Tuesday, November 8, 2011

George Harrison "Living In The Material World"

This past weekend, by way of numerous segments of short viewings, I managed to finally watch Martin Scorsese's George Harrison documentary "Living In The Material World" before it evaporated from on demand viewing on my local cable network.  Like most rock n' roll documentaries these days there's no narration other than the principal participants telling their story amdist a mix of snap shots, home movies, live clips, in the studio footage and contemporary news reel clips to set the mood.  There is an ocassional voice reading Harrison's words from postcards, letters and journal entries. I was rather amused that Scorsese chose to utilize the same format we've seen in so many other rock n' roll documentaries (The Beatle's "Anthology", The Who's "Amazing Journey" etc) and not really change or deviate from the standard formula.

There are no archival quotes by John Lennon on George but both of his living band mates are on hand to tell the tale along with his widow Olivia, son Dhani (shot with all of George's guitars behind him like his "Magical Mystery Tour" Strat and 12 string "A Hard Days Night" Rickenbacker), ex wife Patti Boyd, Yoko and numerous former band mates (Billy Preston, Klaus Voorman, Tom Petty etc).  Oddly Eric Clapton seems to have more air time than Paul and Ringo combined! What struck me odd was that both Paul and Ringo had nary a trace of gray to complement their bags and crows feet, leading me to suspect that either the footage was old or that both of them have grown simultaneously vain in their old age and have began dying their hair in very unnatural shades of brown!  Macca's infamous "he was like my younger brother" metaphor was not repeated and Ringo touchingly sheds a tear when discussing George's passing.

As expected the program is heavy in the Indian/sitar/meditation/spirituality angle with an excruciating segment on the Hare Krishna Rada Krishna Temple 45/LP he produced (and it actually charted, shame on you British record buying public!). Unfortunately I am no closer to appreciating the solo work of George after viewing the program, especially "Dark Horse" and the painful live footage including a horribly hoarse , off key rendition of my fave Harrison solo track "What Is Life".  Not being old enough to really remember the Beatles (I was 4 when they called it quits) I do, with precise clarity, recall most of their solo hits that were all over the radio in the 70's.  I had all but forgotten about "Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)",. "Cracker Box Palace" and later "hits" were not mentioned and the dreadfully boring Travelling Willbury's segment was fortunately short.

All in all it didn't turn me into a George Harrison fan musically but it reaffirmed my longstanding belief that he was indeed the "quiet Beatle" and quite possibly the only one who was really capable of somehow riding out all the bullshit. He skipped John's hackneyed political pretensions, Ringo's 70's marathon celebrity hobnobbing and his later grumpy old man antics (with "peace and love" of course)and Macca's outright refusal to ever own up to his bossy nature back in the day. Here's a guy who got stabbed by a nutcase who broke into his house, pulled through all that (how a Beatle who was supposedly paranoid after Lennon's death didn't have a squad of ex-S.A.S guarding his estate is beyond me)and went to his death still beng, literally, all about "peace and love".

I found this great bit of Keith Richards (not in "Living In The Material World"), talking about George:


Supermod said...

Dig your review and critique! I forgot this was on our OnDemand, so we may have missed it.

Still, I'm anxious to see it... over the years, George has risen to the top of my Favorite Beatle list.

Blue Shed Thinking said...

OK, I had four year's start on you, so The Beatles were in the air I breathed as soon as I was aware of music. In fact, one of my third birthday treats, on a rainy late July day out in Hastings, was a trip to the cinema to see Help!

These days, I have come to realise that almost all my favourite Beatles songs are in fact George songs - If I Needed Someone, It's All Too Much, Only A Northern Song.

Then of course we have his Handmade Films to thank for bankrolling Monty Python's Life of Brian. Without him, would the line "He's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy" ever have seen the light of day?

The true mark of the man was that he funded and appeared in The Rutles.

Kind of shows to what an entent he was the opposite of vain.

diskojoe said...

It's too bad that although George hung out w/the Monty Python gang & even had Legs Larry Smith of the Bonzos on one of his albums, that his solo work lacked a sense of humor & fun.

Another thing is that it seems that George's "best of" albums have songs he did w/the Beatles. Even Ringo's best-of doesn't have "Yellow Submarine" or "A Little Help With My Friends".

Finally, the part of George's life which fascinates me is the trip he took in 1963 to visit his sister in St. Louis, when Beatlemania was hot in the UK, but not in the States. I heard that he did things like play w/a local band & met JFK. I think it would make an interesting movie.

Monkey said...

The BBC are showing it this weekend so will tune in; although at best indifferent to the Beatles.

As an aside I happened to be in The Cavern the day George died and was asked by the BBC News about him. In lightly praising him I took swipes at the other three (similar to your remarks) and unsurprisingly didn't make the cut. My girlfriend at the time with little great insight was merrily broadcasted to the nation!