Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Ex-Beatle George: Dark Horse, Pale Rider

This article about George Harrison's 1974 press conference before the tour was found in "The New Beatles Fan Club" fanzine and they found it in the February 1975 issue of 'Teen magazine.  

Ex-Beatle George:  Dark Horse, Pale Rider

He was always the most reticent Beatle.  Indeed, some might even say, “surly.”
Unlike Paul, John and Ringo who could always be counted on once in a great while to charm the collective pants off the press, he was the one in those dear, dead days of Beatlemania who would put down a reporter for asking an idiotic questions – as most of them were – with a snarky one-liner that stung.

Yet when George Harrison held his first press conference in years to mark the kickoff of his recent major tour, all was sweetness and light.  And heaven knows he had provocation enough.

Let me set the scene:  The Champagne Room of the Beverly Wilshire hotel in where else but Beverly Hills.   Gathered there are maybe 100 journalists, a couple of camera crews and what seems to be the entire Hollywood photographers’ corps.   Much excitement in the air as we wait for the star to arrive for, face it, the magic of the Beatles lives on even if the band itself does not.

And besides…well there’s the added spice of scandal hovering in the air.

The rumor has been free-floating for several months now that George’s wife Patti left him for his best friend, Eric Clapton.  And reporters being a compulsively nosy pack of characters (you think it’s normal to ask total strangers about the most intimate working of their lives?) there’s the strong chance that one of us is going to come right out and ask if it’s true.    Then there’s the tricky Harrison temper –still extant, one understands, despite all that meditation – to contend with.  Talk about your shudders!  Well of course he came, he saw, he conquered.

Looking more  kempt, as a matter of fact, than we’ve seen him of late:  hair shorter, neat moustache, wearing a spiffy baseball jacket that had the logo of his new record company Dark Horse emblazoned on the back.

Smiled a lot, too, he did, despite all those flashbulbs popping in his face and the generally inane line of most of the questions.

You know the sort of thing: will the Beatles ever get back together?  Now, they’ve only restated it ‘till they’re blue in the fact that there’s no way they’ll play together as a band again.  But he’s cool.  He replied, “Only if we’re broke.”  A not desperately likely occurrence.

Then he expanded his views on the whole Beatle fan phenomenon and his present relationship with the other guys.  “I realize, “he said, “that the Beatles did fill a space in the ‘60’s and all the people the Beatles mean anything to have grown up.  It’s like anything.  If you grow up with something you get attached to it.  One of the problems in our lives is that we get attached to things.   I can understand that the Beatles did nice things and it’s appreciated that people still like them.  The problem comes when they want to live in the past, when they want to hold on to something.  People are afraid of change.  To tell you the truth I’d join a b and with John Lennon any day, but I couldn’t join a band with Paul McCartney.  But it’s nothing personal; it’s just from a musical point of view.”
He was asked if there wasn’t a dichotomy in the fact that he was really into a spiritual trip, yet the atmosphere that surrounds a touring band is anything but spiritual.    “It is difficult,” he admitted.  “It’s good practice, though to be in the world through not of the world.   You can go to the Himalayas and miss it completely.   Yet stuck in New York you can be very spiritual.   In a place like that you have to look within yourself, otherwise you’d go crackers.”

Then—oh horrors—a little old lady who prefaced all her questions with, “this is for the Woman’s Page” as though that excused the asininity of what was asked, walked right into it.  “Tell me,” she clucked, “does your wife cook for you?”   Well naturally those among us who like to think we’re hip and collect gossip about the stars to pass along to show we’re “in” just gasped.   This was it.  Ball up on the slates time, people.  How he was going to field this one, we wondered.

With style, actually.  “I don’t have a wife anymore,” he said graciously.  Someone else wondered if he’d be getting divorced, “No.  That’s as silly as marriage.”

Since he was being so fractious about it, a few hardier souls decided to press a little harder.  Clapton, it appeared, had once hinted in an interview that he’d written “Layla” for Patti.  “Will there be,” asked the plucky reporter, “some kind of musical rebuttal in your new album I mean, to ‘Layla?”
“Pardon—a rebuttal?  How do you mean?  That sounds nasty.  Eric Clapton’s been a close friend for years.  I’m very happy about it.  I’m still friendly with him.”

“How can you still be friendly?” pondered one innocent, perhaps not wise to the cool one acquires what with a vegetarian diet and meditating and all.

“Because he’s great,” answered an unshakable George.  “I’d  rather she was with him than some dope.”

There’s no stopping some people.  The Woman’s Page person wondered if when Patti WAS with George did she cook for him?

The man’s patience is inexhaustible.  Still he was all gentle charm, “She used to cook sometimes,” he said, “I learned to cook myself.  I cook vegetarian Indian food.  I don’t eat fish, chicken or meat.  That’s why I’m so pale and thin.”

Then after a few more questions about his touring band – and an hour of answering some of the silliest questions I’ve heard – he was whisked off by his publicity man, and as we reporters drifted out we could hear the phrase, “Hey a really nice guy” all over.  And I’m willing to wager he is. 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for this! I am so glad someone in the press could see George's essential goodness and grace under pressure. Bless him -I really feel for all he went through in 1974 (at least he met Olivia who helped him get through it)