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The band that never dies: Harrison discusses Beatle history

Sept. 20, 1996

By Zachary Hinkle

Lariat Assistant City Editor

Being greater as a whole than the sum of its parts is how third-Beatle, ex-Quarry Man, ex- Traveling Wilbury George Harrison described the existence of his most famous, the most famous, band.

He attributed greatness to all of his bandmates, but felt that the 'magic' came from all of them together.

'Some musicians can do things great,' Harrison said in 1976. 'But the way they do them, it doesn't have the magic.'

After so many years of overshadowing the world's music scenes, so much favorable recognition and the advancement into high-maintenance marriages of two members, the Beatles were strained beyond their means and were facing an inevitable breakup even before 'Let It Be' was recorded.

'I would come to a session , be taking my guitar out of the case and he'd (Paul McCartney) say, 'No, no, don't want any guitar yet, let's do that later',' Harrison said. 'Over a period of time, he really stifled my feelings, and I had to get out.'

But McCartney wasn't the only division. John Lennon and his new wife Yoko Ono were struggling to find their places inside the world of the Beatles, as was Linda McCartney. Harrison and Ringo Starr felt that the Beatles had always been a quartet and always should be.

'It's just that around 1968, everybody's egos started going crazy,' Harrison said in 1976.

But after the breakup, the four parts of what is still going strong each enjoyed success in solo careers in music and some in film and television. The McCartneys made a guest appearance on Fox's 'The Simpsons' in the early '90s advocating vegetarianism. Starr enjoyed a brief role as an imaginary train engineer on a PBS children's show before comedian George Carlin got the job and a 'starring' roll in the film.

'Caveman,' a stop-motion animated spoof of monster movies.

But Harrison has, even in the midst of lawsuits and libel tossing, enjoyed the most widespread success with over 200 solo songs, several number one hits, number one and gold albums and a few successful films produced under his own Handmade Films production company including 'Life of Brian,' 'Time Bandits,' 'Brazil' and Madonna and Sean Penn's only joint effort, 'Shanghai Surprise.'

Handmade Films went under in the '90s followed by legal battles, which Harrison won, but couldn't collect, over mismanagement by a Dennis O'Brien that would have left Harrison a virtual pauper had he not still be receiving a king's ransom in royalties.

During these years he released a few albums that were met with criticism accusing Harrison of going through the motions, eeking out song after song 'not of the caliber one might expect from a serious artist,' wrote one San Diego critic.

In 1987, Harrison mounted a successful comeback with the help of friend Jeff Lynne in the album 'Cloud 9' containing the number one hit 'Got My Mind Set On You,' a cover of a Ruby Clarke classic and the number 23 Ode to the Beatles 'When We Was Fab.' 'Cloud 9' entered the 8-track hall of fame in March of 1996, becoming distinctive because it was probably one of the last 8-tracks ever produced. Released through the Columbia House (the only company still producing 8-tracks) tape club in 1987, 'Cloud 9' was the last eight-track released by a solo Beatle and one of the last 8-track to reach the number one slot.

In 1988, some big names got together and came up with some false names to throw some dim-witted fans. This plot, however, didn't work and Harrison, recording under the name Nelson Wilbury, along with greats Roy Orbison, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan and producer Jeff Lynne, had himself another hit record with his own vocals laid down on the only single released. The Traveling Wilburys released, after Orbison's death, a second album, 'Traveling Wilburys Volume 3,' in 1990 that met with the same critical acclaim that 'Traveling Wilburys Volume 1' had, but had limited success.

Speculation that Harrison's heart wasn't 'in it' by some critics at the beginning phases on the 'Anthology' inception was only furthered by the fact that Harrison's financial situation had decayed and he stood to make upwards of $80 million.

Often described as the shyest Beatle, Harrison was usually not one to grab the spot light other than by quipping in with a usually witty and profound statement usually turned joke in interviews and on film.

Harrison once said that being a Beatle was a nightmare, surely in a poor state of emotion at the time. He has also said it was 'all part of a solid experience.'

But by the books, Harrison has laid claim to himself as an individual.

'The Beatles exist apart from my Self. I am not really Beatle George. Beatle George is like a suit or shirt that I once wore on occasion and until the end of my life people may see that shirt and mistake me for it.'

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