I Me Mine by George Harrison
|I Me Mine by George Harrison|
|Reviewer: John Van der Kiste|
|Summary: First published in 1980 as a limited edition, this beautifully produced volume contains a revised introduction by his widow Olivia, including brief references to their years together, a short memoir by George with supplementary notes by Beatles press officer Derek Taylor, a photograph album and over four hundred pages of George's lyrics alongside facsimiles of the handwritten originals. While there are biographies which will tell you in far greater detail about his life and career, for any admirer of his music it is a pleasure to hold and look through.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 632||Date: October 2016|
|External links: Author's website|
This sumptuous volume was first published in 1980 as a rather heftily-priced limited edition of 2,000 copies, each signed by the former Beatle. It now appears with a revised introduction by his widow Olivia, including brief references to their years together. What we have here is not a book of memoirs in the conventional sense. George Harrison was the man whose first solo album, excluding two rather experimental records of electronic music and film soundtrack not really aimed at a mainstream audience, was a lavish boxed set including three long-playing records, one consisting of extended musical jamming sessions with friends. If you're expecting a tidy set of chapters telling his story as he recalls it from childhood to the date he laid down his pen (or powered his laptop off, or whatever the 1980 equivalent was) - this is not it.
Only Part 1, about sixty pages long, is a life story of sorts. George looks back on his past in a self-deprecating way, skirting quite briefly over things he found boring, and dwelling in greater detail on anything that took his fancy. Like John Lennon, he was always glad to put the Beatlemania years behind him, rather like a bad dream, and is reluctant to say more than a little about the mad whirl of those times. He admits that 'sometimes it was good but sometimes it was awful' – and never more so than the nightmare experience of playing in Manila in the summer of 1966, to which he devotes about three pages, an episode which contributed heavily to their decision to stop touring. His enthusiasm for Indian music, debt to Ravi Shankar, and the passion with which he embraced learning to play the sitar – not that well, he modestly admits - are both evident. So is his friendship with Eric Idle of the Monty Python team, and his love of their television series and films. It was significant that he was the most ardent champion of the team's spoof movie The Rutles, which affectionately sent up the whole Beatles phenomenon. He advises the reader to try and see that film, which tells their story 'so much better than the usual boring documentary'. At the same time he writes of his interest in motor racing, refers briefly to his friendship with Jackie Stewart and other sporting heroes, and is candid enough to admit that such devotion to cars – 'polluters, killers, maimers, noisemakers' - sits rather at odds with his environmental concerns. From the time he bought Friar Park, his property in Henley-on-Thames, with its magnificent gardens which he enjoyed sharing with select friends, he was renowned for finding solace in the peace and quiet it brought him, even if he was sometimes just as happy going to watch Formula One drivers in action. This section includes a short introduction, with occasional notes added throughout, by the Beatles' lifelong press officer Derek Taylor.
The largest part, over four hundred pages, is given over to George's lyrics - no less than 141. These are printed in full, alongside his own brief commentary on them and also facsimiles of the handwritten originals. Some were originally jotted down on scraps from jotters with wire perforation holes visible along the top edge, a few on business writing paper with a company address at the head or even compliment slips, even one on an air mail envelope, and another on the page of a diary. You never know where and when inspiration might strike. It is noticeable that very few of them underwent major alteration after he had initially jotted them down, apart from a few changes to the occasional word. Above all, we now see the original lyrics to 'Badge', that he wrote and then set to music with Eric Clapton, and subsequently became the last single by Cream. As history tells us, the song had no obvious title, and the word 'bridge' at the top of the second page to denote the interlude was misread by a slightly drunken Eric – hence the title, which had nothing to do with anything in the lines.
Also included are over fifty photographs, starting with George's childhood, and ending in the late 1980s. The most remarkable one – about which some comment would have been interesting – shows a standing George facing ex-Prime Minister Edward Heath, the latter seated at the piano, with a bust of Beethoven behind them looking benignly on. Olivia tells us at the start of her introduction that their first choice of caption was very funny and rather vulgar – and as such, possibly not repeatable here. Go on – get hold of a copy yourself…
In a way it's an art book, as the price suggests. It is beautifully produced, and for those such as yours truly for whom George Harrison was always 'the favourite Beatle', without doubt a pleasure to hold, look through and read. There are a few biographies, notably Graeme Thomson's 'Behind The Locked Door', which will tell you in far greater detail about his life and career. But as a souvenir volume rather than a full life story, this one will take some beating.
For an excellent account of the Beatles' connections and business affairs after they disbanded, You Never Give Me Your Money: The Battle for the Soul of the Beatles by Peter Doggett is hard to improve upon, while George's first wife tells the story of their life together in Wonderful Today: The Autobiography of Pattie Boyd by Pattie Boyd and Penny Junor.
You can read more book reviews or buy I Me Mine by George Harrison at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy I Me Mine by George Harrison at Amazon.com.
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