Tuesday 29 November 2016


George's love of fast vehicles predates his passion for music. "I was 12 when I saw Liverpool's first British Grand Prix, in Aintree," he remembered. "I followed Formula One until the time we started being professional musicians, and even then in the Sixties, though we were so busy, I caught a few races, mainly Monte Carlo."

He possessed a number of powerful cars once the hefty Beatles' profits began to roll in, including a Jaguar XKE, Ferrari 365 GTC, and an Aston Martin DB4. On February 28th, 1972, he had his license taken away for the second time that year after he crashed his Mercedes into a lamppost at 90 miles an hour, with Patti Boyd flying into the windshield. She would spend the next few weeks recovering from a concussion.

The scary incident wasn't enough to keep Harrison out of the fast lane. By the end of the Seventies he made friends with Jackie Stewart, the retired triple world champion Formula One driver. "It was really through him that I got backstage, and it's much more interesting back there," says Harrison. "Jackie was the outspoken world champion, and he lived to tell the story."

Though the sport may seem initially seem like an odd choice for a man who often dismissed the secular world in favor of more pious pursuits, Stewart insists that F1 tapped into a meditative, almost spiritual side. "When you're driving a racing car to the absolute limit of its ability, and that of your own ability, it's a very unique emotion and experience," he said in Martin Scorsese's 2011 documentary Living in the Material World. "When that happens, your senses are so strong. That's what I think George saw in racing. We talked about things like that a lot: heightened sense, of your feel and your touch and your feet. … If you listen to a really top guitarist, or any top musician, and how they can make that guitar talk, or that keyboard talk, or the skins talk, that's another heightening of senses that is beyond the ken, the knowledge of any normal man or woman."

Harrison later paid tribute to Stewart, and the entire F1 crew, with his 1979 song "Faster." The proceeds went to support the cancer charity of late Swedish driver Gunnar Nilsson, who succumbed to the disease a year earlier. The video features Harrison being chauffeured around by Stewart himself. "It's easy to write about V-8 engines and vroom vroom – that would have been bullshit," Harrison told Mick Brown in 1979. "But I'm happy with the lyrics because it can be seen to be about one driver specifically or any of them, and if it didn't have the motor-racing noises, it could be about the Fab Four really – the jealousies and things like that."

In 1994, Harrison became one of 100 people to order a McLaren F1 road car. Once clocked at reaching 231 miles an hour, the vehicle retailed for upwards of 640,000 pounds – or $984,000.

"After George had commissioned the F1, he counted down the weeks," McLaren designer Gordon Murray said in Living in the Material World. "Each car took three months to build. They were truly handmade. He almost drove us mad while we were building the car: 'Could you fit just another elephant in?' But it was good fun. As it got nearer the time for the collection, he could hardly wait. He loved the car, not just because it was something he'd seen from its conception right through to having his own personalized car, he loved it as a sports car as well. It's a pretty frightening experience to drive one: 630 horsepower with no ABS, no power brakes, no power steering, no traction control. He loved that. And he loved the noise it made, as well."

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