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Nov 06

GEORGE HARRISON – “My Sweet Lord”

FT + Popular39 comments • 6,140 views

#296, 30th January 1971

 

At some point in the early 90s I was persuaded to go to a religious ‘discussion group’ set up by a liberal Anglican friend of my mother’s. These were frustrating affairs – mostly I remember being told repeatedly that doubts and questions were GOOD things that made people STRONGER on their JOURNEY into FAITH, even though it seemed that actually resolving any of these doubts was completely off the agenda. Meanwhile me and my friends were trying to get across the point that there is quite a large gap between ‘riddled with spiritual angst’ and ‘not believing any of it, where’s the free beer please?’. The experience let me evolve an adolescent critique of mainstream Anglicanism, one I’ve not really moved on from – a religion hooked on doubt and impotence.*

Turns out I’m a good Anglican after all, though, cos the bit of “My Sweet Lord” I like best is its searching, yearning, sad first minute or two, before the drums fully come in, before “Hallelujah” elides into “Hare Krishna”** and George starts to resolve his issues. The strummed opening takes us back to the dread we heard in “Woodstock”, though of course Harrison makes the spirituality explicit – the most important thing in the universe, and it’s slipping horribly away. Luckily, George has some really gorgeous, liquid guitar playing on his side to bolster his faith, and the song soon turns into an orange-clad knees-up. The power of that intro does dissipate into soft-rock prettiness, but then prettiness is always welcome.***

*Later on I would recognise the same kind of addictive defeatism in the indie music I loved. Reading back over my – simplistic – summary of my mother’s friend’s position, it looks more sympathetic than it did then, but I never got the feeling that they were making their doubts and questions work for them at all, more using them as a comforter, if that makes any sense.

**This is a pretty clunky move and I don’t think Harrison makes it work, but it’s still a good deal more subtle than, say, “Imagine” or “All You Need Is Love”.

***Especially when it’s the Chiffons.

{democracy:17}

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Comments

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  1. 26
    Waldo on 23 Feb 2007 #

    “I really want to see you, Lord?”

    Well, it didn’t “take so long” after all, did it George?

  2. 27
    orkney on 25 Sep 2007 #

    Took 30 years. If that isn’t a long time how old are you? lol And the writer of the Chiffons bubblegum song should be thanking his sweet Lord that he made money from this fabulous song.

  3. 28
    Erithian on 3 Jul 2009 #

    Nice little story in the Metro freesheet yesterday from Brian Cox, of D:Ream and Large Hadron Collider bizarre career path fame:

    Q: What was your defining moment as a pop star?
    A: I was once in a band called Dare. After a gig one night we were sat at a bar and our keyboard player saw this guy pushing in so he told him to f*** off. It was George Harrison. George said: ‘I haven’t been told to f*** off since 1965,’ and was so impressed he bought us all a drink.

  4. 29
    pink champale on 3 Jul 2009 #

    i can’t believe lennon never told him to f*** off

  5. 30
    punctum on 19 May 2010 #

    Extended thoughts on All Things Must Pass:

    http://nobilliards.blogspot.com/2010/05/george-harrison-all-things-must-pass.html

  6. 31
    Jimmy the Swede on 4 Oct 2011 #

    Of course Scorsese’s done a bio movie on George, the London premier attended by Macca and Ringo. I don’t suppose it will mention the game of poker Harrison claimed he had with God, though. George thought that the Creator was bluffing:

    The Almighty: “Come on George. It’s up to you. What are you gonna do?”
    Harrison: “I really want to see you, Lord.”

    Swede. Coat.

  7. 32
    Lena on 29 May 2012 #

    On your own bike: http://musicsoundsbetterwithtwo.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/built-for-two-mixtures-pushbike-song.html Thanks for reading, everyone!

  8. 33
    Lena on 31 May 2012 #

    A different religious experience: http://musicsoundsbetterwithtwo.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/just-you-wait-ashton-gardner-and-dyke.html Ta for reading, everyone!

  9. 34
    Lena on 4 Jun 2012 #

    Into the infinite: http://musicsoundsbetterwithtwo.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/oceanic-perry-como-its-impossible.html Thanks for reading, everyone!

  10. 35
    Jimmy the Swede on 12 Dec 2012 #

    A good a place as any, I think, to pay tribute to Ravi Shankar, not only a major influence to Harrison, Brian Jones and others, but a truly remarkable musician in his own right. RIP.

  11. 36
    thefatgit on 12 Dec 2012 #

    Seconded. RIP Ravi.

  12. 37
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 12 Dec 2012 #

    Nice remembrance of Ravi S by FT’s one-time science editor Geeta Dayal

  13. 38
    hectorthebat on 16 Jun 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010)
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Pause & Play (USA) – Songs Inducted into a Time Capsule, One Track at Each Week
    Rolling Stone (USA) – The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (2004) 454
    Rolling Stone (USA) – The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (Updated 2010) 460
    BBC (UK) – Pop on Trial, Top 50 Songs from the 1970s (2008)
    HarperCollins GEM (UK) – Single of the Year 1949-99 (1999)
    Rolling Stone (Germany) – The Best Singles of 5 Decades (1997)
    Gilles Verlant and Thomas Caussé (France) – 3000 Rock Classics (2009)
    Hervé Bourhis (France) – Le Petit Livre Rock: The Juke Box Singles 1950-2009
    Rolling Stone (France) – The 100 Best Singles of the Last 25 Years (1988) 50
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)
    Grammy Awards (USA) – Record of the Year Nominee

  14. 39
    AMZ1981 on 26 Aug 2016 #

    Okay, I’m seven years late in replying to Erithian in post 28 but I wasn’t a Popular contributor at the time.

    Brian Cox appears to have withheld a small but critical point in his anecdote – HE was the keyboard player in Dare and presumably the one who told George Harrison to f*** off!

    Incidentally Dare (still extant as a band) are the answer to a good music trivia question; what band connects Thin Lizzy to D:Ream (Dan Wharton who founded Dare was in a late incarnation of Thin Lizzy, Brian Cox of course played with D:Ream).

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