Thursday, February 8, 2018

George Harrison and the Material World

The Beatles were the background music of my childhood––especially Sgt. Pepper––and I've continued to listen to their music, off and on, but I've never looked closely at them.
And I still haven't, after watching Martin Scorsese's documentary George Harrison: Living in the Material World (2011, 208 min., on Netflix).

I enjoyed it, but it leans toward being worshipful, and it focuses on the man as an individual, not his times––he's not set in any particular context. The film was like a classy, extended People magazine article.

We hear that he had anger issues, and "liked women", but the only real critical moment comes in a clip of a televised debate between Malcolm Muggeridge and a couple of the Monty Pythons about whether Life of Brian was blasphemous.  (MM thought it was.)

But this had little to do with George, a friend of Python Eric Idle, who had stepped in to finance the film after financing fell through right as filming was set to start--so, not something he helped develop.

(Idle later said the Pythons had set out to satirize Jesus but decided,
 "He's not particularly funny, what he's saying isn't mockable, it's very decent stuff..." 
I watched Life of Brian when I was studying early Christianity and thought it was pretty smart about how religions--or other groups of people--work.)

I would have been more interested to hear more about the maharishi who George followed. Surely other viewers like me would wonder--was he for real? This movie doesn't even raise the question.
The Economist did, in its obit of the guru. Was he a "Crank? Crackpot? Charlatan?"

Imagine (all the things he didn't do)

Crank? Crackpot? Charlatan? Maybe all three. Yet the maharishi was generally benign. He did not use his money for sinister ends. He neither drank, nor smoked, nor took drugs. Indeed, he is credited with weaning the Beatles off dope (for a while). He did not accumulate scores of Rolls-Royces, like Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh; his biggest self-indulgence was a helicopter.
Nor was he ever accused of molesting choirboys; his greatest sexual impropriety, it was said, was to make a pass at Mia Farrow.
Moreover, his message was entirely laudable. He did not promote a cult or even a mainstream religion preaching original sin, purgatory and the likelihood of eternal damnation. He just wanted to end poverty, teach people how to achieve personal fulfilment and help them to discover “Heaven on Earth in this generation”.
My mother bought Harrison's first solo album All Things Must Pass when it came out in 1970. 
We must have listened to it a lot, judging by how well I know the songs, listening to the album this morning for the first time in many, many years. 
(I'm listening to the remaster on Spotify.)

Having watched the movie and just now finished listening to the whole album, my reaction is to subscribe to the Economist.


Michael Leddy said...

George was also close to ISKCON (he was the producer for an LP of chanting released on Apple).

Have you heard the Phil Spector-less demo/acoustic versions of songs from All Things Must Pass? Here’s “Let It Down.” I think this one is also on the reissued ATMP. Dhani Harrison is overdubbed, doing the lead-guitar fills.

Fresca said...

Hare Krishna, hare Rama... I can sing it!

Wow--ATMP is much better NAKED. Thanks, I had not heard it.
I never followed any of the Beatles post-Beatles work (or lives), much, though I do own Paul McCartney's "Ram" and play it fondly sometimes.

ArtSparker said...

Sending you a link

Fresca said...

SPARKER: Thanks for the link to the movie (Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story)! I am eager to watch it!