Wednesday 5 October 2011

George Harrison - Living In A Material World

Last night I headed along to the Glasgow Film Theatre to watch the 'For One Night Only' screening of the new Martin Scorsese documentary on George Harrison; 'Living In The Material World'.

I arrived at 6pm and treated myself to a lovely pint of Munich Red from the Glasgow brewery WEST as I met up with my sister and our friend Deborah. The queue was already forming, so we joined to ensure we got decent seats. Before long it was doubled back and out the door, Beatlemania is alive and well in Glasgow in 2011.

After a few trailers the film started. Scorsese spliced footage from the Second World War (George was born in 1943) with popular tunes from the time, quickly building up to the formation of The Beatles.

Paul McCartney told the story of how George joined after an audtion on a double-decker bus, riding round Liverpool at night. There was some excellent footage from their Hamburg adventure that happened when George was only 17-years old. He must have grown up fast!

The Hamburg footage cut to interviews with Astrid Kirchherr and Klaus Voormann. We didn't learn anything new but Astrid allowes some very rare photos of John and George at the site of Stuart Sutcliffe's death to be shown. They were very moving. 

Klaus popped up regularly throughout the film and you could tell that his bond with George was particularly strong.

We got caught up in the whirlwind that was Beatlemania and Scorsese worked his magic at times, particularly when The Beatles were in Australia and he somehow spliced pictures taken by George with footage as well, top marks to the researchers.

George dismissed his first Beatles song 'Don't Bother Me', but he realised that songwriting and publishing was the future and formed Harrisongs.

It was quite astonishing to watch Harrison's songwriting skills develop on the big screen. 'If I Needed Someone' , 'Taxman', 'Within You Without You', 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps' (featuring his mate Eric Clapton)  and on to the astonishing 'Something' and 'Here Comes The Sun'.

Harrison's personal photo and video library was plundered to astonishing effect, the highlight would have to be footage of George and Paul signing reams of documents to finalise the break up of The Beatles. It left me and my fellow Beatle enthusiasts Stephen and Craig (from Sonny Marvello) wondering what Macca has stored away.

Ringo appeared regularly and often to great laughter (the highlight was a joint interview from the 80's during which George said he stopped 'discotequing' in the 60's and Ringo responded, taking the piss, by saying he stopped 'discotequing' in 1980) amongst the crowd and he highlighted how it was McCartney that kept The Beatles going after the death of Brian Epstein. Something that is often overlooked. 

There were some very frank interviews with Patti Boyd and Eric Clapton, with Boyd admitting that Clapton's stunning 'Layla' won her over. Clapton came across as a bit of a wanker at this point, pinching his beat friends gorgeous wife and playing it off on sixties swinging and free love. Harrison seemed to be a bit of a womaniser himself to be fair.

On to the solo years with Neil Aspinall confirming that George had been stockpiling songs that culminated in the astonishing 'All Things Must Pass' double album. The songs sounded fresh and vital, blasting out on the GFT speakers.

George hooked up with Ravi Shanker in the 60's and the pair became life long friends, leading to George's amazing 'Concert for Bangladesh' and there was some fantastic footage from the concert.

Phil Spector was interviewed to the amusement of the crowd, the genuis producer remarked on how shambloic it had all been and he had to literally drag Dylan from his apartment to play.

Harrison's 'lost years' were glossed over somewhat, but the use of heavy drugs was hinted at.

Olivia Harrison gave some very personal interviews, emotional and revealing. She admitted that George was far from a saint and that the secret of a good marriage was ' not to get divorced'.

Humour was apparent all through the film and my own personal favourite was footage of Macca visiting George (mid 90's I reckon) and coming into the room wearing a leather jacket only for George to immediately rip the piss out of him with; 'Is that a vegetarian leather jacket?'

Considerable time was devoted to George's own devotion to meditation and Hare Krishna. In later years we learned of how he was ultimately preparing for his own death and that he was determined to leave in the right way.

So much happened in George's life, this review hasn't even touched on his importance to British comedy and his bankrolling of Python's 'The Life of Brian' and other films he got involved with. 

George's humour and natural warmth touched his friends to a great extent. He was never afraid to show his love and how her cared. There were some very touching stories about George's friendship, it all came naturally to him.

George's battle with cancer and the horrendous attack on him in his own home received coverage, including a rather graphic blow by blow account by Olivia.

Ultimately, the film showed the remarkable rise of a young man from Liverpool with confidence in his ability as an artist and as a person. George's life touched millions around the world. Scorsese's documentary allowed us to hear from some of the people he touched the most. 

An outstanding documentary. 

R.I.P George

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