Thursday, April 24, 2008

GMVW # 16: "Spiritual Undertones"

Gem Music Video of the Week # 16: Spiritual Undertones
Song: Beware of Darkness by George Harrison
Covered  Here By: Eric Clapton
(Songwriter: George Harrison)
April 24, 2008

Way back when the depth of my rock music insight consisted of not much more than Sgt. Pepper & the Red Album, I remember a day coming out of church after a Sunday Mass with my good friend, Pete and his older brother Paul.  The three of us walked up to one of the parish priests, Father Buchette, who handed back an album that Paul had lent to him several weeks earlier.  The album cover, which I had never seen before, showed a heavily bearded man sitting in a chair in the middle of a field surrounded by a bunch of gnomes.  At the time I recall thinking that this must be a spiritual album, and although Father Buchette’s critique appeared mixed, I was impressed that Paul found it important enough to ask one of our parish priests to listen to it.

Paul was always an avid Beatles fan.  He had a collection of rare and valuable Beatles albums that were as amazing to look at as a great coin or baseball card collection.  Paul’s collection did not stop with the collective Beatles, however.  It carried through their solo careers.  The cover of John & Yoko’s ‘Two Virgins’ album was a bit tough to look at (as was the Beatles ‘Butcher Cover’), but the rest of the collection was pretty darn neat.  One time, as I thumbed through the collection with Pete, I came across that gnome-cover again.  This time I had the time and inclination to examine it.  The heavily bearded man was George Harrison, and the album was ‘All Things Must Pass’.

One of the many reasons the Beatles broke up was the tension between George Harrison and Paul McCartney over George’s 2-song limit per album.  Because of this limitation, Harrison had built up quite a back log of songs by the early 70’s, much of which he unloaded on this unprecedented 3-album set, his solo debut. 

‘All Things Must Pass’ was indeed spiritual, and so was the man who penned the songs.  It was hilarious to many (including Harrison) that the Beatles spoof movie ‘The Rutles’ has 3 British actors playing Paul, John and Ringo, but a dark skinned, sitar strumming actor from India playing George.  Harrison took his Eastern influences (including religion and sitar) very seriously and was not afraid to share his beliefs with others.  This was important to me growing up, because Harrison (along with a handful of other rock musicians) was connecting dots with other aspects of my life, particularly my own faith.  Without this added spiritual depth to rock music, I may have moved on to jazz or classical music long ago (Dad, I’m still working on the latter).  Songs like ‘Every Grain of Sand’ (Dylan), ‘Bargain’ (Townshend/Who) and this weeks Gem ‘Beware of Darkness’ (off  ‘All Things Must Pass’), along with many others, are to me, great, soul searching songs, often with a little edge to them.

Not long after Harrison was to ‘pass’ on himself, a number of great musicians got together to honor him.  The ‘Concert for George’ was exceptional to me since it’s not often I enjoy a tribute show.  Harrison’s own son is front and center during most of the show.  Harrison’s solo songs and his songs with the Beatles were covered.  Eric Clapton sings ‘Beware of Darkness’ in the linked Gem video of the week, which, despite the title, I believe is mostly a positive song/message.

To show that Harrison still had a sense of humor at the time of his ‘All Things Must Pass’ album, I’m also including another song from the same album sung at the same tribute concert. ‘Wah-wah’ (as in ‘blah, blah’) is a stab at Paul McCartney for all those years of holding him to 2 songs per album (or something along those lines).  I have to give McCartney credit for joining in on the chorus at the tribute show (a number of the musicians smile over at McCartney during the song).  It reminds me of a story I read in Rolling Stone one time about Don Henley jumping on stage at a night club to add backing vocals while a surprised Mojo Nixon sang his song ‘Don Henley Must Die!’. 

Enjoy the music and have a great weekend.


Gem Music Video: Beware of Darkness (the ‘Concert for George’ version with Eric Clapton has been temporarily lost *Dec, 09*.  This is Harrison in this link)

About the Video: “Concert for George” after his passing

Best Feedback: Tom

Hi Pete

This was an awesome write-up too - and I forwarded it to Tim, who's an avid Beatles fan, and Mike for education's sake.

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