On Thursday, on arriving from the airport, my son was playing the Beatles’ “Abbey Road” album - yes, an LP - and we were marvelling at the duet with George and Eric Clapton trading licks just prior to “..and in the end....” and he said to me, “I guess poor old George is kinda’ on the way out,” and I agreed that it would be a sad day when finally he passed away, and that the finale we had just been listening to would be a fine epitaph for him, given his unselfish attitude to life and in particular toward Eric, with whom he managed to somehow ‘share’ a wife, in a manner of speaking.Little did we realise as we spoke, that George was already dead some hours, but not till Friday morning did we get the news and realise what an eery coincidence that had been on the previous evening.
Now, I can’t claim to have been a friend of George Harrison and I think only met him once, but it is like losing a family member somehow, in that The Beatles have been such a huge part of my growing up, and I grew up in their Britain and in their times. You could say I lost my virginity to The Beatles. While he was alive - well, until his illness became widely known, anyway - there was always the slight chance that they might just do something with, say, Julian in his dad’s place, and it would give all of us Beatle fans a tingle down the spine if they did. Alas, it’s all over now for real, and that thing that first made me really want to be a musician more than anything else is no more. Onnie and I have known a lot of the ‘Beatle’s people’ over the years - their assistants and Apple staff, etc., and our years in London were dominated by their presence; we used to play at and go to the clubs they frequented, like the Scotch of St. James, The Speakeasy, and The Revolution and one way or another we became close friends with one or two of their original Liverpool pals, lovers and associates. I even had the privilege of visiting George’s baronial pile near Henley-on-Thames one grey Sunday afternoon.
So it is as if a chunk of one’s time of passage is finally gone, and sad we are to see it go. By all accounts, George was a lovely bloke, very philosophical and courageous both, and it was clear that he was the stabilising force in the cauldron of genius that John and Paul stirred up. He was also one hell of a guitar player, and an underrated composer in his own right. We did quite a few recording sessions at Abbey Road in our youth (my first ‘big-time’ audition was there), and a few years back, after an early morning arrival from a cross-Channel ferry and with time to kill before our London hotel rooms were ready, I took Dave Brunetto, our then assistant and a huge Beatle fan, round to see the old place. He was kind enough to have the picture of us sitting on the hallowed steps framed and given to me, and I found that quite comforting to look at, along with my many books and other collectables from the Fab Four on Friday night. I even had a scotch and coke (THE fave Beatle drink of the sixties) to toast his passage.
See you around, George.
In a few days, it will be the 21st anniversary of John’s demise - another of those “where-were-you-when” moments in life - and that means it’s time to write cards to people you don’t even think about half the time (be honest, now), but that’s exactly what I was doing when Hamish phoned me with the news he’d been shot. Well, that quickly turned into the news he was dead, and a first piece of the Fab Four went missing.
Onnie & I found ourselves on the Gulf coast the following Sunday amid a really dreadful Florida tour,the only saving grace being that we were able to stop the bus, take a stick and write “Goodbye John” in the sand at the water’s edge, and watch the tide take it away. I was cleaning my bike in February 1963 when “Please Please Me” came on the radio and the world stopped turning for three minutes, and about thirty-three years now, for that matter. Thanks, John!
So, we’ll break out the cards anyway and communicate with absent friends - the full list this year, since this is no time to miss anybody you’ve ever cared about after the crap that’s gone down recently, and the damage done (and still going on) around the world.
Our touring year is finally finished, and I am happy to be off the road with a chance to write some music and enjoy some quality time with mates, so I will take this opportunity to wish all our fans and friends everywhere a very Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year when it arrives panting and wagging its tail. We’ll be back round your way in ‘02, and if we didn’t make it to your part of the world this year, then razz your local promoter(s), because we would have, had we been asked.
The Beatles, alas, won’t;..... but give peace a chance anyway, as George and John would have wished.