Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Day Twenty-Six - Victora Station, SW1

After the last couple of entries, I felt the need for a picture with a few people in it. This is the scene at half past five as I catch the train home from Victoria. It's often busier, but they've already announced my train so there's not so many people hanging about as there can be. I've had an idea for another picture in this series, but that'll have to wait for another day - one at a time.

I think it was Noel Coward who said that it was "extraordinary how potent cheap music is" On the journey to work this morning I found out how true that statement was. Not that George Harrison's "All Things Must Pass" is particularly "cheap" - the recreational drugs bill of the musicians involved must have hit six figures for a start, and it was originally a triple album so not inexpensive for the punter to purchase either - but it's not the place I'd expect to get such an intensely emotional experience as I did.

"ATMP" was Harrison's first solo record after the Beatles' demise and while Paul sang about sheep on his farm with Linda and John indulged in primal scream therapy with Janov and Yoko, George was seen as the keeper of the flame, the one true hope that out of the mess of Apple and ABKCO there could still come great music. Most people will know "My Sweet Lord", the Krishna-celebrating number 1 single that trailed the album (and Harrison was later found to have unconsciously plagiarised from The Chiffons' "He's So Fine"), but that's just a slight morsel compared to the rest of the album.

Everything about this record is big. Really big. Three drummers, massed ranks of guitars, keyboards, horns and strings. Chord progressions of a blinding but beautiful simplicity. And who better to deal with the massed ranks of musicians (not forgetting the George O'Hara Smith Singers, or Mal Evans on tea, sympathy and tambourine) than the erstwhile Tycoon of Teen, the architect of the Wall of Sound, Mr Phil Spector?

Not every song on the record is a classic - I could do without "I Dig Love", for a start, and there's no real need for two versions of "Isn't It A Pity" - but George's reservoir of songs, dammed by Lennon/McCartney's historical dominance, flooded out over what were originally four sides of vinyl (let us not speak further of the "Apple Jam" LP that also appeared in the box) and rarely disappoint. For example, "Wah Wah", Harrison's dig at the whole Beatles experience, floods the listener with an almost joyous rejection of the past. "Let It Down"'s monster drum sound and cavernous, apocalyptic mixture of orchestra and Hammond organ (played by all, some or none of Bobby Whitlock, Billy Preston and Gary (Procol Harum) Brooker - you decide) is exhilarating.

But the epiphanal moment was "What Is Life". Listening loud on the way in this morning, looking out of the window unable to read or concentrate on anything but the deluge of music that was coming over me, suddenly I was experiencing a vision of being inside the music. Badfinger strumming till they bleed in the opposite bank of seats, Billy Preston on the luggage rack, cigarette drooping from his lips as he played the organ, Clapton strung out on the floor, attempting to find a solo that can cut through the wall of sound that Phil Spector, sat next to me, is orchestrating with unrestrained glee. Ringo and Jim Gordon behind me thumping out the rhythm, Klaus Voorman nodding his way through the bassline. Massed horns outside the windows, playing an almost flamenco refrain.

And Harrison, within me and without me, singing

"What I feel I can't say
But my love is there for you anytime of day
But if it's not love that you need
Then I'll try my best to make everything succeed

And tell me
What is life without your love?
And tell me
Who am I without you by my side?"

It looks a bit trite written down, and he was probably singing about Vishnu anyway, but in that moment of revelation he was also talking for me, and the realisation of the strength of my feelings toward my own beloved almost overwhelmed me. It was all I could do to keep from crying.

AM and PM - George Harrison All Things Must Pass


Martin said...

Ah, Victoria Station, concourse of broken dreams! Nice to meet you on friday, it was a great night. David came down to Anerley on saturday to see the new place. Really like the blog, I'll add a link on mine.

All the best,


Alastair said...

Hi Martin! Yes, certainly was a good night. I look forward to reading your stuff too.

Richard Pinnell said...

Did you write this post on the way back from the pub by any chance? ;)

Very nice though.

Alastair said...

Thanks, but I'm quite capable of writing this drivel sober too.