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The Beatles :: The Fab Four

George Harrison of the Beatles

The above image is from

George Harrison passed away on Thursday. It was November 29, 2001, but the date itself really doesn't matter. What matters is that all of us who listened to George Harrison's music, with the Beatles and in his later careers, have now passed another mile-marker on the uncertain road of life.

My memory of the Beatles goes back to 1972. The Red Album and the Blue Album came out at the beginning of the next year, which is when I really started listening to them. It was always either at Marc Cornier's house or at Richard Fiedotin's house. Both had older sisters who must have bought the albums. It was always the background music to whatever we were doing: playing with toy soldiers, playing games or doing whatever else it is that six year olds do.

Richard gave me my first Beatle's album when I was 11. Of course, it was Meet the Beatles. And what a great album to have. Even now I frequently rank those short 22 minutes of music as my favorite album. Why? It starts off with "I Want to Hold Your Hand", still one of the most exhuberant, upbeat and infectious songs of all time. While I no longer have it, my cousin Nil has it on his bedroom wall in Bombay. And I have commissioned earlier this month my little brother Shomit to recreate it for me on a CD since it is no available on CD.

The highlights of George Harrison's impact on popular culture include movies like "Water", "The Life of Brian", "Time Bandits", the gala concert for Bangladesh in August of 1971, the sitar on Norwegian Wood, and arguably so much of bringing Eastern philosophy in contact with the West. The Beatles collectively contributed so much to music and gave the world so many firsts in their continuous push against the envelope of creativity.

Since I started my own music collection, I would estimate that no less than half of all of the time that I have listened to it has been music by the Beatles together or as solo artists. And if I add in the related music, such as ELO, Queen, Julian Lennon, Jeff Lynne, the Traveling Wilburies, Tom Petty, the Rutles, etc., then it adds up to another 25% or so. We watch movies perhaps an average of one hour a day, drive perhaps one hour a day, but music seems to be present all the time! We listen to it in our cars, watch it on TV, hum or whistle our favorite songs to ourselves all day.

A quick run through of highlights in loose chronological order:

Meet the Beatles, Ed Sullivan, I Want to Hold Your Hand, Love Me Do, Day Tripper, the sitar, Yellow Submarine, Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields, Sergeant Pepper's, All You Need Is Love, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Let it Be, Here Comes the Sun. The list goes on and on, but this is a good, albeit, quick, representation.

My favorite George songs:

  • Here Comes the Sun
  • While My Guitar Gently Weeps
  • All Things Must Pass
  • Handle with Care
  • Let it Roll
  • Photograph (for Ringo, who sang it and made it a number 1)
  • Bangladesh
  • Living in the Material World
  • All those Years Ago
  • When We Was Fab
  • Don't Bother Me
  • Taxman
  • I am certainly missing some, but this is the list right now off of the top of my list.

    So George Harrison will be missed greatly by all those of us who have listened to his music, and the music of his peers, for so long and so often. Thanks for everything! It was a great ride.

    The Beatles :: Trivia in Honor of George Harrison's Untimely Death

    All questions are regarding the U.S. market sales, unless specified otherwise.

    1. Who was the youngest of The Beatles?
    2. How old was he when the Beatles broke up?
    3. Which was the first Beatles album with lyrics on the album jacket or sleeve?
    4. Which was the first concept album in pop music history?
    5. How many singles were released off of The Beatles Sgt. Pepper's?
    6. What is the biggest selling Beatles single?
    7. What is the most top ten hits the Beatles ever had at once?
    8. What is the most top 100 hits the Beatles ever had at once?
    9. What was the best-selling song the Beatles sang that they didn't write?
    10. In 1964, the Beatles had 6 #1 singles, 2 #1 albums, about 20 top 100 hits, one movie, one book, a greatest hits album, had the largest TV viewing audience of all time, etc. How many Grammy's did they win?
    11. What is the last song in the Beatles song catalog that was released while the group was still officially together?
    12. The Beatles were the first group to play in a stadium. Which was it?
    13. How did the Beatles register to play at Carnegie Hall, a bastion of classical music?
    14. Who played lead guitar on George Harrison's masterpiece, "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"?
    15. Who were the Beatles named after?
    16. How many number one albums have the Beatles had since 1990, 20 years after they broke up?
    17. The Beatles were ranked "Best New Group" in 1984. Why?
    18. How many number one songs were off of Sgt. Pepper's and who sang lead?
    19. What was the last song that John Lennon sang in concert? Who was the song by?
    20. How many of the Beatles had American wives?

    Answers to appear here soon...

    The Beatles :: Favorite Albums

    Here are some of my favorite albums of The Beatles and other artists, not including Greatest Hits albums and not including other music I listen to such as Classical Music:

  • The Beatles>Meet the Beatles, Revolver, Rubber Soul, Abbey Road, and all the others
  • John Lennon>Imagine, Double Fantasy, Plastic Ono Band
  • Paul McCartney>Band on the Run, Tug of War, Venus and Mars
  • George Harrison>All Things Must Pass, Cloud 9, Traveling Wilburys vol. 1 and 3
  • Ringo Starr>Ringo
  • Dire Straits>Brothers in Arms, On Every Street
  • Tom Petty>Full Moon Fever
  • Orbison>Mystery Girl
  • ELO/J. Lynne>Armchair Theater, Time
  • Queen>A Night at the Opera, Innuendo
  • Tina Turner>Private Dancer
  • Sting/Police>10 Summoner's Tales, Synchronicity
  • Rolling Stones>Some Girls
  • Rutles>A Hard Day's Rut
  • Pink Floyd>The Wall, Dark Side of the Moon, Momentary Lapse of Reason
  • Blondie>Parallel Lines
  • Paul Simon>Graceland
  • No great surprises. I see that I have a pretty flat representation here...

    The Beatles :: Weren't Other Artists Responsible for Their Sound?

    Elvis, Buddy Holly, Carl Perkins, Chuck Berry, Little Richard and other artists combined took pop to where it was when The Beatles hit the scene. And that was a pretty sweet, syrupy sound complimented by the high-harmonies of the Beach Boys (Les Garcons de la Plage) and offset by a bit of angst from the Supremes.

    The sound wasn't that different from Bill Haley 7 years earlier. But when The Beatles came, everything changed.

    It's probably a bit of a stretch, but The Beatles may have been the largest catalyst, for better or worse, of the 60s. Then again, maybe it was Vietnam.

    I do listen to Buddy Holly, BTW. In fact, I just missed going to his high school when I lived in Lubbock. I was very disappointed that I wasn't going to live in that district. The Beatles named themselves largely after Buddy Holly's Crickets. :)

    The Beatles :: More Thoughts

    Let's face it... 100 years from now, or even later, while the Spice Girls have long faded into obscurity or broken up (what, it's already happened after one big hit?), I envision that Lennon, or in particular the Beatles, will have joined the annals of classical music along with Bach, Beethoven, Haydn, et al. My only difference with the poll is that I would have included the Beatles as a collective entity. Though Lennon is generally my favorite, I don't feel like he would have made it big without the other three.

    As one of the Beatles, the group was responsible for so many firsts and also pushing the envelope, including:

  • lyric sheets
  • double album
  • concept album
  • backward recordings
  • feedback recordings
  • string instruments in pop music
  • Eastern instruments in pop music
  • stadium concerts
  • classical music hall concerts
  • colorful album covers
  • sophisticated recordings
  • 100% original (self-written) albums
  • one guitar solo hits
  • continuous musical reinvention only approached by, perhaps, Prince
  • But they have an outstanding social dimension that I really appreciate. They also did things that really took some going out on a limb and risking everything, like:

  • refusing to play to segregated audiences
  • facilitating movements of Eastern philosophical concepts to the West
  • protesting the Vietnam War
  • refusing to meet with Imelda Marcos
  • But what really stands out in my mind is that I ardently believe that they made the best pop music ever. Consider:

  • That other "world's greatest rock and roll band", The Rolling Stones, with a career that spans 38 years have managed to equal exactly half of the number one songs the Beatles had in one fifth as long (seven years).
  • Not only did they bring in new musical elements into pop music, but they did it incredibly well. The all-string Eleanor Rigby still hasn't been bested, in my mind. Ditto with songs like Norwegian Wood.
  • 20 number one hits in all, more than Elvis, the Stones, the Supremes, the Beach Boys.
  • They have managed to be nominated "Best New Group" in three different decades.
  • They have hit number one in four different decades.
  • They still (I believe) have the lock on total album sales
  • Etc.
  • NOTE: As of November, 2002, a new George Harrison album named "Brainwashed" is due. So is Paul McCartney's "Back in the US".

    Narayan Sengupta

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