All Things Must Pass
By John R. Bockelman
With the passing of George Harrison, I have a few words to empty out that might take us off the beaten path of what the media is saying and if you have time to sit and read this, it might be of some interest to those of us who have been not only Beatle fans, but George fans as well. I've written around 200 songs in my life and recorded about half of them; around a third of them were directly influenced in one way or another by the cool, startling musicianship and lyrical genius of George Harrison. He was my favorite Beatle back in the day. He was one of the original mop-tops who galvanized the world in the aftermath of America's great tragedy, the JFK assassination. His sparkling performance with the Fabs on the Ed Sullivan show in February of 1964 was one of the greatest moments in the history of popular music...the world was fun again after that. They were ours. For me personally, it would not become different for several months to come, as I saw 2 minutes of that set of tunes live on the black and white television in the rec hall at St. Anthony's junior seminary in San Antonio before the head prefect strode in and turned it off. I just happened to walk in by chance and see those guys with the long hair bopping around and raising quite a big ruckus, not seen since Elvis was there in '56, which I had also seen happen live on my teenaged neighbor's TV when I was in the second grade and she and her sister were jumping up and down, shaking the wood-frame house and having multiple orgasms while Elvis sang "Don't Be Cruel" from the waist up with the Jordanaires behind him singing and swinging in step to his gyrations and , but this show was just a passing image from the TV that I'd remember and wonder what was going on out there in the world from having seen. By the time I'd returned to life in the secular world that coming summer, I was catching up on things with my sister. She had "Meet The Beatles" and "Introducing The Beatles", the pre-EMI album that they made before they hit the Big-Time, which was now selling like mad on the coattails of their splendid major-label debut, and the singles they'd made for Decca and their sub-licensed companies were also riding high on the charts. A lot of the songs on "Introducing The Beatles" were fantastic cover versions of American vocal group songs..."Anna", "Chains", "Boys", "Baby It's You", "A Taste Of Honey"...my sister had the original singles of all those songs and the way they did them, they made them sound completely original again; Labels like Swan and Tollie were suddenly made rich because they had unkowingly touched the cloak of these guys before they became so phenomenally successful. "Please Please Me", "She Loves You", "Twist And Shout", "Love Me Do", "My Bonnie", etc., were recorded and performed before EMI/Parlophone/Capitol got ahold of the goldmine. My sister had it all. At my first listening to their music on my parents' hi-fi system (you know the thing I'm talking about; the built-in radio, the 3-speed felt-covered turntable, automatic record-changer with the round thingie you could put on it that would carry 20 45rpm singles at a time, all contained in a 3-foot long, 18-inch-wide wooden box with an olive-green tweed speaker cover in front and little pointy legs sticking out from all 4 corners that it stood on, with one of those sliding-door tops that you could leave open for ventilation so the tubes wouldn't overheat and it had a nice Philco logo on it) I was intrigued by their guitarist. Not that I didn't get rocked on my ass by John and Paul and Ringo, but their lead guitar player George stood out. The guy was a serious musician. He was holding it all together in the mix, to my ears. He was playing some very, VERY intense guitar lines and his harmony parts were all in order. I remember hearing those songs and thinking, if I was in that band, I'd want to be him. He is the coolest guy in the band. And his songs, "Do You Want To Know A Secret" (written by Lennon and McCartney) and "Don't Bother Me" were different than the shake, rattle and roll of most of the rest of their stuff. He stood out. He was about deeper and more meaningful issues. He had a distant perspective than that of his pop-star buddies in dealing with love and life and the subjects he explored in his music were so internalized and separated from the happy good times of the main band theme that I thought to myself, this guy could have done it by himself if he'd have gone it alone, but he wouldn't have had the platform he has now to get his message out there. I became a George Harrison fan. He fit into my world perfectly. I grew up as "Sylvia's Brother". My sister Sylvia was one of the most popular and successful young ladies of my generation in our home town of Galveston. She was everywhere doing everything and she was beautiful and wonderful and vibrant and she was on so many social committees and she had so many guys coming around the house chasing her all the time, that I idolized her just like they all did. I was Sylvia's shy, quiet and supportive brother who also lived there. I was very much tuned into George Harrison's songs as a Beatle fan. Through the years, I learned his songs, first on piano, and later on guitar, after I got one for myself, having been influenced so heavily by my sister acquiring one and completely mastering it by the time I had learned to play a "D" chord, which she taught me how to play. It was George Harrison who made the greatest impact on me from the whole Beatlemania explosion of the Sixties. He was an in-demand session man and bandleader and sideman on his own before the much more publicized and hyped split-up of John and Paul. Like Jimi Hendrix, who would often whisper his poems during his songs, of all things, his lyrics as well as his music added a dramatic, spiritual and ultimately profound effect to his songs. He is the lead guitarist on Donovan's "Sunshine Superman". He recorded "Wonderwall Music" as the soundtrack to the movie "Wonderwall" in the mid-sixties. When I was making illustrations and designs during my years in art school back then, it was that album, both sides, that I would play every day along with a few others that I was into at that time...just for reference, they were the original cast "Hair" album, "Taste", Rory Gallagher's rock band album, "The Progressive Blues Experiment" by Johnny Winter, "It's A Beautiful Day", "English Rose" by Fleetwood Mac, "20/20" by The Beach Boys, "Easter Everywhere" by the Thirteenth Floor Elevators, and "Wee Jam" by the Incredible String Band...what can I say... George made "Electronic Sound", an album of weird noise, before John Lennon and Yoko Ono did "Two Virgins". He toured the world with Delaney and Bonnie and Friends as their lead guitar player before returning to England to sit in and contribute to the two final Beatle albums, "Let It Be", then "Abbey Road" before just saying sayonara to all of it and going off and doing his thing. He was the guy who introduced the Sitar to rock and roll music, studying under Ravi Shankar in the mid-sixties and playing this exotic and strange-sounding instrument to beautiful affect on John Lennon's "Norwegian Wood" from the "Rubber Soul" album. I looked forward to George's music with each new Beatle album, from his excellent cover of Chuck Berry's "Roll Over Beethoven" and his contributions throughout their series of albums featuring rockabilly and country songs to his tremendous growth as a songwriter and spiritual seeker..."Taxman" and "I Want To Tell You", as well as "Love To You" from Revolver signalled a new direction for him, which the others would follow then and in the future. His dynamic talent for capturing and relaying atmospheric sounds and incorporating them into his music as well as lyrically completing the whole package was exemplified with songs like "If I Needed Someone", "It's Only A Northern Song", and "It's All Too Much", not songs that got a lot of radio airplay, but if you listened to the albums they were on, they were shining brightly within the spinning black vinyl circle. So many songs from him helped me to see the world and my life in ways that I always had but could not put into words. We all know his hits, but it was songs like "Within You Without You", "Blue Jay Way" from "Magical Mystery Tour" and "The Inner Light" that captivated me in that period of Beatle psychedelia. He remained true to his rock and roll roots as well. "Old Brown Shoe" is my favorite song from the "Let It Be" era. His ability to find that missing chord change was uncanny and so perfectly timed that he created several songs inside of one song, which became his trademark. I could listen to a George Harrison song and hear 4 songs going on at the same time in different layers with different melodies carrying different chord patterns. It was his style and it has been somewhat uncredited over the years as one of his most outstanding and unique gifts that he shared with us on record. He organized and performed the first Big-Time benefit concert with "The Concert for Bangladesh" in the early seventies, promoting his favorite musicians, Badfinger, Ravi Shankar, using most of "Mad Dogs and Englishmen" as the backup band, even coaxing BOB DYLAN, who was by then mythical and enigmatic to us all, and dragging EC out of seclusion and drug addiction to come and play his licks for him on his hits, "My Sweet Lord", "Something" and "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" as well as jamming with Badfinger on "Here Comes The Sun". His friendship with Clapton and their deal with Patti really taught me a lot about how to handle a love triangle, too. Musicians have stuff like that happen a lot in their personal lives. The Stones went through it and so did the Kinks and the Beach Boys, The Who and Fleetwood Mac. He handled it all magnanimously and with class. He was more about being George Harrison than he was about being O.J. in a situation like he had to go through. His erstwhile brother-in-law, Mick Fleetwood, who was married to Patti Boyd's sister Jenny (the "Jennifer Juniper" in Donovan's song) handled their split in a not-quite as gracious manner...Georgie was an MBE, man. He'd been to the mountaintop. Life was bigger than that for him. I thought about him when I got remarried to my wonderful wife after ten years of being divorced and I adopted her boy and made amends with his biological father and family. All you have to do is look at the big picture. It's more important to preserve friendships and allow processes of human development in life than it is to get hung up on posessions as people and circumstances. That's a pretty vague statement, I know, but I learned and experienced real love unconditionally for the first time from having done that and a lot of it was from having witnessed my favorite guy handle the complications in his own life. His interests and pursuits fascinated me beyond music and spirituality as well. I was delighted that he got into formula racing in the seventies. I'm strictly a quarter-mile straightaway drag racing enthusiast, but his interest in track racing was kindred to my mentality of the two - race cars and rock and roll music - being one and the same. His support and promotion of the Monty Python Flying Circus and the spinoff group, the Rutles, which was a Beatles parody, helped make Dread Zeppelin and Spinal Tap, two other bands that lampooned the bullshit and absurdity of rock stardom, that much more acceptable and fun to listen to. He was the only ex-Beatle who could hang out with the other three and not get pissed off after they broke up. That's because he was George Harrison, the guy who didn't let small stuff bother him...and to him, it was all small stuff. The collossal politics of the band breaking up and the subsequent grudges and snipes that they made in the press just made him shrug and smirk. He was amused by all of it. Let the lawyers handle it. I don't have time to get all worked up over it... His collaboration with Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, Jeff Lynne and Bob Dylan as a Traveling Willbury was my favorite "supergroup" album. Around that time we had a lot of that kind of megagroup-on-tour stuff going on, such as The Highwaymen and Little Village and so forth, but while doing that, George also took the time to pay tribute to Carl Perkins and he got his buddies to play the show as well. I appreciated that as much as Keith Richards' tribute concert to Chuck Berry, but it didn't get the exposure that Keith's show did. Well, now we have the memory of George's life and times and if I could look back from where I stand now and take it all in, I'd say it was a wonderful story; All things must pass. Some biographer will no doubt put into exhaustive detail the few points I have outlined here about him, and I look forward to that. I'll buy the book. I have "I Me Mine". It's a great read, from his own eyes, and this is all written in one take because right now I am running behind schedule and I have to get going so I can keep up with the life I'm leading...it's just that I wanted to say something this morning about one of my heroes who went out with as much class and cool as he lived his life. What a great guy he was. Please feel free to share your thoughts. Have a Wonderful Weekend!
I was awakened
from a deep sleep
At three-fifteen A.M.
To the sound of a distant, deep
Gentle, slow, echoing cloud of thunder
As it rolled across the distance
In the totally dark and silent landscape
In my blackness, free of form or substance
And familiar objects that I could see and feel
I laid there and the sound of the cloud
became a vision in my mind.
It was a fifty-thousand-foot-tall giant
Dressed in tassles of red and gold and black
sweeping his footsteps across the world
Striding Southward toward the sea.
He was leading a legion of mourning souls
All following his slow and deliberate pace
Of the funeral procession he led.
As he would beat his drum, I heard the echo
Ringing in hollow, breathless tones across the sky:
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