‘George Harrison – I Me Mine’, is a free pop up exhibition which exhibits in London on 16-18 June. It’s already done the rounds in LA where Ringo reputedly went to see it, and now its closer to home, giving us the chance to see photos, reproductions of his lyrics and snippets from his extended book.
There is a certain irony in the title of this exhibition. After all it was today’s special guest Olivia who in the book’s preface calls ‘I Me Mine’: “the cynical trinity of pronouns.” And while George spent a lot of his later years in a spiritual quest and a search for the truth via his music, this afternoon we find ourselves on the end of a sales pitch for an extended version of his 1980 book.
No matter, for Harrison’s enduring solo catalogue stands almost proudly in the post Beatles era. He was a songwriter who exuded hope, optimism and wonder. Who else but Harrison could have taken song like ‘My Sweet Lord’ to the top of the charts, without the merest hint of religious orthodoxy?
The original book was published in 1980 , but the interest in the extended version comes with previously unseen archive material spanning lyrics to 141 songs (58 more than any previous edition), with new text commentary and additional photographs.
David Randall has reviewed the extended book elsewhere on the web site, but suffice it to say that the exhibition nicely dips in and out of George’s running commentary on some of his songs.
For completists, this doesn’t include Beatles related material such as ’Something’, ‘Here Comes the Sun’, ‘Old Brown Shoe’, ‘For You’ etc, but does include a duplicate of his handwritten lyrics to ‘Taxman’ on Brian Epstein’s Nems headed notepaper.
His lesser know material includes an ode to Ringo called, ‘Hey Ringo’, while he tells us that ‘All Those Year Ago’ was also originally written for Ringo, but was rewritten and dedicated to John after he died.
He briefly mentions the court case of ‘My Sweet Lord’ when he was accused of allegedly plagiarising ‘He’s So Fine’, saying he could have altered a few chords had he realised the similarity, but more interestingly he notes that sounds are as important as words or the tune. Whether this viewpoint was in any way influenced by Phil Spector we’ll never know.
The one constant thread at the core of the exhibition is Harrison’s search for a truth. To this end, one of his quotes is framed and resonates as a template of his work: “When you realise that everything else that you see and do and touch and smell isn’t real, then you may know what reality is.”
Another framed snippet from the book tells us that the anthemic ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ is based on the tenets of the ‘I Ching’, which posits that everything is relative. And just when we nearly get sucked into Harrison’s exhortation to the Lord on ‘Give Me Peace On Earth’, it falls to the exhibition’s title to bring us back to earth with a smirk.
George tells us that ‘I Me Mine’ was all about ego, but it’s his belated withering remark about Allan Klein – who apparently thought it was an Italian song – that speaks volumes about Harrison’s own droll sense of humour.
For the rest, there’s some large framed portraits of George, classic early Beatles photos, a handful of related Harrison publications and table full of vinyl.
There is a bigger gallery upstairs that includes some pics taken by Ringo and Klaus Voorman in the States in 1964. There’s also a Yoko Ono shot of the ‘Give Peace A Chance’ campaign, alongside contemporary rock icons from the same era.
But the thing that you take away from this exhibition is that of a song writer who dug deep for subject matter. He didn’t so much explore lyrical depth as such, but he had the priceless ability to convey universal feelings and aspiration in a concise and heartfelt manner way.
And its that aspect of his work that continues to give his legacy durability up to the present day.
Review by Pete Feenstra
Photos c/o of the exhibition
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Pete Feenstra celebrated his 300th show in October 2019. Pete heads up a five-hour blues rock marathon when “Tuesday is Bluesday” from 19:00 GMT. Listen out also for his interview-based Feature show on Sundays (20:00 GMT)
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