The following is the original article as written by Maureen Cleave - the third in a series of five - on How Does a Beatle Live? - exactly as published in the London Evening Standard on March 18, 1966. Part 3 - George Harrison:
* * * *
Page 8—EVENING STANDARD, FRIDAY, MARCH 18, 1966
with everything …
LIVES part 3
GEORGE HARRISON is 23, the youngest Beatle and the least well-known. He isn’t one of the two who sing and he isn’t Ringo; indeed some people like him best because they think (wrongly) that nobody else does. “Good old George,” is how he used to see himself, “good average old George, plodding along, a mere morsel.”
He is in fact a strong-willed and uncompromising character with a strict regard for what he considers to be the truth, and an even stricter regard for his own rights.
“I asked to be successful,” he said. “I never asked to be famous; I can tell you I got more famous than I wanted to be. I never intended to be the Big Cheese.” There then followed a typical piece of Harrison logic: “People keep saying, ‘We made you what you are,’ well, I made Mr. Hovis what he is and I don’t go round crawling over his gates and smashing up the wall round his house. I can’t understand some of them being so aggressively bad-mannered; I suppose they feel belittled wanting something from four scruffy louts like us.”
He is pretty independent; the others often think George is out on some kind of limb but, though they laugh at him, they often end up doing the same thing themselves. He was the first to move out of London, the first to become interested in Indian music. He does not watch television during all its waking hours and he thinks Rolls-Royces look dreadful. He likes to rise at 10:30 and has got hold of the revolutionary idea that Beatles should take exercise. “Just swimming,” he said hastily, “not exercise you’d notice. I want us all to be healthy and that, not going to clubs.
Any self-consciousness seems to have been drummed out of him in the early days in Liverpool when he would stand at the bus stop wearing his black leather suit, white cowboy boots and very pale pink flat hat. When the bus arrived, he would board it with guitar, amplifier and often tea chest bass. George likes to be himself and bitterly regrets having abandoned his early habit of eating and sleeping on the stage. “We should have stuck out for all that,” he said, “eating toast and chips and chickens. We only cut our hair and said all the yes-sir-no-sir three-bags-full-sir bit to get in.”
He lives in Esher with his young wife Pattie in a large white sunny bungalow surrounded by an old brick wall. ”Part of Queen Victoria’s country pad,” he said grandly, “and Clive of India had it for a bit. It’s a National Trust wall - you’re not allowed to chop it up or anything.” He added poetically that it glowed red in the setting sun.
He has a housekeeper called Margaret, a Ferrari, two Minis; 48, so far unread leather-bound volumes on natural history in French, a Sidney Nolan print that he loves, a conservatory; and a music room with tape recorders, a little juke box and walls covered in guitars.
In this this setting he was a curiously elegant figure in black velvet with his long thin legs, his cavernous cheeks and his wild head of hair. It was George who chose to be married in a coat of Mongolian lamb; and after the wedding they came home and burnt incense. He wears a watch that is the last word in watches: it is elliptical in shape and it came in white gold at vast expense from Cartier. The point of it to George is a sophisticated one: it looks a toy watch. “Or one of Salvador Dali’s soft watches,” he said, “flowing all over the place.”
His acquaintances are as decorative as himself; George and Pattie showing their young, long-haired, slender friends round the strange pink plants in the conservatory is a happy sight of what would be period charm if it were not for the trouser suits.
"I want to get the house so that every little bit is pleasing," he said enthusiastically. "This" - he patted the modern dining room table, "this was me two years ago. It’ll have to go. The natural thing when you get money is that you acquire taste. I’ve got a lot of my taste off Pattie. You get taste in food as well; instead of eggs and beans and steak you branch out into the avocado scene. I never dreamt I would like avocado pears. I thought it was like eating bits of wax - fake pears out of a bowl - when I saw people shoving it down." Now he shoves it down like the rest.
He is hospitable, charming and good company. It is his enthusiasm that is so engaging - you can see why they all like George. He is proud of his house, proud of his wife. Pattie (Boyd as she used to be) is 22. She is a successful model and runs her house most capably. She is quiet, dainty, pretty and an excellent cook. “Tuck in,” George said, in front of one of Pattie’s dinners.There seems to be an inexhaustible supply of pretty Boyd girls; her sister Jenny is a model and her younger sister Paula is the girl too much in love to eat her Shredded Wheat.
George met Pattie two years ago making a film. This is her background, according to him. She was born in Taunton, went to East Africa to live and came back. “I married her,” he said, “because I loved her and because I was fed up not being married. 22 is the normal age for people to get married. That’s when a petrol pump attendant gets married though he hasn’t got all these people looking at him.
"The great thing about getting married, you see, is that everything’s different. Before I used to think - there’s Pattie cooking my dinner in my pots and pans. Now, they’re her pots and pans and this house is a home.
"We’re a match for each other," he went on. "People should know everything about each other before they get married; I’d like you to put that in my article. Not almost everything, but really everything. You must spill it out and get it off your chest like going to the psychiatrist. That’s the great thing about a wife, you see. She’s your best friend."
The other romantic passion in George’s life is music. He says it is his religion and he worries a lot about it. He wishes he could write fine songs as Lennon and McCartney do, but he has difficulty with the words. “Pattie keeps asking me to write more beautiful words,” he said. His own voice came over on the tape with a new composition: “Love me while you can; before I’m a dead old man.” George was aware that these words were not beautiful.
He has been given Roget’s Thesaurus to help. “I wanted another word for ‘thick’,” he said. (By thick he means stupid). He looked it up and was thrilled with the list of synonyms. You have heard the one he used on the LP: “Although your mind’s opaque; try thinking more if just for your own sake.”
He plays the guitar for hours, taking it up like a piece of knitting. Out comes Bach. Hello Dolly, anything. “Was that the Trumpet Voluntary?” he asked suspiciously, his memory stirred. It had been.
A seat on
WHEN it isn’t the guitar, it’s the sitar. For George this instrument of Indian classical music has given new meaning to life. He went to hear Ravi Shankar play it at the Festival Hall. “I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “It was just like everything you have ever thought of as great all coming out at once.”
He went to Indiacraft and bought some sitars, several sitars. He sat on carpets and twisted his legs round like Ravi did in the picture; his legs went to sleep and when he stood up he fell over. “I wish I could sit on the floor like Ravi,” he said earnestly.
The instrument is complicated and George’s enthusiasm - while it does not increase understanding - is infectious. He insists you count with him the 16 beats in certain passages; he twists his mouth about to sing with the old Indian lady of 70 on the record. He has considered going to India for six years to play it properly, but thinks he would miss his friends. “Just before I went to sleep one night, I thought what it would be like to be inside Ravi’s sitar.”
But there is a practical side to George, a side that admits no mysteries, no contradictions in life. He is firm where he believes himself to be right - which is most of the time. Take the war in Vietnam.
“I think about it every day,” he said. “and it’s wrong. Anything to do with war is wrong. They’re all wrapped up in their Nelsons and their Churchills and their Montys - always talking about war heroes. Look at All Our Yesterdays. How we killed a few more Huns here or there. Makes me sick. They’re the sort who are leaning on the walking sticks and telling us a few years in the Army would do us good.”
HIS views are disconcertingly simple. He thinks that his, George’s personal taxes are going directly to pay for F111’s. He sees Mr. Wilson, the Prime Minister of England, as the Sheriff of Nottingham, “Taking all the money,” he said, “and then moaning about deficits here, deficits there — always moaning about deficits.”
In fact, he approves of nobody in authority, religious or secular. These people are called Big Cheeses or King Henrys. They should practice what they preach, and, according to George, they do not. "Take teachers," he said. "In every class when I was at school there was always a little kid who was scruffy and smelly; and the punishment was always to sit next to the smelly kid. Fancy a teacher doing that."
"And to go on to religion," George said (he was born into the Catholic faith). "I think religion falls flat on its face. All this love thy neighbour, but none of them are doing it. How can anybody get themselves into the position of being Pope and accept all the glory and the money and the Mercedes-Benz and that? I could never be Pope until I’d sold my rich gates and my posh hat. I couldn’t sit there with all that money on me and believe I was religious.
And he was furious when the Lord Soper-Ludovic Kennedy discussion finished on television: he had been following it closely.
"That’s something I want you to get down in my article," he said. "Why can’t we bring all this out in the open? Why is there all this stuff about blasphemy? If Christianity’s as good as they say it is, it should stand up to a bit of discussion.”
Babies — and
the evils of
HE takes a Wordsworthian view of the evils of urban society and the influences of mass media. “Babies when they are born,” George said, “are pure. Gradually they get more impure with all the rubbish being pumped into them by society and television and that; till gradually they’re dying off, full of everything.”
It was a distressing thought. The guitar showed signs of lapsing into the Trumpet Voluntary once more, and George, who had concerned himself with this interview so far, grew anxious about the ending.
“I don’t want my article to end up sad,” he said. “Me in nowhere land making all my nothing plans for nobody. I don’t want the angry young man against the world sort of ending. I tell you what I think: the main thing is to have a good time and do the best you can.
"OK — we’re the famous Beatles. So what? There are other things apart from being famous Beatles. It’s not the living end, is it?
On the other hand, I feel I’ve seen twice as much of life as most people do when they peg out. I’m very pleased that I’m me. Because after all, I could have been somebody else, couldn’t I?”
Article Copyright © 1966 London Evening Standard
(Note: The versions of this interview rewritten by Maureen Cleave for publication in American teen magazines contained a few additions about George and Pattie*, plus other small changes - even in the wording of some of George’s quotes. To see the other version of this article click on or search the"Maureen Cleave" tag in this blog.)
*This interview was published the day after Pattie’s 22nd birthday!
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