Special Cruising tonight dedicated to George Harrison, chosen by John
Mullen from Hampshire. I played "What Is Life" by George Harrison, Travelling Wilburys there, "End Of The Line", The
Beatles in the middle with "Something" the song about which Frank Sinatra said was the best love song ever written, and written
of course by George Harrison. More about George, we talk to his wife for 23 years, Olivia Harrison, who is a guest tonight.
Back in November the 29th 2002, friends and family of George Harrison united for a tribute concert
at the Royal Albert Hall. It marked the first anniversary of his passing, was organised by George's wife Olivia with
the help of Eric Clapton and Brian Roylance. A limited edition book to commemorate the event has just been published
featuring unseen photos, interviews and tributes. The book is called Concert For George, and I'll be talking to Olivia
Harrison after this. [If Not For You]
A wonderful song and a great pleasure to welcome
Olivia Harrison. How are you today?
When he came out with that album, All Things Must Pass, I mean we all knew he was good but it astounded everybody really that
he had so much material to make a triple album
-Yeah, I think he was probably the only one that wasn't surprised. [laughs]
Now how did you meet George?
He used to talk to you on the phone didn't he, when you worked at the record company in LA.
- Yeah, I did. I met him in 1974.
Had you got on well on the phone
- I think we had a lot in common and that we had both a
spiritual path and the same values and that was sort of clear from the beginning. And obviously I loved his music and
we both had a background of rock'n'roll and that was really it. Music and spirituality I think.
So he invited you to go on tour with
him didn't he?
- Ah, so now we're
gonna do a little bit of a personal history here? [laughs] I did go on tour with him, yeah, in '74, mmhm.
Which is a great way to get to know
him I suppose cos you see George the performer and George the person.
- He was always just very down to earth and always just George really, whatever situation
he was in, that is why he was so loved by everyone. He was very approachable and everyone who knew him just, in a way
he was easy to take for granted really, because he was so down to earth and always just so. He always used to say that
he had to be subnormal to be normal, he had to be less, more quiet, more humble so that people would feel at ease.
Incredible really when you look at what he went through in that he often used to refer to it as "well I just used to be in
a band", what a band to have been in! Amazing things that he saw and experienced, and yet it didn't make him change.
- Well I mean it did, it changed
him profoundly, and he kept changing all through his life, that was the great thing. But he didn't get stuck there,
and I think that's what made him such a great man.
He was often portrayed in later years as being a bit of a mystical recluse but he wasn't like
that was he?
- He was mystical,
very mystical, and sometimes... he wasn't a recluse he just didn't go where everybody was all the time, but you know we went
out quite a lot. He just didn't go to the obvious places, but he did like quiet and he did like privacy so sometimes
maybe he qualified as being a recluse.
And he used to love his garden, or gardens, that he landscaped didn't he?
- Yeah, that was one of his passions. He had a lot of passions,
you know, music coming first. He just liked to be outside, he loved nature, he felt close to God in nature and plants
don't talk back, the don't give you any aggro. [Laughs]
I love to read about
how you used to start the day, you know, you never knew how the day would start, it would be some sort of music or some chanting
or something like that.
there was always music in the house, and there still is. But he liked everybody to get going and be enthusiastic and
be happy and whatever it took, and sometimes it was comical, sometimes it was serious but it was always a positive way to
start the day, that's how he liked to start it. He didn't like any complaining or negativity, he always wanted things
to be on an even keel.
Yeah, and he'd like to take a moment and see if he could make it better?
- He always tried to improve the
moment, he was just, there are no words really, he was such a wonderful person to be around. He had his moments, you
know, he was crabby too some times, but generally he was just about the funniest person I'd ever met.
Now this wonderful concert which is available on a record and a DVD, but now there's this magnificent book. But the
idea for the concert, did that come from yourself or was it from Eric and Brian Roylance?
- It was from Eric and Brian, I think Brian had a conversation with
Eric and then asked him. Eric had said to Brian, what's going to happen for George is there anybody who's doing something,
and Brian said, well I think you are.
contact with Brian how was he involved?
Brian Roylance and Eric have been good friends Brian also knew George since about 1979, and he did books for Eric
as well. George and then Eric did a lot of books, so they became friends. And they both approached me and said can we
do this for you, and Eric said I'd like to do this, and that was a big relief and a big load off my shoulders to know that
Eric was going to do it. And I know that George would have felt very safe if any tribute to him was being organised
by Eric, he would know that it would be of the quality that he would have wanted it to be.
We're talking about Mr, Clapton of course, whose second home is the Albert Hall, so he probably had no trouble getting hold
of that that night.
- Well actually,
Eric called me in January and said we really better book things now because people get busy and books things. And it
turned out that Jools Holland had the Albert Hall booked for that night already and he very kindly gave us that night.
So Jools was a good friend too of the family and of George's too, and in fact George recorded on Jools' album months
before he died. Jools came over to where we were and George worked with him.
So there must be
so many memories of that concert though, exactly a day to the year when George passed.
- Yeah, it was very satisfying and it enabled all of us as friends and family to
come together and share stories and share George's music and I think when you hear the body of music, George's ability took
on a whole new other meaning for all of us really, song after song after song. The guys all really felt they got to
know George a lot better, even better than they had, just by playing his music. The rehearsals were fantastic and really
private, and the whole three weeks was like a memorial. I mean if we'd all gone home then it would have been fine because
we'd also all worked out a lot of what we needed to work out at that time, but having the concert was really just a joy.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were amongst the
many artists taking part, Jeff Lynne and young Dhani. Was he nervous about going on stage?
- Dhani always rises to the occasion, you know. He ah, I don't
know. I think he was nervous, but he's known a lot of that band for most of his life so they made him very comfortable
and it was very comforting for him to be with them, all the sort of father figures, and he held his own. But he had
to work hard, he had to work really hard, and I think we said to him not a bad first gig.
And for you watching your son though, you must have felt
tremendously proud of him.
- Yeah, of course. All the guys they're just pals and such professionals and the way they played I mean it was
just really brilliant.
[Handle Me With Care]
Tom Petty and the
Heartbreakers, Jeff Lynne and Dhani Harrison from the Concert For George. And there is now a magnificent book called
Concert For George, which is very expensive Olivia Harrison.
- It is, as are most of the limited edition Genesis publications so you can blame him. [Laughs]
Our royalties are going to the Material World Foundation which George established in 1973.
Tell us a bit about the foundation, what kind of work does it support?
- George actually started that foundation after the Concert For Bangladesh because he'd
had some difficulties with the US tax people trying to give the money away, I think that's a sort of well known story.
He had some trouble getting the money to Unicef so he thought, well I'm going to have my own foundation so that I can give
money away directly, and that's when he established it in '73, really to promote alternative philosophies and cultures but
also helping people with special needs. For instance we were able to give donations to Unicef for the Tsunami disaster
just recently, disabled education, there are just a variety of charities, established charities that we help.
Now I know you're a bio believer in reincarnation
and life after death so your relationship with George has continued obviously, just in a different form now.
- It is, you know, life goes on within you and without you as George
said a long time ago. You know the soul is in a body and the body falls away, and if energy can never be created or
destroyed then where does it go? It's everywhere. So George used to say that if you can't feel a connection, say,
with like John or people who are close to you then what chance have you of meeting the gurus. So, he could just be on
holiday somewhere really. I still feel that he's around, just he's physically not here.
Do you ever talk to him out loud or do you just sort of
have your chats with him mentally.
Yeah I do, I do of course just talk to myself but I do talk to him out loud. Like thanks a lot, you know, what I've
got, how do I do this, you know.
Yeah. And it's sort of your life's work now is it not, keeping things
like the foundation going that George started?
- George had a lot of projects he was working on. You know when you
reach a certain point in life and I think that's when you really start looking back, like you don't start making scrapbooks
of your life when you're living it. Things happen when you get a bit older and you look back, you might reflect on your
life a bit more and he didn't have the opportunity to do that, but he had a lot of projects that he was working on.
He had released All Things Must Pass, re-released that, and he was going to go one by one and do all his albums, like the
Concert For Bangladesh which we're working on now, a DVD on that. Just things that we had already planned which would
have taken the next four or five years. There were Travelling Wilburys, a lot of his music that he wanted to put out.
So, being the one who knows about that it just... I can't not do it, and I sort of have an over-developed sense of duty.
And it's lovely music and it's great work and it makes me feel close to him and it's a joy, it's a privilege to work on it.
I love that bit in an interview that you did recently where the interviewer was talking about
how your life changed in such a dramatic way by meeting George, you must have gone wow, and I don't know if you remember your
reply, do you?
- Well I thought,
oh yeah, isn't he lucky. [laughs] Well, what're you gonna say, yeah. It was mutual.
Yeah. Because he was a little bit lost in a way wasn't he? He'd come out of one relationship and then he had kind
of what he called his naughty period, and then you sort of came, a sure footing again.
- Yeah. George had a sure footing, he always had a sure footing,
you know, he always had one foot on the ground even if the rest of him was flailing around. He had what he called it
a tilt mechanism, and so he was never ever really gonna go somewhere he shouldn't. And he was naughty, and that's part
of the charm. But yeah, I suppose the opportunity to have a family and, you know, he liked being around a family and
having a home life.
He liked normal
- Yeah, he liked those things
but he liked other things too, like travelling and going out, being with the guys, playing music.
- Formula One.
But there was always people coming round the house wasn't there, Joe Brown would come round with his
Ukulele and there was a lot of music and people coming by.
- Yeah, all the time, the house was full of live music, that was the best thing.
Joe was around and our good friend Jim Capaldi who unfortunately just passed away, he was around an awful lot, and in fact
his memorial was today. Jim was a great songwriter, a great friend, great musician, drummer, guitarist and we'll miss
him. But he was around a lot with George, and in fact they wrote and recorded some songs that they never put out.
So, who knows, maybe one day that will come out too.
They talk about there are halls of learning in the world of spirit. I wonder
what George is busy doing now, because for somebody who understands the transition it's kind of, although it's a dreadful
word to use, it's easy and very quick isn't it, if someone has an idea of what lies beyond?
- Absolutely, that's the point of life, that was the point of his
life. He always said that. What you remember most in your life is what you're going to remember when you're dying.
So you can't just start at the end, you have to practice, and that's what he did. If you think back in the '70s George
was involved in meditation, back in the '60s actually, and he continued that right the way through so there weren't any clouds
of doubt as to what his goal was or what he was going to do. So as far as halls of learning go, I would imagine he might
be teaching. [Laughs]
a lot of live music going on too, there's quite a band up there.
- Yeah, I think there'd be a lot of cool people on the other
side. Michael Palin said the thought of afterlife becomes much more interesting now that we know George is there.
Could there possibly be a space in your
life for another relationship?
Or does George take it all up?
- You know I don't know. I have my own road to walk, aspirations spiritually,
it takes time. I want to enjoy my space, I have work, the gardens to keep up and I travel and I'm very fortunate.
Well thank-you for coming in today. And you love the song Run Of The Mill?
- I love that song, and George liked it too, it was one of his favourites.
Olivia Harrison, thanks very much.