Friday, October 23, 2009

This Post is Just Six Words Long

By all accounts, George Harrison was done by the mid-80s.

It must be hell to be a great songwriter in a band with two of the best songwriters in history. No matter what, you have to fight to get your one or two songs per record. And after years and years, you finally get the A-side of a single, but most people dismiss you and your spirituality and obsession with Indian music.

After nearly ten years of this, George Harrison had accumulated a huge backlog of songs that never made it onto Beatle albums. So when the Beatles broke up, Harrison decided to put them all out, releasing the triple-record masterpiece All Things Must Pass. And for the next few years, Harrison's albums were enjoyable and each had one or two great songs. But by the early 80s (and the horrible Gone Troppo), Harrison was considered done, washed-up, and ready for the golden-oldies tours of State Fairs. (And he seemed to have moved on as well, establishing Handmade Films to fund Monty Python's Life of Brian, then parlaying that movies success into a string of profitable small movies including The Missionary, Mona Lisa, Withnail and I, and a handful of Python-related movies.

No one expected Cloud Nine, a strong Jeff Lynne-produced album with songs about right-wing religious radio, John Lennon, and a cheery remake of the old gospel song "Got My Mind Set on You."

And no one expected George, the "quiet one," to be so cheerful and funny. He even smiled. Plus, because MTV still played videos back then, Harrison made not one, but two videos for "Got My Mind Set on You." The first one, a pedestrian video featuring teenagers flirting in an arcade (with Harrison playing with a band in what looked like the cog-filled inside of a watch), wasn't bad (but was very safe and traditional).

But the second one was the amazing one. The one where the clock, swords, book, and every other inaminate object and small animals dance along. The one with the stunt double doing the back flip and dancing like the hell-spawn of Mick Jagger and Michael Jackson.

Best of all, Harrison is in great vocal form here. The single went to number one in January 1988 (when it still meant something to have a number one single). And if it didn't usher in a new era of musical world domination, it freed Harrison to have more fun, led directly to the Traveling Wilbury's, and provided Weird Al Yankovic with what may be his most insightful relyric ever.

It also was one of the first four albums I ever owned on CD.

(Word count approximate.)


Who Am Us Anyway? said...

Just terrific! I've always loved the song but seriously never saw the video before.

Not every day you get to see george with a tele!

And on a more wistful note, whenever I think of George's later post-Beatles work, i always eventually get to thinking of the wonderful times he spent on the road with Otis, Lefty & Lucky Wilbury ...

Alex said...

There was a great Wilbury doc that came out with the rereleases a few years back... just wonderful stuff.

It looks like it's online (in several parts) -- although the sound doesn't sound great -- here:

Alex said...

As my friend Paul just pointed out on Facebook, "This Post is Just Six Words Long" is actually seven words. So Weird Al gets the delayed laugh -- 21 years later! :)

Mister Pleasant said...

I never knew there were two videos. The second (and better) video is the one I remember. Glad that George will likely be the winner of the last #1 single by an ex-Beatle.

You make an excellent point about George's songwriting. He was definitely on a roll between 1968 and 1971. So many fine songs written around the time of the White Album that sadly just sat around unheard for years.

When We Was Fab - the second single from Cloud Nine - may be my favorite George solo song. In fact I get a little teary-eyed every time I hear it.

Alex said...

I love "When We Was Fab," too, Mr. P. (And it also had a cool video, directed by Godley & Creme: that featured Ringo, Jeff Lynne, Elton John, and Neil Aspinall; Paul McCartney was "unavailable")

I read in a number of places that George and John Lennon had a falling out in the late 70s (John was pissed that George barely mentioned him in his autobiography) and George regretted that he never repaired their relationship before John died).

Connie said...

It's been said that you can tell a lot about a person based on who their favorite Beatle was. George was mine.


Who Am Us Anyway? said...

"This Post is Just Six Words Long" is actually seven words. -- Ah! That's great! :-)