WABC Radio interview with Howard Smith
1700 Broadway, 41st Floor, New York, NY
Deejay Howard Smith caught up with George sometime during his spring trip to New York City. George explains that it’s been mostly business (“I came to see our new office, 1700 Broadway”), and mentions that he’s seen a few friends. He claims that there’ll be no time for recording, despite the fact that he ended up joining Dylan in the studio on May 1st. He mentions that recording will begin within a month for “the George album,” and has to explain to Smith that he does have a huge backlog of songs, despite the seeming dearth thanks to his minimal allotment on Beatles albums.
George describes the difficulty of getting his songs recorded by the Beatles, and how the group eventually reached a joke compromise (“Three songs for me, three songs for Paul, three songs for John, and two for Ringo!”). When asked about Ringo’s allotment, George reveals that even Ringo is writing more now, and that they’ve just recorded a new song of Ringo’s called “It Don’t Come Easy.” Despite his description of how no one Beatle really wants to record songs in the styles of the other Beatles, George feels that once the group gets over the novelty of doing their solo albums, they’ll probably work together again (“I’ll certainly try my best to do something with them again”). He understands that there is a gain “musically, and financially and also spiritually” by working with the other three, despite the fact that in many ways it’s also a compromise. “Familiarity breeds contempt,” laughs George. When Smith protests that the prospects for a Beatles reunion look gloomy, George disagrees: “Not really. You know, it’s no more gloomy than it’s been for the last ten years,” and that the only difference is that their private arguments have now become public.
George speaks to Paul’s uneasiness about the group’s business and management situation, “but that’s only a personal problem that he’ll have to get over, because, that’s… the reality is, that, you know, he’s out-voted.” He also expresses some discomfort about Paul’s hope to have his in-laws managing the Beatles: “We’re trying to do what’s best for the Beatles as a group, or best for Apple as a company. We’re not trying to do what’s best for Paul and his in-laws… when I go home at night, I’m not living there with Allen Klein.” Smith still isn’t sure, but George quotes his yet-to-be-recorded song: “It’s all right. All things pass away, as they say.”
Smith asks if there is any animosity between Yoko and Linda, and George avoids the question by saying “I refuse to be a part of any hassles like that,” and that in the end it’ll be okay because everyone loves one another. When asked if there’s any anger between Paul and John, George calls it just childish “bitchiness.” Smith’s silence betrays a certain uneasiness with what George is saying, and George responds by saying that it’s just a matter of time until everyone gets their personal problems worked out and things come around again full circle. But even if things don’t get better, says George, that’s all right too, because “it’s never looked better from my point of view,” in terms of the financial health of Apple and his own publishing company
George describes the Beatles’ financial situation since 1962 as “freaky,” in the sense that none of the Beatles really understood where the money was that they had earned. But now the money situation is “very together,” to the point where they receive daily reports showing “where it is, and what it is, and how much it is.”
Smith asks George what he wants to do with all of his money, to which George replies: “I just want to live as comfortably as I can, or as I need, which is really very comfortable, I can tell you.” He doesn’t really believe in giving money away to help charities, but if he did he’d be more inclined to do a huge project all at once, rather than piecemeal it out. He does admit to being a bit of a soft touch for “heavy” stories, and mentions how he just recently gave money to someone who sent him just such a letter. That story leads to a discussion about George’s mail, and he describes some the “insanity” that makes its way to him through the post.
Smith turns the conversation to George’s upcoming album, and George immediately dismisses the idea of playing all the instruments himself. “It’ll be a production album,” he says, “as opposed to ‘down-home on the Nagra,’” in an obvious swipe at Paul’s new album. George reckons that he’ll probably record about 12 titles in around six weeks. “Two months at the most,” he says, but he’s first got to meet with Phil Spector and run through the new songs.
Smith asks George’s opinion of Paul’s new album, and George singles out “Maybe I’m Amazed” and “That Would Be Something” as particular highlights, but thinks the rest of the album is just “fair….a little disappointing.” One thing that particularly bothers George is the “down-home” nature of the album, because he can always think of better drummers than Paul, or better arrangements for the songs than what Paul released. George turns the tables and asks if Smith liked the album, and Howard responds: “No, I didn’t, very much. I was very disappointed.” George recommends the upcoming album Eric Clapton (a rough mix of which he heard last week, but which wouldn’t be released until July in the States and August in the UK) as an antidote to McCartney.
Smith turns the conversation back to the Beatles, and expresses doubt that the four men could spend months in a studio together in order to produce a new album. George is much more optimistic: “It’s easy. We’ve done it for years….all we have to do is accept that we’re all individuals.” George then quotes a phrase carved on his house (a phrase that would later become the basis for the song “The Answer’s At The End”): “Scan not a friend with microscopic glass, you know his faults, then let his foibles pass.” As long as we remain imperfect beings, says George, we have no choice but to accept the failings of others.
That line of thinking spurs George into talking about how most of the musical conflicts he experienced in the Beatles were between him and Paul. George feels that since he and Paul have known each other for so long, Paul may not have noticed that he and George have actually grown and changed quite a bit over the years. George brings up a favorite quote from Mahatma Gandhi: “Create and preserve the image of your choice.” After going around in rhetorical circles for a while, George apologizes because he feels that he’s not articulating himself well.
Smith asks if George is interested in doing things other than recording, and George says his main goal is to “get myself straight,” by which he means working on the divine manifestation of his own soul, and becoming God conscious. George says that he still believes “100 percent” in what the Beatles were doing in Rishikesh and in the message of the Maharishi, but things have shifted slightly to where George can appreciate a whole variety of approaches to the subject. He brings up the Apple recordings by the Radha Krishna Temple (including their new record “Govinda”), and how those are examples of yet another way to help people achieve God consciousness.
George says that this is precisely the place where he and John differ in opinion; while George is all for trying to achieve peace, he thinks that John’s method of “going around, shouting ‘Give peace a chance, man,’” is ineffective: “You know, that doesn’t do it. Put your own house in order….you don’t get peace by talking about peace.”
Smith argues for Lennon, saying that he’s trying what he thinks is a quicker, more pro-active approach, but George thinks it’s akin to taking a pill (like LSD) in an attempt to shortcut your way to consciousness. The circulating tape ends there.
AVAILABILITY: The entire tape circulates in excellent quality among collectors. It was bootlegged on the Black Cat CD The Smith Collection: George Harrison May 1970.
On May 1, 1970, George joined Bob Dylan for a recording session at Columbia’s New York recording studios. Most of the session has been bootlegged, and four tracks possibly involving George have been legitimately released (“Sign On The Window,” “Time Passes Slowly” and “Went to See The Gypsy” on New Morning, and “If Not For You” on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3). Further details are in Eight Arms To Hold You, pages 424-425.