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GEORGE HARRISON WROTE “PIGGIES” AS A COMMENT ON GREED

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In the White Album era: “Blackbird,” Paul McCartney sang (if obscurely) in support of Civil Rights-era protesters. And John Lennon at least broached serious subjects on “Revolution 1.” In his own way, George Harrison did the same on “Piggies,” a song he began writing around the same time as “Taxman” (circa 1965-66). After getting little material on Sgt. Pepper’s and Magical Mystery Tour, George came back with four songs on the ’68 White Album.

With “Piggies,” George tried to tackle issues of capitalist greed (often framed as “income inequality” today). And despite the title and subsequent interpretation by Charles Manson it had nothing to do with the police or deranged cult concerns.
Since “Piggies” only contains three short verses and a vocal bridge, we don’t have a ton of material to sift through. But George’s simple, allegorical message is clear. With a nod to George Orwell’s 1984 (published 1945), George sings about a world in which some piggies are living it up while “life is getting worse” for others.

The big piggies have starched white shirts, eat dinner with their wives, and enjoy “backing.” In a verse George cut before recording “Piggies,” he even mentioned “piggy banks.” So it’s clear he was calling out the inequality between classes as he saw it in the mid-’60s.

In 1980, George spoke about its composition without going too in-depth. “‘Piggies’ is a social comment,” he said. He pointed to the phrase “damn good whacking” as referring to a spanking (“a hiding,” in George’s words).

About a decade earlier, Manson had interpreted the lyrics as the establishment (“piggies”) needing a shock (in the form of an assault, or “whacking”) with very specific weapons (in this case, the “forks and knives” Manson’s followers used in a murder).

George said ‘Piggies’ made no reference to police or other groups
Since The White Album hit record stores in November ’68, you can see why people might have thought a song titled “Piggies” would be a reference to the police. Law enforcement had assaulted countless protesters during the ’68 Democratic National Convention in Chicago that summer.

When the Walker Report was published, it described those events in Chicago as “a police riot.” And the police heard protesters calling them “pigs” at every turn. So you understand how some young people would imagine the biggest band of the ’60s was using the word in this way.

But that wasn’t the case. “It had absolutely nothing to do with American policemen or Californian shagnasties!” George said in 1980. While British bands touring the U.S. were often horrified by the levels of police violence, this White Album track wasn’t a response to any of that.

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PATTIE BOYD: MY LIFE THROUGH ALENS IS BEING PUBLISHED MARCH, 2021

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The new book “Pattie Boyd, My Life Through a Lens”, is being published March 2, 2021, via Simon and Schuster’s Insight Editions imprint.

It was originally scheduled for last April 7. At one point, that date was pushed back to Sept. 15, 2020. And on June 3, Boyd noted on her Twitter account that her “editor has been unwell and more work was needed with the finishing touches.” It’s available for pre-order HERE and HERE.

In addition to her photos, Pattie Boyd: My Life Through a Lens will include drawings, paintings, and mementos, as well as her own memories collected from a life shared with pop culture icons.


GEORGE HARRISON : ‘SOMEWHERE IN ENGLAND’

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At the dawn of the 80s, George Harrison delivered his musical retort to the decadence of the decade with ‘Somewhere In England’
In the 1980s he arrival of the ubiquitous synthesiser en masse, the rise and rise of digital and the whole MTV phenomenon did much to derail some musicians, both old and young. But nothing was going to derail George Harrison with the coming of the decade… he had a new record to deliver.
He began recording the album that would become Somewhere in England in March 1980 and work continued in his home studio at Friar Park at a leisurely pace for the next 7 months. According to George’s son, Dhani, it was because his father was somewhat preoccupied. “He’d garden at night time, until midnight.” In Olivia Harrison’s book, Living In The Material World she says, “He’d be out there squinting because he could see, at midnight, the moonlight and the shadows, and that was his way of not seeing the weeds or imperfections that would plague him during the day, so he could imagine what it would look like after it was done. He missed nearly every dinner because he was in the garden. He would be out there from first thing in the morning to last thing at night.”

When George initially delivered his album to Warners in September 1980 they deemed it too laid back. Clearly, they were caught up in the prevailing mood of the new decade…post-punk-itus.

George agreed to drop four of the tracks that he’d delivered and set to work on some new songs. These were completed in February 1981, with all that happened in the world of the ex Beatles it is surprising, in some senses, that it was completed at all.

It was in December 1980 that John Lennon was murdered and the terrible event spurred George to return to his composition, ‘All Those Years Ago’. He and Ringo had recorded the song in November with a view to its inclusion on Starr’s album, Stop And Smell The Roses that was scheduled for release in 1981.

Instead, George felt compelled to write a new, nostalgic, lyric as a tribute to John, and the song was re-cut with George singing lead, Ringo on drums, Paul and Linda McCartney on backing vocals, and appearances by friends such as Ray Cooper, Denny Laine, Al Kooper and Herbie Flowers. Released in May 1981, ahead of Somewhere In England that came out in June, ‘All Those Years Ago’ spent three weeks at No.2 in America.
George was later obliged by the record company to change the original album cover, featuring an image of him overlaid on an aerial shot of the UK, to one of him standing in front of ‘Holland Park Avenue Study.’ The original cover was reinstated in the 2004 reissue that was part of the ‘Dark Horse Years’ box set.

One of George’s favourite tracks on this record is the opening song, the wry ‘Blood From A Clone.’ With his trademark dark humour, he observed the fact that some of his music was apparently no longer right for the times. “They say you like it, but knowing the market, it may not go well, it’s too laid back,” he sang. “You need some oom-pah-pah, nothing like Frank Zappa, and not new wave, they don’t play that c**p…try beating your head on a brick wall, hard like a stone…don’t have time for the music, they want blood from a clone.”

He later explained to Creem magazine: “That was all this stuff they were telling me: ‘Well, we like it, but we don’t really hear a single.’ And then other people were saying, ‘Now, look, radio stations are having all these polls done in the street to find out what constitutes a hit single and they’ve decided a hit single is a song of love gained or lost directed at 14-to-20-year-olds.’ And I said, ‘S**t, what chance does that give me?’

So… I wrote that song just to shed some of the frustrations. ‘There is no sense to it, pure pounds and pence to it…They’re so intense, too, makes me amazed.’”
Among the standout songs on the album is the evocative lyrical, and philosophical, ‘Writing’s On The Wall’, that was the B-side of ‘All Those Years Ago’. George also covered two songs written by Hoagy Carmichael, ‘Baltimore Oriole’ and ‘Hong Kong Blues’, the latter covered in the 1960s by Spanky & Our Gang. Both songs, despite being written in the 1940s, sound like they might be Harrison originals. For many, ‘Life Itself’ is THE best track on the album, and it’s easy to hear why; it is classic George – spiritual and evocative at the same time.

Somewhere In England made its UK debut at No. 13 on the chart of 13 June 1981 and spent a second week in the top 20 before descending. The LP made the American chart on 20 June, climbing to No. 11 in a 13-week run. 18 months later, George returned with Gone Troppo, after which he wouldn’t be back with an album under his own name until the Cloud Nine triumph of 1987.

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RINGO STARR REVEALS HE OFTEN ASKED FELLOW GEORGE HARRISON FOR ADVICE WHEN MAKING MUSIC

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Ringo has claimed that he ‘didn’t have the talent’ to finish recording a song, so he would go to friend, and fellow Beatles member, George Harrison for help.
He reflected on his struggle to complete tracks in an interview with Rolling Stone radio on Thursday, when he made the surprising admission.
Ringo revealed: ‘I used to always go to George to help me end the song. I didn’t have the talent to end a song’.
‘I didn’t have the talent to end a song. With Back Off Boogaloo, I went to George and he helped me finish it.’

 

During his tenure in The Beatles, Ringo wrote two songs by himself: Don’t Pass Me By and Octopus’s Garden, the latter of which he asked George for help with, going on to talk about his more recent music, Ringo added: ‘I actually have one song that had like 40 verses, and I gave it to Harry Nilsson. He got it down to 11.’
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ON THIS DAY: PAUL, GEORGE AND RINGO REUNITED AT ERIC CLAPTON’s WEDDING

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It was 41 years ago today (May 19th, 1979) that a select group of party-goers witnessed the closest thing to a live Beatles reunion when Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr reunited to jam at Eric Clapton’s wedding reception at his English estate.

The impromptu performance marked the one-and-only time that the three former-Beatles had played in public together since the group’s final performance on the Apple Rooftop on January 30th, 1969, also on 3 January 1970, George, Paul and Ringo met at Abbey Road Studios to work on the track with producer George Martin.

Clapton had married Harrison’s ex-wife Pattie Boyd, and set up an outdoor stage for a mammoth jam session which featured the three ex-Beatles, a reformed Cream, the Rolling StonesMick Jagger and Bill Wyman, Elton John, David Bowie, and many more. John Lennon was living in the U.S. at the time, and was not present.

Although the three former “Fabs” also took part in a makeshift sing-a-long jam at Starr’s wedding in 1981, the Clapton wedding reception marks the only time that the former Beatles made music onstage in a somewhat professional manner.

Among the many songs reported to have been performed that day were the Beatles’ 1967 classic “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band.”

The celebration included a stage set-up, where guests could take the stage and jam. Photo by Zak Starkey, it shows Zak (on guitar),Jim Capaldi on drums and #PaulMcCartney on bass (playing a right-handed bass guitar).


THE HILARIOUS LETTER GEORGE HARRISON SENT TO A FAN WHO ASKED HIM FOR MONEY

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George Harrison is undoubtedly the coolest Beatle but he was also one of the most dryly funny. Growing up in Liverpool had blessed all the members with a caustic course wit but Harrison only reserved it for the most enjoyable moments.

One such moment came from the below letter from 1968 when Harrison and The Beatles were at the peak of their powers and on top of the world. Literally. After a fan writes to Harrison asking for money to buy a sitar, Harrison responds with a drawing and a smirking retort.

The Beatles had just released the White Album and were in unprecedented demand. Such high demand in fact that the group retreated to the Himalayas, namely Rishikesh in northern India as part of a Transcendental Meditation course with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It was during these blissful moments that Harrison received a letter from a fan.

Curious as it may be to receive fan mail even when seemingly cut-off from the outside world there may have been a reason for the letter to fall on Harrison’s lap. The fan at the other end of the exchange was writing for a specific reason, he had by encouraged by The Beatles guitarist to pick up the sitar, an instrument Harrison had begun to admire a few years prior.

The fan had one problem though. Money and a serious lack of it. Sitars are expensive things after all. Despite the cheeky request for $100, Harrison instead saw the funny side of it and replied in kind with his tongue firmly in his cheek. He sent back a handwritten letter complete with a one-off ‘original Harrison’ illustration of “Mary.”

In the letter, Harrison explains of the drawing, “This is a friend of mine, and I thought you may like to have a look at her. She is called Mary and only comes out during early spring, after the monsoon period. I have just lent her my last $100, so unfortunately you are out of luck.” It’s a remarkable piece of memorabilia and likely cherished to this day.

It’s a reminder of the people behind the image of The Beatles. Of course now, we can look back at a fuller picture of events and get a more accurate depiction of what life in The Beatles was truly like. But in 1968 these small glimpses of personality outside of the records and the films and the publicity must’ve been what cemented the band to hearts and minds of their fans.

This was obviously decades before the advent of social media which meant if a fan wanted to get in contact with their favourite musician they would have to do it the old fashioned way and send a letter. The chances of them reading it were slim, replying even slimmer, so for one lucky fan this must have been a dream come true.

Read the transcript George Harrison’s full letter to the young fan below and then check out an image of the real thing:

Dear Ivan,

This is a friend of mine, and I thought you may like to have a look at her. She is called Mary and only comes out during early spring, after the monsoon period. I have just lent her my last $100, so unfortunately you are out of luck, so you will have to be satisfied with my best wishes.

Keep practising, and the best of luck to your group and yourself.

George Harrison.

 

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