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.”