Join Date: Apr 03, 2002
Re: Olivia site request
The lyrics to I ME MINE were known to me long before the October evening in 1974 when I met the man who wrote them. George and I had spoken by telephone many times because I worked for his Dark Horse record label in Los Angeles. Still that first face-to-face meeting, followed by twenty-seven years together, is just as vivid today as the last time I saw his face.
During our life together the issues of possessions, attatchment and identification with the ego were in the forefront of our awareness and George was always quick to point out that in reality there is no I, ME or Mine. George was relentless at keeping our spiritual aim true. We were only humans walking along a long road towards our shared goal of enlightenment and I, for one, welcomed any reminders.
In the course of a day, I might have said, "Oh, your bit of the garden looks great", to which he would reply, "It's not my garden Liv." It was his way of reminding himself and me that we are pure Spirit, and that the Spirit is in "every grain of sand" belonging to everyone and no one; that nothing is "mine" and that the "I" we all refer to must be recognized as the little "i" in the larger scheme of the Universe. George was tired of the I Me Mines of this world, including his own, and had been from a very early age. When searching for a title to this book, he was well aware that the lyrics to these songs would always be tied to his name and considered his songs, even though he knew the creativity bestowed upon him was divine gift. So rather than conjuring a book title that might try to explain away the gift of songwriting with "Well, I wrote them but they don't really belong to me," he took the opposite approach and the risk of claiming this book in a slightly cynical trinity of pronouns.
Reading what Derek Taylor had to say about George was captivating once again. Perceptions of the man I dearly love by someone as insightful and articulate as Derek have somehow become more important to me. Derek and George exchanged a special banter that often led others in the room completely bewildered by thier verbal shorthand. It took time if you wanted to join in because thier points of reference were wide reaching and covered decades of colorful and obscure characters and events, many shared during the phenonomal days of the Beatles that gave them a private world of experiences from which to draw. George quoted the wisdom of the great swamis, the Bhagavad Gita and the ancient Vedas, as well as the humor of Lord Buckley, The Goons, Lenny Bruce, Mel Brooks's The Producers and Monty Python. At the same time Derek regaled us with history lessons on both wars, commentary on current events and politics. If anyone in our household had a question pertaining to one of those subjects George always said, "Call Derek and ask him". He was very well read and shared with us information of all sorts, some of which we really did not wish to know, but all of it presented amusingly. I wasn't always certain what was fact or folly (although it didn't seem to matter).
They days they spent together working on this book were happy ones and took place over continuous cups of tea (for which Brian Roylance, who conceived and published the original, limited edition of I ME MINE was mostly responsible, being the biggest fan of tea since Earl Grey himself). George and Derek's dialogue in these pages reveals much about thier relationship, which began in Liverpool - and as they used to remind us "Being born in Liverpool carries with it certain responsibilites" They'd worked together for thirty years, so Derek's interviews with George were second nature to both of them, yet they always managed to produce fresh recollections of thier experiences. All of us around during the writing of I ME MINE took laughter for granted. It must have been a real eye-opener for Brian, whose previous publishing endevours we considered to be more serious documents such as The log of the HMS Bounty and "Charles Darwin's Journal of a voyage in HMS Beagle. I would wager Brian was surprised at the emergence of his own sense of mischief and humor, which was appreciated and encouraged. George and Derek led him astray in the best possible way and he become one of George's closest friends and confidants, especially after Derek passed away in 1997. Brian and I now share the memories of those days along with the love and respect we all had for one another.
George and Derek found hilarity concocting captions unrelated to the photos they were supposedly describing, some of whih made it into the book. The photo on Plate XXIII shows George holding his sitar, but the caption provoked letters to Genesis complaining that the reader's copy must have the wrong photos because "George was not eating a cheese sandwhich with anyone in the book"
And only fans of Monty Python's Flying Circus would understand the caption to Plate XVII - and obsucre reference obviously meant to be shared with those of like humor. Prinz Walter, a Python character, had wooden teeth. Compare the smile of Britain's ex-prime minister Harold Wilson and you get the idea. First choice for the caption to Plate XLII, showing another ex-prime minister, Edward Heath, at the piano with George standing behind was:
(George): "Do you know your balls are hanging out?"
(Ex-prime minister Heath): "No, but you hum it and i'll play it"
It was an old joke but Derek and George were shameless. If I put my mind to it, I can still see and hear them laughing around the kitchen table and I miss them both dreadfully along with the joy thier combined humor, intellegence and affection brought into my life.
For me the essence of this book is the lyrics and I believe they stand the test of time because they are written about man's enternal quest, dilemas, joys and sorrows. George's lyrics were, in my opinion, the most spiritually conscious of our time, although George, in turn, usually referred to the lyrics of Bob Dylan when trying to make a point or eludicate his own feelings of isolation and frustration brought about by things in and beyond this life. Many times he said, "I wish I knew more words" , but perhaps all the words in the world, including the Sanskrit and mantras integral to his vocabulary could not fully express his depth of feeling and realisation.
As I have found with other songwriters, George didn't give much away when explaining his lyrics. Wasn't it enough that he laid his emotions and thoughts on the line for everyone to hear? I finally stopped asking George what his songs were about because his answers never seemed to satisfy my questions. "Liv, I just needed something to rhyme with love so I used glove"
We relate music and words to our own personal life experience, but some of George's songs are truly revealed only through a deeper realisation of meaning and by allowing the melody, the lyrics, intonation and phrasing to seep in to tell the story, unfiltered by our own interpretations. Last summer we were discussing his songwriting and he told me that whatever thought or theme inspired a lyric usually metamorphosed by the end of the song, sometimes before the pencil had even reached the paper, as in "Your Love Is Forever". He began that song writing about the days we were first immersed in our love affair with Hawaii and each other but the love in the opening verse soon turned to Divine Love. George wrote "My love belongs to who can see it" and his songs belong to those who can really hear them. George's lyrics often captivated us with one image and then led us to a loftier realm, transcending his inital inspiration.
Reading this book I could hear him singing each and every song and seeing the handwritten lyrics again, some on the stationary of the places we were staying at the time, vivified my recollection of those moments. I see my handwriting on the airmail envelope of "Learning How to Love you" I wrote the first line of lyrics down for him as he was working out the melody. Then he took the pen from my hand and wrote words that would later guide him back to the thoughts he wanted to express. Leon Russell once told me I should write down all the amusing things George said, and often, I did. Some of them ended up in songs and some were just plain endearing, such as "I like being master of nothing. It makes a change from all the smart arses" On other occasions it might be something someone else had said that would catch George's attention, like drummer Jim Keltner, who often told George he was a "soft touch" which inspired the song.
Whatever the inspiration, it was always a privilege being witness to the birth of a song. You could see the creative force of the muse at work. George would be playing guitar, ukulele or piano and suddenly become intently focused as if she had tapped him on the shoulder to warn him it was coming. His head would tilt as if listening to something only he could hear and his hand moved as if it was finding its way to the next chords, like a divining rod finding water. I would be quiet and try not to interfere with the process, although, on occasion I have heard myself on some tape blabbering in the background about what to cook for dinner. Oh, I could kick myself whrn listening to those tapes. George was so patient and concentrated. He just kept playing, whether dinner was happening or not.
We were in the British Virgin Islands in 1976 when George wrote Soft Touch. His short paragraph about writing that song describes the mood and what was going on around us, but for me there is so much more on that page, both in sentiment and notation -just tiny notes that he printed "Bridge (noch ein mal)" - German for "one more time". George used this phrase occasionally from the time that they (The Beatles) used to shout it from the the stage when they played in Hamburg.
I remember Eric Idle joined us on that holiday. One afternoon we were playing a song on a small cassette player when I answered a knock on our door. Television Producer Norman Lear introduced himself and told us that the music was too loud and was disturbing his wife who was trying to write. "The year was 1976, before the days of Laptops, so we'd been holidaying with the clacking of the typewriter next door and were hoping she was writing letters and not a book) This minor conflict briefly put a damper on things, since it wasn't as much fun knowing the people next door were grumbling about us. The next day Norman found out it was George Harrison playing the music and again knocked on our door, this time apologising and pleading for George to play as much music as he liked, not that he and Eric needed much encouragement, since they always travelled with acoustic guitars.
Listening to his recordings has also taken me through the agony of his absence even as the sound of his voice and slide guitar bring comfort. George's singing was always beguiling to me as countless times I was his audience of one. Run of the Mill was a song I often asked him to play, the lyrics so wise, especially the reminder that, "Tomorrow when you rise, another day for you to realize me" ("me" being God) -words that George not only wrote but lived. The songs have also conjoured up memories of those early days together - especially a song like "Your Love is Forever", which was written in Hana, Maui, in February 1978, where we were awaiting the birth of our son, Dhani.
George loved the tropics and was was happiest there. He was inspired and wrote several songs during those days - Dark Sweet Lady, Soft Hearted Hana and Here Comes the Moon, the lyrics of which are dated 25/2, his birthday. The local general store stocked guava jam, bamboo fishing poles and machetes, but was short of gifts for the man who has everything, so I bought George lots of pens and paper to encourage the writing and, as I read the lyrics from that period, i'm glad I did. We swam in black lava rock ponds with names like the Venus Pool and a tiny cottage on a bay became our luxury home for those days - the greatest luxury being the absence of a telephone and freedom from the usual demands on George's time. The locals bestowed upon us not only privacy and Aloha spirit, but also tropical flowers we had never seen before; shell, torch and kahali gigers mixed with fragrant plumeria leis. We couldn't wait to return and plant our own tropical garden. Over the years, Derek and Brian became guest gardeners, leaving a lush legacy of thier visits with us.
The many photos from that first holiday to Hawaii had disapeared for over twenty years. While I was writing this introduction , they were returned to me. Amoung them was one of the rising full moon, known in Hawaii as Mahina, that inspired George to write Here Comes the Moon. The last time George and I were there together was in February of 2001. The simultaneous sunset and moonrise in a glooming sky, the waves crashing over the rocks, the whales breeching in the sea, the reprise of rainbows and Haleakala Crater raising 10,000 feet in our backyard once again humbled us and turned our faces towards God. We picked gardenias and played Hawaiian music over morning coffee while sitting in the sun.. the sun, so loved by George, partially because he felt deprived of its warmth as a child growing up in England. But if it rained and the 150-foot waterfalls flowed, George was just as happy. "Sublime is the summertime warm and lazy. These are perfect days like heaven about here" he wrote in Your Love is Forever. Yes, they were perfect for me too, George - about as perfect as it can be in this physical world.
Memories of those nights together are a gift.. him playing acoustic guitar or ukulele under a big moon where there nights were warm and we cheated the English winter of the chance to chill our bones. In spite of the human tendancy to take one's mate for granted, even then I was well aware that these were precious moments. I was also blissfully ignorant of how short our days together were meant to be. Those memories will resound with love and reverence for the rest of my life and I don't mind saying on this occasion that they are 'Mine'