If Not For You, George Harrison…

Yesterday, November 29th, marked 16 years since George Harrison died.
It’s hard to come up with something original to say about him or John, Paul, or Ringo for that matter, but I’ve never really written in depth about what he means to me and this seems as fitting a time as any.

First, let’s get it out of the way, I totally cheated with the title of this. If Not For You is in fact a Bob Dylan song, I know. BUT…I like George’s version better and it fits. 😉

The Quiet One

The early days of Beatlemania brought those kitschy nicknames we all know: John the smart one, Paul the cute one, Ringo the funny one, and of course George the quiet one…and in a way he was…but in a way, he certainly was not.

There was a rigid economy that marked his words and music. Like a successful athlete, there was no wasted motion. Everything he said or played meant something. I’ve always admired that, particularly given my struggle with saying too much, often at the worst possible time.

Don’t Bother Me

George always stood apart from the rest. He had a demeanor, evident even from those early press conferences and performances, that displayed a certain seriousness, the pensive stare of someone surveying the crowd, not quite interested in being there but not wanting to leave either.

He resisted giving all of himself to all of us in a way that may not have been true of his brothers-in-arms but when he did allow us in, it was glorious.

He seemed to simultaneously loathe and relish the attention, the wealth, his craft, and, at times, even himself. As someone often complimented for being “charismatic” or “funny” or whatever else but also one who receives just as much derision for my apparent bitterness and anti-social tendencies, I always found George’s music and personality to be familiar… comforting even. I’m not the only one who struggles with balancing my seemingly diametrically opposed needs for isolation and attention, my cynicism and empathy…all of which always seems to be an anathema for so many around me. There are many here among us who understand what I mean.

A little dark and out key

From the beginning, George’s songs and even their titles stuck out. Take a glance at the tracking listing for With the Beatles. “All I’ve Got to Do” leads into “All My Loving” and then to “Don’t Bother Me” and then to “Little Child”. Have a guess at which George wrote. Go on…have a guess.

While the boys were writing some of the great pop love songs of all time, George chipped in with “If I Needed Someone.” IF?!

“Something” and “Here Comes the Sun” are rightly among the most cherished songs in the Beatles canon but “If  I Needed Someone” has always been more significant to me…perhaps because I’ve been on the other side of the conversation depicted in the lyrics:

Had you come some other day
Then it might not have been like this
But you see now I’m too much in love
Carve your number on my wall

And maybe you will get a call from me
If I needed someone

I suppose too, I’ve been on both sides.

The wry and even biting wit found in “Taxman” or “Piggies” was written by the same man who created “Savoy Truffle”. Inspired by his friend Eric Clapton, it is both a clever ode and a sinister warning about Clapton’s lust for candy.

The lilting sparsity found in “Long Long Long” is a sibling to both the epic “All Too Much” and the massive and lush “Photograph” penned for Ringo’s 1973 album, Ringo.

Without the band his music further expanded and explored the seemingly endless battle between his biting disdain and the sublime meditations which defined so much of his life.

“Beware of Darkness”, “Let it Down”, “Don’t Let Me Wait Too Long”, “Beautiful Girl”, “All Things Must Pass” and so many others explore the spaces between love and love lost, hope and surrender, angst and joy, isolation and wanting.

So too was his playing. Go back and listen to “Long Tall Sally” again. His two solos shatter through the speakers, explode off the acetate. This is George Unleashed.

George’s later work, marked by the fuzz box and slightly off-kilter rhythms and melodies found throughout Revolver, helped define an era and has inspired every guitarist from Jimi Hendrix to Matthew Sweet. It is THE Fuzz Tone. All others bend their knee in reverence.

A favorite moment of mine, and one that further displays just how much rage George could conjure is found on John’s 1971 song “Gimme Some Truth.” By then George had embraced what would be one of his many musical signatures: the guitar slide.

From a scream to a moan, to a fading tender tear, to a joyous prayer, his slide and his finger-picked legato phrasing have inspired and confounded me my entire life. Two of my favorites may surprise you given the depth of his work but I love the solos he contributed to the Anthology songs “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love”. As vibrant and soulful as any he played, for me at least, they “make” the songs.

Anyway, I can go on for days about this. About 18 years ago I wrote in a journal that I didn’t want to live in a world without George Harrison. Unfortunately he died shortly after…but he hasn’t really gone away has he? Not really.

Dhani, George’s son, an incredible musician in his own right, has done a masterful job of protecting and expanding George’s legacy and for that I am certainly grateful. He has worked tirelessly on remastering and preserving his father’s music and instruments, and organized George Fest back in 2014. The concert is available for purchase and clips abound on YouTube.

My want is that you all take a moment to dig through his songs a bit more than perhaps you have in the past. There’s so much more to his contributions than “Something” and “Here Comes the Son” or “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”….and those are monumental testaments. They are truly among the greatest songs ever written.

But do yourself a favor. Go a little deeper even than “All Things Must Pass” (a personal favorite) and look at tunes like “Never Get Over You” from his 2002 posthumous album, Brainwashed. Check out the oft-overlooked “Apple Scruffs” from his incredible All Things Must Pass. (And check out my friend David’s fantastic Beatles band by the same name)

My true want is that we forever and profoundly carry George Harrison in our hearts. I think doing so makes us better.

Until Next Time,

Be Well and Kind,

Jason

 

 

Hello….how are you? Have you been alright?

 

Wow…what a few months.

If it seems like I’ve been away or like things have been quiet it’s because things have been more than a little busy…tumultuous even.

Quick rundown: I had a brief health scare that turned out to be nothing I can’t manage, nothing tooo serious. I quit smoking, and I hurt my back (again).

I’ve been drowning in school work, but the end is in sight to the point that I was able to take part in commencement. I even got to visit New Hampshire to visit the university campus. It was awesome!

 

 

I have to say, the Irish pub there in Manchester, NH poured me the most beautiful pint of Guinness I’ve ever had!

 

 

 

 

My home continues to be a hive of activity with Young Master Oliver evolving from a tiny baby to a not-so-tiny kid.

He’s stretching out, his weight redistributed and what was once a chubby adorable baby is now a lean, incredibly active little boy who lights up my tired, broken soul even when I think I’m about to drop.

How about them Astros?! My son and I greatly enjoy each evening as we cuddle up for bed and watch what might be my favorite incarnation of my beloved Astros. We even managed to go to a game with my dad a couple weeks back and we’ll be going again in June and July!

As far as music goes well…me personally I’ve not had a ton of time to write or record, save for a demo I posted to SoundCloud a couple weeks back. It’s called “Drink to Forget” and you can check it out here: https://soundcloud.com/jason-r-becerra.

I still hope to do proper recordings and work with some of my friends within the Houston music community with final mixing/mastering to release my first EP hopefully by year’s end but if there’s something I’ve learned over the course of this year it’s that I have to be careful about placing deadlines on myself.

With a baby and a house to run and a full-time career and everything that comes with all of that, it can be more stressful than anything to try and set deadlines.

One thing is setting a goal and striving for it. Another thing is setting a deadline and stressing about meeting it and then feeling awful because you missed it. Right?

So as of now, my plan is to finish up these last few weeks of school assignments and then take a nice break from everything. I want to take a month or two, or three and just relax knowing I don’t have weekly assignments to turn in, no research to do, no frantic weekends scrambling to write term papers…and more important than all that I want to enjoy what I’ve achieved.

People tell me all the time that they don’t know “how I do it.” They tell me how commendable it is to get a masters degree while working full time, raising a baby, serving as the operations manager for a household and trying to do something with my little Cathedral Records project and writing professional pieces for www.jasonrbecerra.com and LinkedIn.

So while I’ve never thought much of it and don’t typically stop long enough to congratulate myself, I think I want to do just that. I think I want to kind of sit around and see what it feels like to feel successful, like I’ve accomplished something.

But not for too long mind you. Hopefully by the fall/early winter I’ll hole up in the Cathedral and sift through songs and begin the process of making proper recordings with polished lyrics and arrangements. At that point I’ll be making phone calls to see who wants to help mix/master and then we’ll see.

I think it would awesome to do a digital release and have a few LPs pressed.

As for performing…I don’t think I have it in me to do it extensively but if the opportunity arises to share a bill or take part in a series of shows in a cool intimate storytelling setting then I may just jump on that…once Oliver is old enough and I don’t feel guilty about not being around for bedtime. We’ll see. Again…my new thing is trying not to put artificial, unrealistic, or stressful deadlines or expectations on myself.

That doesn’t mean I want to be lazy and remove all goals but it does mean I want to do a better job of managing stress and how much I take on at once.

Anyway – in the next few days I’ll be publishing what I hope will be a very well-received article about the one and only MIEARS! She was kind enough to take some time out of her incredibly busy schedule to discuss a variety of topics related to music, life, the universe, and everything.

Shortly thereafter the promised album review of The Beatles Live at the Hollywood Bowl. I’ve listened to it several times on 180 gram vinyl and it’s just excellent. I’m fascinated by the technical undertaking involved with making that record what it is and I look forward to sharing my thoughts with all of you.

Also, I’m putting my thoughts together regarding a look back on the Singles film and soundtrack. That album is essential listening for me and I seem to listen to it at least monthly.

Chris Cornell’s death has hit me harder than most deaths…his, Robin Williams, and Prince’s deaths have really impacted me.

I’ve been unable to really put pen to paper about it all in any formal way but I think it’s time I did…for my benefit more than anything.

Finally, support your favorite musicians and get out to live shows when you can.

MIEARS just announced a gig at Eleanor Tinsley Park on June 4th. That should be a great start to these incredibly hot and sweaty days of summer. Her EP continues to make for an dynamic and impactful listen. If you haven’t listed to “Who Will Save You” then make that top of list.

I just found out Ian Moore is playing Main Street Crossing in Tomball TX of all places! Mark your calendars, August 18th.

All of us outer-loopers love to talk about how none of the great bands come out to the ‘burbs…well, The Glass played Spring’s 19th hole a few weeks ago and Ian is hitting Tomball. TOMBALL!?

Raquel Cepeda played Katy not too long ago. KATY!?

We can’t expect these artists to come back to the ‘burbs if no one shows up to see them play right? So let’s do our part.

So that’s about it for now.

Until next time folks…

Be Well and Kind,

Jason