“George himself is no mystery. But the mystery inside George is immense. It’s watching him uncover it all little by little that’s so damn interesting.” John Lennon.
Last Sunday I happily declined a day lying in the sunshine to attend the World Premiere of ‘George Harrison: Living in the Material World,’ a documentary feature by Martin Scorsese.
Above: At the premiere and with Dhani Harrison.
The Beatles, amongst some other beyond famous figures, have all become such icons of our time that it is sometimes hard to remember them as individuals and real people underneath all the colourful memorabilia.
Taking 5 years to make and lasting a whopping 3.5 hours (split into 2 parts!) this film is full of never seen before footage, intimate interviews from George's wife Olivia, son Dhani and many of his nearest and dearest’s including Eric Clapton, Klaus Voorman, Ray Cooper and Tom Petty. This film really delves into who George was, beneath all the fame and the hysteria surrounding him – and he was a fascinating character.
Before the film commenced Martin Scorsese recognized how this audience was to be a most “difficult crowd” as so many of the people sat in the cinema at the British Film Institute that night had actually lived George’s story alongside him…
Indeed, looking around me I was sat amongst Yoko Ono, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Eric Idle, Pattie Boyd, Jackie Stewart and Terry Gillam… to name but a few! This took the viewing of this film to another level – it was profoundly emotional and real.
Part One focuses on George Harrison's humble beginnings in Liverpool, the creation, and the subsequent dizzying success, of The Beatles, his drugs, his love triangle with Pattie Boyd and Eric Clapton, his spiritual awakening, trips to India, his relationship with Ravi Shankar, his meditation and The Beatles' eventual dissolution in 1970.
Part Two concentrates on George Harrison's career as a solo artist, movie impresario, philanthropist and father. The highlights in this part were The Bangladesh Concert (the first major rock concert to address a world crises) the financing of The Life Of Brian and launching of Handmade Films (a key factor in the revival of the British film industry in the 1980’s), the formation of The Travelling Wilburys, George's commitment to restoring one of the most beautiful gardens and estates in England (his serene retreat, and home, Friar Park) his cancer and his endless quest to understand his faith and preparation towards leaving his human body.
As well as being an amazing guitarist and songwriter (credits which include ‘Taxman,’ ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps,’ ‘Here Comes The Sun,’ ‘My Sweet Lord’ and my favourite, ‘Something’) George Harrison also helped in bringing Indian music, culture and religion to the West. He was a well-loved, very private, complex individual with a great sense of humour and many close, wonderful friends - I especially enjoyed his rapport with Ringo (who's interviews are amongst the most touching.)
I must say, the beautiful Olivia Harrison’s interviews were completely captivating; at one point the audience cheered her response to being asked what the secret to a long marriage was… “You don’t get divorced!”
There was a true sense of loss as I left the theatre – in those people that had known and loved George, but also in those that hadn’t and felt they'd truly missed out as a consequence.
Above: Dhani and Olivia Harrison
"People say I'm the Beatle who changed the most, but really that's what I see life's about."
'George Harrison: Living In The Material World’ will be available on DVD Oct 10th