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The top five music videos by George Harrison
With the tenth anniversary of his passing and a new documentary film directed by Martin Scorsese about him, George Harrison has been the subject of many magazine and newspaper articles in the last several weeks.
But, the Scorsese documentary seemed to ignore much of Harrison’s recordings released from approximately 1971 to 1988. During those years, The Quiet Beatle’s humor and wit shined through in his music videos. Here’s a short list, in no particular order, of his top five solo music promo films. None of these videos appear in Scorsese’s “George Harrison: Living in the Material World” movie.
1) This Song-1976-In early 1976, Harrison lost a court case in which he was found guilty of subconsciously copying the melody of the 1963 Chiffons song “He’s So Fine” for his first solo hit, “My Sweet Lord”. “This Song” was Harrison’s musical response to the lawsuit. The “This Song” music video was filmed in a Los Angeles courtroom, and what a swinging courtroom this one is. Famed session drummer Jim Keltner plays the judge. The female court reporter pretends to play Billy Preston’s keyboard parts of the song on her stenography machine. Rolling Stone Ron Wood makes a cameo in drag as one of the jurors. Jazz saxophonist Tom Scott plays a solo from the jury box. Even the bailiff dances in place, holding a bass guitar. “The People’s Court” or “Judge Judy” was never like this!
2) Blow Away-1979-The video is so low tech compared to today’s clips, that it’s charming in its own way. In the video, Harrison appears in front of superimposed images of clouds, a giant orange toy chick, and a white duck. He even plays the guitar at the end of the clip sitting on top of a large, toy bobble headed French Bulldog. During the song’s choruses, Harrison strums his acoustic guitar in front of a plain white background, similar to Elvis Costello’s 1978 music videos, "Pump It Up” and “(I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea”. The “Blow Away” promo isn’t available on the 2004 DVD compilation of George Harrison videos, “The Dark Horse Years”.
3) All Those Years Ago- 1981-Harrison’s tribute to his slain former bandmate John Lennon featured clips of The Beatles in “Help!”, “A Hard Day’s Night”, “Magical Mystery Tour”, the “Hello Goodbye” video, a 1966 Tokyo concert, Lennon’s “Instant Karma” and “Stand By Me promos”, and more. Also in the video are several still photos of Harrison and Lennon together. The song itself included Ringo Starr on drums, and Paul and Linda McCartney and Denny Laine on backing vocals, as well as Al Kooper on keyboards. Also not featured on the Harrison DVD compilation, “The Dark Horse Years”.
4) Got My Mind Set on You-1987-This tune became Harrison’s first solo U.S. number one hit in 15 years, with the previous one being “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)”. “Got My Mind Set on You” is not a complicated video, with Harrison relaxing and playing his guitar in what’s made up to look like the den of a house. As he sings, a grandfather clock sways back and forth, a stuffed deer and warthog’s head move their mouths, a caged parrot bobs to the music, and a stuffed squirrel plays a pipe during the song’s sax solo. At 1:58 of the video comes Harrison’s stunt double doing a back flip and dancing around the den. What’s funny is that the film’s director Gary Weis makes it pretty obvious the guy doing all these moves isn't Harrison. This video brought George Harrison a new audience, the 80’s MTV generation.
5) When We Was Fab-1988-The heavily Beatle-sque track from Harrison’s hit album “Cloud Nine”, featured lyrics that name dropped such songs as “Strangers in the Night”, “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue”, and “You've Really Got a Hold on Me”. This video is perfect for using the freeze frame mode on your DVD or Blu-ray player’s remote, as little interesting things occur as Harrison lip syncs the song. ELO leader and “Cloud Nine” co-producer Jeff Lynne and percussionist Ray Cooper both play an ultra long size violin at the same time from opposite sides. Ringo Starr carries both ends of an ultra long synthesizer. A young man walks across the screen holding a copy of John Lennon’s “Imagine” album. A casually dressed Elton John strolls by. Harrison briefly wears a Sgt. Pepper outfit. And, someone in a “Magical Mystery Tour” walrus disguise plays the bass alongside Harrison on guitar and Starr on drums. Some speculated Paul McCartney was inside the walrus suit. He wasn't.
While not a music video, also check out Harrison’s appearance on Eric Idle’s 1975 “Rutland Weekend Television” Christmas special. What at first seems to be a performance of “My Sweet Lord” ends up being a song that could make Jack Sparrow proud.