfully] steal his wife from him! Eric Clapton tells the story. It begins, "I think we shared a lot of tastes--Cars or clothes and women, obviously." Eric Clapton knows we know.
George forgave him for it, by the way.
When you think about George Harrison you probably think about drugs and the sitar. And those were both a BIG part of his life. Not my taste, George! The Hare Krishna stuff doesn't appeal to me either but I'll tell you what I think: I think he was sincere in his search for spirituality. I respect that. Heck, I admire that. Here's what you might not know about George Harrison: He mortgaged his house to finance Monty Python's Life of Brian. He loved Monty Python. I respect that. Heck, I admire that. George Harrison was a gentle soul.
His lovely, long-suffering second wife, Olivia, speaks lovingly of him but it's clear that he was probably-not-um-faithful to her. You know what she says? Ima tell you what George Harrison's wife told me about marriage. She says with great poise, "What's the secret to a long marriage? You don't get divorced! That's the secret." Put that in your hashpipe and smoke it, Pattie Boyd.
A few people alluded to George Harrison's dual nature. I guess he was really calm and nice but could also get really angry--like you do when, say, Eric Clapton steals your wife. At one point Paul McCartney describes George trying to play electric guitar over the opening to "Hey Jude" and how he had to tell him not to because he wanted only piano. It's a friendly anecdote but it makes George seem somewhat boorish. Later in the documentary they showed a clip from the Let it Be sessions which are, I guess, rife with tension. Interestingly, when they start to argue they don't get loud and play to the camera. In fact, when Paul and George disagree about the opening of "Hey Jude" (which Paul, of course, wrote) they move in closer to each other and lower their voices--not wanting to make a spectacle. That's hard to even wrap your head around given the nature of today's reality TV. But here's what George said to Paul, "I'll play [this] or I'll play [that] or I'll play nothing--whatever would please you. I'll do whatever it would be that would please you." The accent makes it especially plaintive. George doesn't come off as unreasonable at all. But I don't know because I wasn't there. (I might remember it better, though. Ahem.)
You may recall that George Harrison fought off lung cancer. And then a crazy guy broke into his house and attacked him. I didn't realize it was such a knock-down-drag-out fight with the intruder. He laid on George and stabbed him repeatedly. Olivia had a "Swing Away" moment with a lamp but then the intruder went after her and George jumped on his back and fought him off. Crazy!
Towards the end of his life George Harrison got lung cancer. Ringo Starr went to visit him in Switzerland before he died. And here's the part that made me and Ringo Starr cry: Ringo was headed to Boston to be with his daughter who had a brain tumor. "Do you want me to come with you?" asked weak, bed-ridden George Harrison. That was the last thing he said to Ringo.
I'm not saying George Harrison is perfect. But he did write "Here Comes the Sun," and that made your life better.