Friday, 12 May 2017


Most hardcore Beatles fans agree that George’s All Things Must Pass, released mere months after the band’s world-shaking breakup in 1970, is the best solo album ever made by an ex-Beatle. (And any who don’t should probably rethink their position.) For the guy who was always tagged as the “quiet” member of the Fab Four, he made quite a loud and definitive statement right out of the gate, andhe cranked out a lot of music during the ensuing decade before his self-imposed hiatus in 1983.

From there, it would be easy, almost quaint, to cast George’s later work in the light of his success with the Traveling Wilburys, the hit-making supergroup he founded in 1988 with Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne. Interestingly, Harrison was the (quietly) driving force behind the group, whose smash single “Handle with Care” was originally intended as the B-side to Harrison’s own “This Is Love,” from his 1987 “comeback” album, Cloud Nine.

What emerges most plainly from the Wilburys experience is that, for Harrison, friendship and a deep awareness of how collaboration could spark the creative process were all-important starting points for making good music. The notion probably had its roots in George’s attraction to the spiritual teachings —whatever the source, it informed just about every solo album he ever released. Even his obscure Electronic Sound, recorded on a Moog modular synthesizer in late 1968, couldn’t have happened without the input of synth expert Bernie Krause (who later sued George for the privilege, proving once again that some friendships just aren’t built to last).

So what’s the point of rehashing all this? Well, with the recent resurgence of the vinyl LP—the one format which, however nostalgically and romantically, still enables a gather-round-the-turntable sense of community—the timing is perfect to give George’s catalog the full treatment. From All Things Must Pass to Live in Japan to the posthumously released Brainwashed, all of George’s music seems to matter even more when it’s shared.

“Friends are all souls that we’ve known in other lives,” George said in I, Me, Mine, the hefty tome of lyrics, photos and interview excerpts that served as his autobiography when it was first published in 1980, and is now available again in an expanded edition to celebrate what would have been Harrison’s 74th birthday. “We’re drawn to each other. Even if I have only known them for a day, it doesn’t matter. I’m not going to wait until I’ve known them two years because, anyway, we have met somewhere before.” And we can say the same for his music.


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