There is a forum out there ( more than one, I suppose), discussing which post-Beatles solo album was the best. I like to visit these forums and see what’s on people’s minds, and sometimes offer my own thoughts. This topic never finds a conclusion, however.
How do we actually determine who’s best? As a collective unit, what the Beatles accomplished is unmatched for it’s quality, originality and influence. Once they split, there are flashes of genius that gave great hopes for what would come from each of them…well, maybe not Ringo. He was still hanging on to what they gave him. Still, he developed into a consumate performer who is still rocking the audience into a state of happy.
I had three primary influences, musically, as I was growing up. Big Bands, Classical and Country. Diverse and inspiring, my greatest discovery, musically, was The Beatles. I can’t actually pick a favorite song, and definitely can’t narrow down (between John and Paul) whose I prefer.
To have ended up being a great admirer of George Harrison is not based on his music alone. Much of what draws the fan to him is the total package: music; philosophy; philanthropy; and for the girls, his looks (I guess I shouldn’t limit that).
Even my less than fanatical friends agree that George Harrison represented the most well rounded personality based on what we read and hear. His flaws, while perhaps numerous, were closer to our own. His search for meaning set off movements around the globe. His influences weren’t just about him, they tended to transcend the celebrity and evolve into pursuits relevant to every person.
This may seem irrelevant to the topic of “most accomplished post-Beatles album”, however the arguments regarding the merits of each man has something to do with the total of their achievements. We are influenced, I think, by what we see as the man and who he is to us.
For the Paul fan, the pursuit of perfection and global adoration (I don’t mean that in a negative light, honestly) fills a spot that can only be satisfied with accomplishment and approval. To neglect Sir Paul and not lift him into the highest Beatle spot is to neglect the obvious talent and drive, and the nearly unbelieveably prolific nature of the man. He has stated himself that, after achieving so much, he still wants to do more. Kudos to him. I have no doubt he will accomplish everything he sets out to do.
John’s camp is slightly less concerned about achieving global domination (in spite of the peace movement) as much as ascertaining the rightful dominion of his intellect and their identification with that. John (and his fans) sit back and “watch the wheels”, literally, and pass judgement on how well they turn. Lack of competition lessens productivity but not enthusiasm for self.
So then, last on the list is George. He was the handsome, quiet one who sat back and did his job and waited. But there is something about the way in which he appears to have served his time, all the while assembling his arsenal of songs and technique that would spark a frenzy when his first album, All Things Must Pass, hit the stores and the collective ears of the world.
Where had he been hiding all of those years? How did the “quiet one”, he of such infinite patience (we thought) and diligent servitude to the group’s agenda, produce such a wonder? All of that hair, all of the Eastern philosophy…a triple album and a revelation. George was a genius, too.
Not like John, who tended to a form of intellectualism that was mostly self-loathing and scathing diatribes against those for whom he had little respect. I know he was talking about peace, but according to those who were there, he was a little scary, moreso as he was accompanied by Yoko and her wall of inscrutability.
Nor was George’s genius like Paul’s incredible ability to pour out song after song in a seamless and seemingly effortless stream of creativity. There was an innate ability in him that defied any of the other Beatles in that respect.
George’s genius was in his ability to translate his own search, his quest perhaps, for the heart of God in every person. His spirituality became a beacon for young people around the globe, and his honesty in revealing his own failures were comforting to his fellow travelers.
John did write from his emotions, perhaps moreso ( it seems) than Paul. Julia is his most evocative composition, conjuring images of his mother, his pain at losing her and the romanticized ideal of who he needed her to be. Mixed into that we find his new obsession in Yoko, perhaps more fiction than reality, but forever a part of who he became. His next ode to Julia, Mother, from Plastic Ono Band, would give us another image of his anger and pain regarding Julia.
It’s harder for me to find these types of emotional entries from Paul. He seems to have been more professional in his approach to songwriting. He reveals bits and pieces of his views and emotions, but nothing nearly as riveting as John’s diatribes and confessions. This is not a fault, merely a style that has served him well. It is to his credit that he has maintained a mostly happy life, so much so that he had to justify writing silly love songs by writing himself a hit of the same name. You have to love Paul.
George would, throughout his life and career, continue to point a way towards love and God, the two being inseparable. I can listen to any of his albums and find a point of entry into that world in which accountability to the ideal and person of God is central to living a fulfilling life. For some of us, this is a thread that endears the man and the music to us in a way that can’t be improved upon by hit records or concert halls. We get it. We get him.
The music of George Harrison is a completely different idea to what the Beatles are, or were. He made his living, initially, from the music. It was his craft and vocation. Later on, it was a labor of his soul and spirit, and a way to connect to the path he chose. In a larger sense, it was a way to connect other people to that path. Whether the music registers with everyone is not his responsibility. We are each a different type of receptor, and respond differently to what we hear and see.
I’m glad to have George’s voice still singing, still searching, still assured…as am I.