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Tag Archives GEORGE HARRISON

THE NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS : ‘GEORGE HARRISON IS A ROCKER AGAIN!’ (ISSUE 1968)

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George Harrison spoke with Alan Smith for an exclusive interview that would be published in the September 21st 1968 issue of The New Musical Express.

“Richard. Little Richard. That’s who I’d love to record. He’s a fantastic character with a fantastic voice – and whether he’s singing rock or gospel, he’s still great.”

George Harrison unconsciously tapped his soft shoe in rhythm as he talked and we both jumped at the deep end of nostalgia as we chatted about the good old days when Elvis was King and Richard used to tuttifruit his head off.

Extending his ‘I’m a Rocker Again’ thesis and continuing his comments reported recently George said he didn’t care to dwell on the ‘Mystical Beatle George’ anymore.

“It’s still all ‘Within You, Without You,'” he added, “but I don’t want to go into that any more ‘cuz now I’m being a rock and roll star.”

The crooked grin broke into a crooked smile.

“I’m still writing, though, and after ‘Sour Milk Sea,’ I’ve got a few songs I’ve done on the next Beatles’ LP. At least, I think they’ll be on it. We haven’t worked it all out yet.

“I’ve got a lot of songs kicking about in the air, and there’s also about two or three I’ve got at home. But I don’t know whether to do ’em or not.

“Sometimes I write them and with the mood I’m in, they’re OK. But I come back to ’em later and I’m not in that mood anymore. So I think, ‘Oh, well… Rubbish!’

“I’ve been doing that for years.

“Come to think of it, I’ve probably thrown away at least 20 good songs which, had I followed them through, would have been at least as good as all the other ones.

“Sometimes I put on a tape at home, and I find there are five bits of songs I wrote around 1954-five-six-or-seven, that I just forgot completely about.

“I’ve got a song I liked when I first wrote it, and I still like it, but in between I thought, ‘Aw, this is a bit too much. People are not gonna believe this.’

“Anyway, I took it out recently, looked at it, and I know they’re still not going to get it. The reason is it still tends to have that deep meaning thing — and I’m trying to get out of that.

“I now want to write songs that don’t have any meaning, because I’m a bit fed up with people coming up and saying, ‘Hey, what’s it all about? What does it mean?'”

I asked George if he got any really creative experience out of writing and recording.

He said, “Of course — it’s all like a challenge. You get the idea and you’ve got the bit of plastic to put it on but then there’s the actual thing of going through all that bit of getting musicians together and making people do things the way you want, trying to get the best out of it.

“And then, in the end, when you’ve done all that, you’ve got a little thing there, like a painting. And you put it out, and people say, ‘Oh, it’s a load of …… man.’

“But it doesn’t matter. Not to me anyway, because you get a lot of people who do like it, and it is worth while.”

We got onto the Beatle fan’s biggest hope of all — Will the Beatles ever play live again?

Answer from George, with that smile again, “It just depends. The thing I’d like to do most of all is play resident in a club. Not to go touring… because I didn’t like all that traveling and playing, and all that sort of thing.

“But if we were to do a live show, I’d prefer to do it like at the Top Ten in Hamburg for three months, and just play in the one place for about three months. Then we could get rid of the myth once and for all of the Beatles being something apart from everybody else.

“Obviously, we go through cycles. At the moment, it’s all that bit like getting my guitar out again, and it’s happened quite a bit on this next album of the Beatles.

“We’ve got ‘together’ for it. Like, in the early days we were pretty good because we played for so long in one place. That’s why I’d like to do a resident spot. Then you’ve got your amps and your drums set up, and get used to the one sound.

“All these people come to see you, too, so you can’t hide. You can’t fake anything. It’s like, you know, you’ve got your trousers down. And there’s nothing to hide.

“Now, we’re trying to get as funky as we were in the Cavern. ‘Cuz in the Cavern and Hamburg, all we really were was thump-thump-thump. But so together, you know, because we were playing all the time. And those were the days when we used to think that ‘Twist and Shout’ was too way-out for a single. All very ‘Shadows’ it was, then, and getting into suits.

The next album is much simpler than ‘Pepper’ because it’s more down to guitars, bass and drums, and maybe a piano. There’s a nice one of Paul just playing with his guitar, singing by himself but with just a bit of brass on it.”

We got on to the subject of the King, and George said, “I remember at school there was all that thing about Elvis. You never really wanted to go to school, you wanted to go out and play or something. So when some record came along like Elvis’ ‘Heartbreak Hotel,’ and you had this little bit of plastic… it was so amazing. Now, it’s hard to realize that there are kids like I was, where the only thing in their life is to get home and play their favorite record, and maybe it’s ours.

“We know Elvis is great. We know he is. He stopped being a rocker, and they made him go into the Army and by the time he came out he was a clean healthy American doing clean healthy songs and films. But basically, he’s got such a great bluesy voice.

“It would be great if the Beatles and Elvis could get together for an album. It really would.”

 

THE STORY BEHIND GEORGE HARRISON’s ROSEWOOD TELECASTER

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Fifty years back, on January 30, 1969, George Harrison stepped on to the roof of his group’s Apple headquarters in London and plugged in a Fender Telecaster. Famously, it would be The Beatles’ last ever public performance. Not quite so famously, his guitar was an unusual model, a new Rosewood Telecaster that he’d recently received from Fender.

In fact, it was the fourth Fender guitar that The Beatles had acquired. During their early years, the group hadn’t owned any Fenders, although George had written to a friend in 1960 that the guitar he “might manage” was a Strat. Instead, he decided to indulge his passion for Gretsch guitars—the brand used by one of his six-string heroes, Chet Atkins—and bought a secondhand Duo Jet, and, later, a couple of Country Gents and a Tennessean.

But George didn’t have to wait too long to get his Fender: in 1965, he and John Lennon each acquired a secondhand Strat for studio use. Two years later, Paul McCartney bought an Esquire. Paul was becoming increasingly confident with six rather than four strings. After all, he’d started in the group as a guitarist. He soon put the new Esquire to good use, for example playing it for his soaring, concise solo on “Good Morning, Good Morning” during the Sgt Pepper’s sessions at Abbey Road.

On stage, though, it was a different story, and the public face of The Beatles remained distinctly Fender-less. This was the image that almost every fan had of the group, and it was an image that troubled Don Randall, the sales boss at Fender. Understandably, he wanted the world’s most famous band to be seen to play Fender.

At first, Don tried to persuade the group’s manager, Brian Epstein, to get the boys more visibly into the brand. “It was the only time we ever tried to buy somebody off,” Don told me. “I sent a member of my staff to try and buy Brian Epstein off.” That plan backfired, and The Beatles continued to be seen on stage with guitars by Gretsch and Hofner and Rickenbacker and the rest.

In summer 1968, Don tried again, and this time he managed to set up a meeting with John and Paul at the Apple HQ. He was still interested in getting them to visibly play Fender guitars. Don turned up at Savile Row and found himself sitting down with Paul at a big conference table. Paul turned out to be an animated conversationalist, brimming with ideas. John wandered in with Yoko, later on, and made a somewhat less positive impression on Don.

Nonetheless, the Fender boss came away happy with a deal to supply the band a pile of Fender gear: a Fender VI six-string bass, some Fender Rhodes pianos, a Fender Jazz Bass, a selection of amplifiers, including a PA system, and the guitar that we’re interested in, a Fender Rosewood Telecaster for George.

Fender had decided to introduce solid-rosewood versions of its venerable Telecaster and Stratocaster, and Roger Rossmeisl was charged with producing custom prototypes, which the company planned to give to George Harrison (Telecaster) and Jimi Hendrix (Stratocaster) to provide publicity for the planned models.

Roger had worked at Rickenbacker, designing their most iconic guitars, and moved to Fender in 1962. Roger and Phil Kubicki at Fender apparently made four of the custom Rosewood guitars, two Teles and two Strats, and planned to choose the best of each to present to George and Jimi. Phil had worked at Fender since 1964, and after leaving nine years later he would create in the ’80s his extended-E-string Kubicki Ex-Factor basses.

The body of the prototype Rosewood Telecaster had a thin layer of maple sandwiched between a rosewood two-piece top and back, with a clear satin poly finish to highlight the beauty of the natural wood, and a two-piece rosewood neck fitted with (what else?) a rosewood fingerboard.

Roger and Phil selected the best body and neck, assembled and double-checked the guitar, and put it in a case. A courier took it to the airport and flew with it in the seat next to him, delivering it to The Beatles’ Apple HQ at the end of 1968, just after the release of the group’s White Album.

The fate of the other three prototype Rosewood models is less clear. The Rosewood Stratocaster intended for Jimi was completed around April 1970, but for some reason it was never sent to the guitarist, and he died that September.

That instrument, the other Rosewood Strat, and the second Tele disappeared, although online chatter suggested that around 2012 a Chicago dealer sold a guitar as the Rosewood Strat that never reached Jimi, and a Rosewood Tele prototype said to have been sent to Elvis Presley went unsold at an auction in 2018.

Later in 1969, George gave away his Rosewood Tele to Delaney Bramlett of Delaney & Bonnie. Delaney kept the instrument until he sold it at auction in 2003, two years after George’s death. It fetched a staggering $434,750, bought by an intermediary for George’s widow, Olivia Harrison.
As planned, Fender put the Rosewood Telecaster into production later in 1969, and it lasted a couple of years in the line. The rosewood-and-maple sandwich of the body made for an unusual and heavy Tele, and Fender tried to lighten the load by shifting to a modified construction with hollowed chambers inside. However, the weight and unusual tonality of this short-lived model meant it was never a popular instrument.

There have been occasional reissues (including a 1985 Made-in-Japan model), and the George-related guitar has been revived a few times in more recent years, including in 2016 a Custom Shop model, the Fender George Harrison Tribute Rosewood Telecaster—announced as a limited edition of 100—and a regular version the following year, the George Harrison Rosewood Telecaster, limited to 1,000 units.

Back in January 1969, The Beatles famously staged that last “concert” on the Apple rooftop in London. Ringo played his Ludwig Hollywood kit, Paul his ’63 Hofner bass, John his stripped Epiphone Casino, and George the new Rosewood Tele. All the amps were Fenders. Billy Preston was there, too, playing a Fender Rhodes Seventy Three. It’s hard to imagine that Don Randall wouldn’t have allowed himself a satisfied smile for a job well done when he saw the Fender-laden performances in the subsequent movie, Let It Be.
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GEORGE HARRISON & THE MODERN JAZZ QUARTET, 1969

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In 1969 George Harrison recorded several hours worth of mostly improvised jazz instrumentals.

George recorded with bassist Percy Heath and drummer Connie Kay of the Modern Jazz Quartet. Percy Heath disclosed the existence of the recordings during an interview in the wake of George’s death, and the news has surprised the Beatles experts.

“Connie and I went into the studio with George. he wanted to make a jazz record” said Heath.

The session was in London, when the MJQ was there to record “Space,” the second and last album the MJQ would record for Apple. “We spent a day at the studio. Harrison wanted to play some jazz, and he was improvising pretty well. A musician is a musician, and you’d be surprised about who could play jazz and blues. We enjoyed the date with him.”

A GUITAR PLAYED BY GEORGE HARRISON IN HAMBURG IS SET TO FETCH £300,000 AT AUCTION

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A GUITAR played by George Harrison while The Beatles were in Hamburg before they were famous is set to fetch £300,000 at auction.

The Czech-made Futurama Resonet has been unseen since 1964 when it was first prize in a magazine competition. The winner, AJ Thompson, of Saltdean, Sussex, chose cash because he didn’t play and the magazine kept it.

George, who died in 2001, recalled going, aged 16, with Paul McCartney to buy the guitar in Liverpool in 1959. His mother had to sign the purchase agreement which was later paid off by Beatles manager Brian Epstein.

‘Huge interest’ is expected by auctioneers Bonhams at the sale in London on June 12.

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