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: