The extremely talented lead guitarist of the Beatles, George Harrison, would have turned 75 this year on February 25. Although he passed away in 2001, Harrison’s legacy continues to thrive. George was the youngest of the Beatles, and was often referred to as “the quiet Beatle” since he wasn’t as boisterous as Paul or John. His talent for playing guitar, singing and composing music made him a legendary contributor to the music scene and how “classic rock” is viewed today. His appreciation of the Indian classic style and focus on universal love would stay with him throughout his lifetime. In honor of this rock god’s (and my personal favorite Beatle) birthday, here are some of the more well-known songs he composed.
“Don’t Bother Me”
This song was featured on the second Beatles album, With the Beatles. It was released in the U.K. on November 22, 1963 and a year later in the states. It was George’s first official Beatles song. He wrote it while he was sick in bed at a hotel room. He considered it an exercise in whether or not he could actually write a song. The Beatles never performed the song live or at any of their BBC sessions, but it sparked Harrison’s desire to compose future songs. The melancholy lyrics weren’t standard Beatles style, but they would eventually became a characteristic of a George Harrison song.
This week marks the 50th anniversary of one of the most important rock albums ever made, the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. As every rock snob knows, Sgt. Pepper is widely hailed as one of the first concept albums (although, as some critics have pointed out, the songs don’t have all that much to do with each other). For the Fab Four and producer George Martin, the record represented new heights of creativity and experimentation in the studio.
Then there’s the iconic cover, which features the band members along with dozens of celebrities and public figures chosen by the Beatles and represented in cardboard cutouts and wax figures. There are actors, comedians, musicians, artists and philosophers, but here at HPB we couldn’t help but notice that authors make up one of the largest contingents. Here’s a look at the literary types on the most famous album cover in history.
The British author famous for Brave New World relocated to California in 1937 and became involved with mysticism and other spiritual subjects. His 1954 book Doors of Perception, which detailed his experiences with psychedelic drugs, was influenced on Timothy Leary and others in the hippie generation. Some have suggested a connection between this book and the Beatles song “Help,” in which John Lennon sings, “Now I find I’ve changed my mind, I’ve opened up the doors.”
The Welsh writer behind poems like “Do not go gentle into that good night” had a reputation that rock stars would appreciate—that of an erratic, drunken poet. Paul McCartney said: “I’m sure that the main influence on both [Bob] Dylan and John [Lennon] was Dylan Thomas. We all used to like Dylan Thomas. I read him a lot. I think that John started writing because of him.”
Carroll’s surreal literary nonsense and wordplay was a big influence on John Lennon. The Beatles song, “I Am the Walrus,” written the same year as Sgt. Pepper, was a reference to “The Walrus and the Carpenter,” a poem by Carroll that appeared in Through the Looking-Glass. In a 1965 interview, Lennon said he read that book and Alice in Wonderland “about once a year.” Continue reading