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Eric Clapton Asked Permission to Steal George Harrison's Wife (And 6 Other Things I Learned from the HBO Documentary)

by Michael Hogan, posted Oct 5th 2011 12:30PM
George Harrison
Given how many years have passed since they formed (54) and how many books, articles and films have been devoted to them since they broke up (approximately twenty gazillion), I feel confident stating that it is now literally impossible to break news about The Beatles. Still, even avid Beatles fans like myself don't know everything there is to know about the Fab Four, which is good news for Martin Scorsese's new documentary, 'George Harrison: Living in the Material World,' whose first part premieres on HBO tonight at 9 ET.

While the film doesn't reach the sublime heights scaled by the director's Bob Dylan movie, 'No Direction Home,' it does paint a moving and nuanced portrait of the guitarist, songwriter and spiritual seeker, who succumbed to lung cancer on November 29, 2001. But you don't care about that: You want the facts! So here they are -- all seven of them.

1. Eric Clapton asked permission before stealing Pattie Boyd from Harrison, or at least he says he did. Every rock fan knows that Clapton wrote 'Layla' for Boyd and ultimately lured her away from George (who, Boyd claims, was more infatuated with his meditation mat than with her). But in the documentary, Clapton says he got the green light from George before pursuing his interest. We also hear George at a press conference saying he'd rather have Boyd leave him for Clapton than for "some dope." How bloody civilized.

2. George was 17 when he lost his virginity -- to a German prostitute, on a bed pressed up against the back of a porn theater projection screen. That's the room where the band lived during its 1960 Hamburg residency -- until artists Klaus Voormann and Astrid Kirchherr took mercy on them and helped them find more humane accommodations.

3. George gave up LSD after visiting the Haight during the "Summer of Love" and being grossed out by all the scummy hippies. Scorsese includes no mention of Charles Manson, who claimed that the White Album influenced his so-called Family's murdering spree, but you can hear the defensiveness in Harrison's voice as he describes the "bums" he encountered after visiting San Francisco in 1967. The message: I am not responsible for the rank excesses of California hippiedom!

4. George gave up the sitar after Ravi Shankar urged him to get in touch with his roots. Funny thing: because I discovered the Beatles albums after the fact and out of chronological order, I never noticed that the sitar-strumming starts with 'Norwegian Wood' and ends abruptly after Magical Mystery Tour. In the movie, Harrison remembers realizing that his sitar playing would never match that of the experts and deciding to refocus his energies on writing great pop songs. Hey, that worked out!

5. George produced 'Life of Brian,' 'Time Bandits,' and 'Withnail & I.' Eric Idle tells a hilarious story of lampooning the Abbey Road cover with the Rutles and being besieged by Beatles fans while George stood by laughing, totally unrecognized, but whatever: am I the only idiot who never knew that HandMade Films was George Harrison's company, and that he started it because he really, really wanted to see a Monty Python movie that made fun of Christianity?

6. George was nearly killed by a crazy man who broke into his house, only to be saved when his wife whacked the guy repeatedly in the face with a fire poker. I must have seen this in the news when it happened, but I guess I filed it in the same place where I put the gory details of Paul McCartney's brief and ill-fated marriage to a one-legged self-promoter.

7. George was the first rock star to host a benefit concert. Sure, we are all aware of 1971's Concert for Bangladesh, but I never knew it was to blame for the self-aggrandizing pomposity of everything Bob Geldof did in the mid-'80s. Finally: an answer!

Related Slide Show: George Harrison Through the Years (Spinner)

Below, check out a video preview of 'George Harrison: Living in the Material World,' from the 'Early Show.'

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So what you're saying is that I've been demoted to a 'casual' Beatles fan? Fair enough -- I can take it.

October 05 2011 at 3:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Michael, all of those tidbits have been published hundreds of times. Someone who's read two or more Beatles biographies would have learned about them.

There are millions of 'casual' Beatles fans, though, and I'm sure they'll be very interested in reading about them.

October 05 2011 at 1:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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