I Me Mine – The Extended Edition: George Harrison – Book Review

george-harrison

Genesis Publications

Available February 21st 2017

An essential and beautifully presented testament to one of the most unobtrusive of musical icons.

I Me Mine was originally published in 1980 and grew from a series of conversations between George Harrison and former Beatles press officer Derek Taylor. The extended edition however, encompasses all of Harrison’s writings between 1963 and 2001 and features an updated introduction by Olivia Harrison and new cover art by Shepard Fairey.

Weighing in at a colossal 580 pages, this is also a landmark for the publishers as it is their 100th edition since the founding of the company in 1974. Harrison’s book has been chosen by Genesis to mark this event as a celebration of both Harrison’s work and their collaborative history. Hundreds of lyric sheets have been compiled, scanned and faithfully reproduced. Classic hits like Here Comes The Sun sit alongside rare offerings such as Cosmic Empire, shown both typeset and in Harrison’s own handwriting. 141 songs are included in total, more than 50 of which are presented here for the first time. These include songs written for The Beatles and in his varied solo career; All Things Must Pass, Somewhere in England, Living in the Material World, Dark Horse, Thirty Three & 1/3, Cloud Nine and Brainwashed.

Two notes in the book, the dedication at the front and the ‘backword’, may hold the key to this essential publication for all fans of the enigmatic genius.

The dedication, “to gardeners everywhere” will touch many as not only did Harrison revel in the spiritual connection that his garden at Friar Park offered, but the autobiographical section of this opus reveals that he developed an early love for gardening as a child in his Speke home.

The ‘backword’ may be the most pertinent in the book as Harrison states that his constant thought during the making of the book was “tell not all that you know because he who tells all that he knows often tells more than he knows”. Part 1 of the book is written from the fruit of conversations between Harrison and his trusted confidante Derek Taylor, former Beatles Press Officer, and therefore reads as gentle reminiscences rather than searching self-analysis. Interesting obviously, and valuable as a written account of events from Harrison’s own words, but don’t expect new revelations. That much you may be able to discern from the beautifully reproduced lyric sheets and notes on them by Harrison; these are arguably the real strength of the book.

The introduction by Olivia Harrison places what is to follow in context very well, both in a consideration of the spiritual seeking she shared with her husband and to the contradictory nature of the title ‘I Me Mine’; an ironic comment on materialism alongside an acceptance that this book will be the best written testimony to him and his song writing.

The introduction is able to point out the subtlest of references, like the notation at the bottom of the lyrics for Soft Touch, ‘noch einmal’ which is German for ‘one more time’, a phrase The Beatles used to shout from the stage at Hamburg and that Harrison still occasionally used. However, she also notes the importance of the relationship between her husband and Derek Taylor and the almost code-like slang references they used. Part 1 therefore is Taylor’s transcription of the conversations, alongside his own pertinent contextual analysis of both Harrison and the circumstances in which he operated.

We learn of Harrison’s utter contempt for school, a hatred that was all the more unusual when it is considered that the man spent most of his adult life in a devotion to seeking knowledge. There are broad brush descriptions of life in The Beatles, most strikingly being that from an early stage of their fame, The Beatles were “doomed”. The pressure of the world’s scrutiny made them feel “like monkeys in a zoo…they die. You know everything needs to be left alone”. This yearning to get out is repeated as Harrison reflects on the chaos of the final shows in Manilla and he states “the good thing about giving up touring is that it forced the split, or helped to.”

However, don’t expect to be finding nuggets about life in The Beatles or after, though Harrison’s views on the My Sweet Lord scenario, and the reality of making modern music, are interesting and perfectly understandable. The real strength of this book, and one that it’s fair to assume will give Harrison fans many hours of pleasure, is the collection of photographs, many reproduced for the first time, and the lyric sheets alongside his commentary.

From these, revelations about the man, his inspirations and methods leap off the page. What Is Life was written in half an hour en route to the studio where Harrison was producing Billy Preston. However, on arrival he felt unable to offer “this catchy pop song while Billy was playing his funky stuff”. Wah Wah meanwhile was written in a fit of temper during the Abbey Road sessions while John and Yoko were screaming at each other. Wah Wah was the headache being in the band was giving him and something he no longer needed.

Of the photographs gathered here, it is difficult not to be struck by the shots of Harrison in the early days of the band, particularly one standing outside the gate of the family home in Speke, guitar case in hand and hair greased in the rocker style. On the threshold of momentous events but still just a music-loving kid caught up in the excitement of a burgeoning scene that would change the world.

This is an essential and beautifully presented testament to one of the most unobtrusive of musical icons.

I Me Mine is published by Genesis Publications on February 21st 2017

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