BY: TIM HITCHNER
Apr 2, VANCOUVER, CANADA (SUN) A review of the book, "Here Comes the Sun: The Spiritual and Musical Journey of George Harrison".
Although people just can't seem to let them go, there is surely no longer any need for anyone to write another single word about the Beatles. Once again with this book, concentration on "Beatle" George dominates over half the narrative, the majority of the photographs offered here as well.
I've been waiting for a volume that will some day be able to see George Harrison: The Whole Man, in a broader portrait that treats the Beatles as simply one facet of the man's life ... and not necessarily the most important facet ... an honorable stab at which is made here, but like many accounts available on Bob Dylan lately too, be they television documentaries or offerings in the print media, the constant over-emphasis on the earliest part of his career can never seem to be escaped.
I enjoyed "Here Comes The Sun" for what it is worth - a nice book that does its subject justice. But the definitive, wholly non-partisan George Harrison tome is still yet to be written. And I'd like to see that done by someone who is not a Krishna devotee (as is the case here) or some type of Beatles specialist as in the case of books by Geoffrey Giuliano ("Dark Horse") and Marc Shapiro ("Behind Sad Eyes"). A person with no possibly perceived agenda of some kind or another.
The primary theme is George's spiritual development ... and taking this narrative at face value, you'd be left to believe that after the Maharishi, he hooked up with the Hare Krishnas - end of story. But George Harrison's spiritual leanings were varied - he was just as attracted to Paramahansa Yogananda for example - but these other interests tend to get swept by the wayside in favour of the Hare Krishna angle every time in books like this, depending on who's doing the writing. George was never a staunch ISKCON devotee; But that doesn't really matter, as they continue (even after his death) trying to wring out every last ounce of P.R. mileage for their movement that they can by association with his big-name celebrity. He can be made to look like anything you want him to be, given the right spin. This is the primary reason for my desire for an objective Harrison book by someone not involved with one of the spiritual practices that claimed him as their own. I have a copy of an English-produced "talking book" on the artist called "Maximum George Harrison" that features interview clips with the man. In one segment of this program, Harrison says that in relation to the Hare Krishnas, he could "appreciate it", but was not really as closely connected with it as people might want to assume.
While this book is nicely written and well-nigh inspirational on a number of levels, in the end it only covers the same ground again in a different vehicle. If this were the first book you were to read about Mr. Harrison it would be a very good introduction, one well worth keeping and recommending ... but for completists there are no revelations. Fairly thorough in its detail from Day One up to roughly the Bangladesh Concert/Dark Horse album period (at which point we're 2/3 through the book) it then proceeds to sail over the next 25 years and five or six more albums without digging into anything really all that substantial musically-speaking, which I found odd, since the title also promises a musical journey as well. For a more detailed look at Harrison's actual work, I would recommend as a companion volume to this, Simon Leng's excellent "While My Guitar Gently Weeps - The Music of George Harrison." It is a respectful, authoritative blow-by-blow review of everything the man has ever done musically. Another footnote for information on spiritual matters, the previously mentioned Giuliano book has just as many insights into this side of George also, although issues of veracity on some points have made the rounds in fan discussion circles.
Another point worth noting, and one that has irritated me in looking at several of these post-death portraits of the musician, is the number of times others try to write themselves into the script of George's life in a manner uncalled for in its self-serving nature. Two examples of this are Delaney Bramlett attempting to take the credit for the writing of "My Sweet Lord" in the Shapiro book, and the Krishnas trying to take the credit (or at the very least the inspirational ideas) for the same here in Greene's book. The Krishna devotee Shyamsundar das (repeatedly referred to here as "the American") practically becomes the second most important figure in the book after Harrison himself at one point. His biggest claim to fame in Krishna circles is undoubtedly the fact that George Harrison was his pal for many years, to the extent that Shyamsundar was one of those featured in the video "Hare Krishna Tribute to George Harrison", which was quickly cobbled-together and released by the ISKCON film wing ITV shortly after the musician's death. There, Mukunda, Gurudas and Mr. Shyamsundar related the same stories which would all turn up again later in this book virtually verbatim.
Other than collector's value for the dedicated fan, there's no real need to continue releasing any more of these George Harrison or Beatle books under the flimsiest pretexts of the authors; As one previous reviewer has stated, Greene's only real angle for writing this book is that he knows a handful of the original devotees present at the start of George's initial forays into Krishna consciousness. If no one has any really original ideas left, my best advice is to start with "I ME MINE."