|Day 45: George Harrison (My Sweet Lord)
June 10, 2020
It's 1973 and I am already the punchline to the joke, "Paul McCartney was in a band before Wings?" I own the album Band On The Run by Paul McCartney and Wings, the single "It Don't Come Easy," and later the album Ringo by Ringo Starr, and the single "My Sweet Lord" by George Harrison, but I don't remember if I knew they had all been in the same band previously.
Maybe it was being in Morgantown, West Virginia. Maybe it was being the son of two parents already in their 30's when The Beatles made it big. Maybe it was the fact that the Flemings somehow seemed isolated from the rest of the world (after all, we are in Thailand in 1969 and I have no idea we are surprisingly close to a war). Nevertheless, for someone eventually endlessly fascinated by popular culture, I must have been sheltered from much of it by Dolores and Bill Fleming.
Additionally, I was extremely sheltered from the world of religion. Whatever conflicts my parents dealt with as related to religion were completely unknown to their 11-year old son. Given these two realities (pop culture and religious identification), how did I end up with "My Sweet Lord," along with "It Don't Come Easy," "American Pie," and "Me And You And A Dog Named Boo" as my extensive collection of 45's? Not particularly a fan of any ex-Beatle (it would be a long time before I would purchase a Lennon release), I still seemed to gravitate toward the Harrison mysticism.
Hey, I was 11, more fascinated by the Apple labels on the 45 (outside Apple view for side A, inside Apple view for side B) than any of the religious rigamarole Harrison was trying to promote. The slide guitar suckered me in, the background vocals (regardless of whatever theism they projected) stayed in my head long after the song ended, and the repetitive mantra throughout the last half of the song spoke to me in ways that my under-developed mind was not going to understand.
I knew there was something going on with those background vocals. I knew "Hallelujah," but was clueless about this "Harry Christian," "Hurry Drama," "Curry Fishstew," or "Mahi Fast Ma," but figured they had something to do with this elusive Lord I kept hearing about. Somehow the song made me think in ways "It Don't Come Easy," "Me And You And A Dog Named Boo" (and even "American Pie") didn't make me think. Maybe it was the faint sound of church bells around the 2:00 minute mark that struck some deep chord in me. In the end I come back to the lush background vocals with their "Hare Krishna," etc. that sucked me in.
It's very likely my fascination with this song, even more than Starr's "It Don't Come Easy," which was also on the album, came from my sister's The Concert For Bangladesh album, whose stark cover and prominence of Ravi Shankar made me realize there was a world away from this one. I was drawn by the album covers that Jen owned: Bangladesh, "Endless Summer" by The Beach Boys, "Thick As A Brick" by Jethro Tull, and "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" by Elton John. We hate to admit it, but our older siblings have powerful influences on us.
And it's as simple as that. It wasn't about the religion. It wasn't about The Beatles. It wasn't even about popular culture. It was about what my older siblings were listening to. I guess I can be happy Jen and Lisa weren't listening to The Osmonds . . . although I have a buried memory . . .
"My Sweet Lord." All Things Must Pass. George Harrison. Apple. 1970. Link here.
Day 44: Cheap Trick "Heaven Tonight."
Day 46: Jill Sobule "Heroes." ->
See full unfinished list here.