George Harrison The reluctant Beatle

Philip Norman, 1943-

Book - 2023

"Despite being hailed as one of the best guitarists of his era, George Harrison, particularly in his early decades, battled feelings of inferiority. He was often the butt of jokes from his bandmates owing to his lower-class background and, typically, was allowed to contribute only one or two songs per Beatles album out of the dozens he wrote. Now, acclaimed Beatles biographer Philip Norman examines Harrison through the lens of his numerous self-contradictions. Compared to songwriting luminaries John Lennon and Paul McCartney he was considered a minor talent, yet he composed such masterpieces as "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and "Here Comes the Sun," and his solo debut album "All Things Must Pass" achieved... enormous success, appearing on many lists of the 100 best rock albums ever. Modern music critics place him in the pantheon of sixties guitar gods alongside Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Keith Richards, and Jimmy Page. Harrison railed against the material world yet wrote the first pop song complaining about income tax. He spent years lovingly restoring his Friar Park estate as a spiritual journey, but quickly mortgaged the property to help rescue a film project that would be widely banned as sacrilegious, Monty Python's Life of Brian. Harrison could be fiercely jealous, but not only did he stay friends with Eric Clapton when Clapton fell in love with Harrison's wife, Pattie Boyd, the two men grew even closer after Clapton walked away with her. Unprecedented in scope and filled with numerous color photos, this rich biography captures George Harrison at his most multi-faceted: devoted friend, loyal son, master guitar player, brilliant songwriter, cocaine addict, serial philanderer, global philanthropist, student of Indian mysticism, self-deprecating comedian, and, ultimately, iconic artist and man beloved by millions"--

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Subjects
Genres
Biographies
Published
New York : Scribner 2023.
Language
English
Main Author
Philip Norman, 1943- (author)
Edition
First Scribner hardcover edition
Physical Description
xxii, 487 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 24 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages 445-452) and index.
ISBN
9781982195861
  • Prologue: an unextinguishable last laugh
  • Part one. "Take care of him because he's going to be special"
  • "He was so much in the background he was like the invisible man"
  • Playing just chords was better than not playing at all"
  • "From then on, nine-to-five never came back into my thinking"
  • "We were like orphans"
  • "My first shag was... with Paul and John and Pete Best all watching"
  • "The first rock 'n' dole group"
  • "It was the best buzz of all time"
  • Part two. "I was always rather beastly to George"
  • "I had to learn to think like a spy, leaving no trace"
  • "The only Beatle glare ever caught on camera"
  • "Well, that's it. I'm not a Beatle anymore"
  • "The meditation buzz"
  • "Please don't think I've gone off my rocket"
  • "Don't upset the Hell's Angels"
  • "He wanted so much to be a spiritual being"
  • "That was minxy of George. He could be very minxy"
  • "Beatle George's new pad--turrets and all"
  • Part three. "Garbo speaks--Harrison is free"
  • "I suppose he is still a person of considerable means"
  • "I have to tell you, man, I'm in love with your wife"
  • "By the grace of Krishna, you are one of the great men"
  • "If people want their money back, they can have it"
  • "Introducing George Harrison"
  • "Maybe he thought God would just sort of let him off"
  • "He was looking at potential debts of around €32 million"
  • "Do you want to go on a yacht to the South Pacific and run away for ever?"
  • "I'm being murdered in my own house"
  • Epilogue: Plaudit from a prince.
Review by Booklist Review

Reluctant, indeed. Harrison was known as the Quiet Beatle. He was also referred to as the Invisible Man, since he was the most private of the Fab Four. (He once said he would have much preferred to be a gardener than a rock star.) Norman has written about the Beatles as a band and authored individual biographies of Lennon and McCartney. Now he focuses on Harrison, his early years, the wild times in Hamburg, the crazy roller-coaster ride with the world's most famous band, his solo years, his career as a movie producer, and his stint as a Traveling Wilbury. Norman praises the man who never quite received the same share of the limelight as his fellow band members, even though he wrote "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," "Here Comes the Sun," "Something," "My Sweet Lord," and more. Norman praises Harrison's guitar playing, which was also underappreciated. He points out paradoxes. Harrison was at times sacred and profane, loyal and disloyal, and Norman acknowledges the fate of the reserved rock star who almost died in 1999 when "an obsessive Beatles fan" invaded his home, then died of cancer two years later. Norman captures the creativity, the humanity, and the great humor of the man in this keen and lovely tribute.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Following up biographies of two of the Fab Four (Paul McCartney and John Lennon), Norman turns his attention to George Harrison in this uneven and exhausting account. Self-described as "the quiet Beatle," Harrison was a musician with a keen ear rather than a penchant for flashy guitar solos--an understated quality that sometimes left him devalued by the group and its fans, according to Norman. After the band met with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the head of the Spiritual Regeneration movement, in 1967, Harrison grew enamored with meditation and began to feel the Beatles were holding him back spiritually. Once the group split, he became famously reclusive--gardening and meditating, but also producing solo albums, including 1970's All Things Must Pass, that sold better than those of John and Paul. Norman rushes through Harrison's solo career, his divorce from Pattie Boyd, and his later marriage to Olivia Arias, while rehashing familiar stories and piling on laborious detail (as when describing the apartment that John shared with Stu Sutcliffe, where " 'college band' rehearsal would often turn into one of John's informal tutorials from Stu on anything from van Gogh and Benvenuto Cellini to Jack Kerouac, James Joyce, Kierkegaard or Sartre, and George, with his abhorrence of book learning, would feel himself excluded in yet another way"). This bloated biography is nonessential for all but the most devoted Beatles fans. (Oct.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review

The author of biographies of John Lennon and Paul McCartney turns his attention to George Harrison (1943--2001). "Fuck off…can't you see I'm meditating?" Thus quoth George--never Sir George, for unlike bandmates Sir Paul and Sir Ringo, Harrison was never knighted. That fact, reports longtime Beatle-watcher Norman, seems to have rankled, for if Harrison seemed to be bucking for sainthood throughout much of his too-short life, he was also all too human. His wife, Pattie Boyd Harrison, once asked George's assistant, "What's he got his hands in today, the prayer-beads or the cocaine?" Norman is no mean-spirited, character-assassinating biographer in the Albert Goldman vein, but he does seem to take a certain pleasure in catching Harrison out doing things he shouldn't have, such as seducing Ringo's wife--no secret, and present in other Harrison bios, but lingered over all the same. The author makes a few things clear: Harrison was a nimble guitarist, one of the best in the business, but he was undervalued by both Lennon and McCartney as a songwriter, which resulted in his long-pent-up solo effort, All Things Must Pass, a dark horse that charted higher than any of their solo efforts. Regrettably, its biggest hit was legally proven to have been inadvertently plagiarized. A creature of "endless self-contradictions," Harrison was the one Beatle who grew up in true poverty, and while he claimed to renounce the material world, he also spent fortunes on the creature comforts of his British estates and Hawaiian getaway. Given to bad puns ("Vengeance Is Mine Saith the Chord") and occasional clunkiness--e.g., Tom Petty was "the blondest man in Country rock"; after the Beatles broke up, "Beatleness still ran through him like the grain in old oak"--Norman nonetheless knows his subject and the soulful torments Harrison endured. The quiet Beatle turns out to have feet of clay--a surprise to some, perhaps. A well-informed, serviceably written biography of an enigmatic musician. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.