Hard to believe, but among the one hundred and six blog posts I’ve written to date, there’s nary a one devoted solely to either of two of my favorite musicians. So it’s time. Here’s one that touches on both of them; there will be more to come, both about them individually and about work they’ve done together.
Friends who know me well know the role that George Harrison has played in my musical–and inner–life, dating back to age 6 or 7 (I wrote about my introduction to the quiet Beatle here). My discovery of Clapton came a bit later; fandom blossomed when I was in my late 20’s and then approached groupie-level devotion in my mid-30’s, when I attended a stretch of concerts over a number of years at Madison Square Garden.
Theirs was quite a friendship; what’s always impressed me is the fact that it lasted despite everything that happened with Pattie Boyd. They continued to support each other artistically, performing together on concert tours, at one-off events like the Concert For Bangladesh (photo at very top of post), and in the studio. There’s a lovely moment at the very beginning of Martin Scorcese’s excellent documentary on Harrison, “Living In The Material World”: Clapton is asked what he would say to his friend (who died in November of 2001) if he were to enter the room at that moment. His response? “Fancy a cup of tea?” I just love that.
So while there are many collaborations to choose from–including an iconic cut from ‘The Beatles’ (aka ‘The White Album’)–what I’ve chosen to highlight here is a song from ‘Cloud Nine.’ Released in November of 1987, and co-produced with Jeff Lynne, the album was a return to top form for Harrison. The response from critics was uniformly positive, with many calling it his best solo work since ‘All Things Must Pass.’ In addition to Clapton and Lynne, Elton John, Ringo Starr and percussionist Ray Cooper lent their talents to what would be Harrison’s last studio album before he died.
The album’s big hit was the peppy ‘Got My Mind Set On You’, which is probably my least favorite song. I was immediately drawn to the second cut, ‘If That’s What It Takes’. At this point I’ll digress briefly to say that I remain eternally fascinated by the way a particular piece of music, no matter the form, can just….lasso you in…and make you want to hear it over and over. It’s a kind of surrender. A welcome kind. I realize that it’s probably, ultimately, impossible to convey what it is I feel to others. I can share a piece, direct one’s attention to that particular point in time at which the alchemy happens for me, but know that more often than not, I’ll fail at getting others to hear exactly what it is I hear. Everyone’s experience of music, of all art, is so personal. But I’ll keep trying.
What do I love about this song? The shimmer, twang and strum that open it, George’s vocal, his guitar line from 1:30 to 1:47 (I love that it’s so recognizably him). But it’s Clapton’s outro (and so recognizably him), beginning at 2:50, that’s the strongest tug on the lasso.
The word clone applies: Harrison’s legacy includes more than his music: Dhani Harrison is a dead ringer for his father.