George Harrison Interview: Beatles Book Monthly, October 1966
Beatles Book Monthly featured an exclusive chat with George Harrison in it's October 1966 issue. Topics of discussion included songwriting and recording with the Beatles, London and Liverpool, as well as the group's pre-fame Hamburg days.
First published in 1963 and continuing throughout their career and beyond, The Beatles Book Monthly was the official fanzine of the group. It took full advantage of having access to amazing rare photos, it featured exclusive articles, and contained insights not found anywhere else.
Sometimes also listed as Beatles Monthly Book, previously-owned copies of these excellent magazines continue to circulate in collector's circles, including online sites such as Ebay. While this UK-based fanzine had a rebirth in the late 70's and 80's, the most intriguing issues come from the years when the band was together.
Here is the interview:
I found him sitting cross-legged on the couch wearing a white towelling robe with a hood pulled over his head, listening to some weird and wonderful sounds coming out of his battered tape recorder, and looking as though he should be charming a snake out of a basket in the Casbah, instead of sitting in a dressing room.
Not wanting to look conspicuous by sitting on something way-out like a chair, I sat on the floor. A drink was promptly placed in my hand and I asked George whether he was more confident in his songwriting.
"Naturally. You get more confident as you progress. In the old days, I used to say to myself, 'I'm sure I can write,' but it was difficult because of John and Paul. Their standard of writing has bettered over the years, so it was very hard for me to come straight to the top - on par with them, instead of building up like they did."
Did you go to John and Paul for advice, I asked.
"They gave me an awful lot of encouragement. Their reaction has been very good. If it hadn't I think I would have crawled away. Now I know what it's all about, my songs have come more into perspective. All of them are very simple, but simplicity to me may be very complex to others."
"I've thrown away about thirty songs. They may have been alright if I'd worked on them, but I didn't think they were strong enough."
"My main trouble is in the lyrics. I can't seem to write down what I want to say - It doesn't come over literally, so I compromise, usually far too much I suppose. I find that everything makes a song, not just the melody as so many people seem to think, but the words, the technique - the lot."
I asked George whether he put his ideas forward when recording one of John and Paul's songs.
"I think they welcome my ideas. We all put a lot of suggestions in after we've recorded something. That's why we take so long to record a number. We've always cooperated with one another. Paul might come into the studio and say to me 'Do this' if he has worked out the chords beforehand, but they always need changing."
I then inquired whether or not he misses the freedom of the streets.
"Sometimes I do, especially around Christmas. If I want to look for something in a store, then I miss browsing around, but I sometimes walk down Bond Street."
How do people react if they see you in the streets?
"I've never run into a mob. Anyway, I don't think they realize it's me. I think they think we're just a myth they see on the television and listen to on the radio."
George got out of his Buddha-like position, only to replenish our glasses and change the tape over to the other side. With George back on the couch cross-legged, and still with Indian sounds, I asked him if the Beatles were night creatures by choice.
"Six years ago we left Liverpool to go to Germany, and our job was to entertain people at night. It's just the same for a night watchman. We've become night creatures because we chose to entertain people. If we would have chosen another vocation like a bank clerk or something like that, then I suppose we would have been day creatures."
I asked George whether he was still mystified by London as he was four years ago, or whether he regards it as home and not Liverpool.
"I feel part of London. It's where I live. I get a funny feeling when I go back to Liverpool. I feel sad, because the people there are living in a circle - they're missing so much. I'd like them to know about everything - everything that I've learned by getting out of the rut."
I then asked George what was the most outrageous thing that he's ever done.
"Just Hamburg in the old days. The whole thing was one big joke. We were worked to death. We couldn't do anything. I think the funniest thing was one night in the Star Club, as you all know, John came on stage with a lavatory seat around his neck, but what no one's mentioned is that he was only wearing his undies at the time!!!"
Incidentally, John, Paul and Ringo were also in the room whilst I was talking to George, but they were occupying themselves in the far corner with various tape recorders. Every now and then there was an outburst of laughter.
I asked George if anybody fascinated him, and he replied: "John, Paul and Ringo, and anyone I like."
After wandering over to the other three, I now know what George meant. Ringo was taping their conversation, and when he played it back, John turned on his tape recorder and taped their comments on Ringo's recording - hence, two lots of conversations going on at once. Then Ringo tried his hand (unsuccessfully) at taking off various dialects. He then finished it off with numerous dog barkings. So the finished recording was - John's previous tape with two conversations plus Ringo's impersonations with guffaws from John, Paul and George - Quite effective to say the least.
"See what I mean," said George. "They're fascinating."