John Lennon thought he was just a kid… but The Beatles guitarist George Harrion was a quick learner

George Harrison was a more accomplished musician than Lennon and McCartney
George Harrison was a more accomplished musician than Lennon and McCartney

JOHN LENNON thought he was just a kid — in the end, though, George Harrison proved himself The Beatles’ fastest learner.

In their earliest days, Paul McCartney would always have the fresh-faced teenage George tagging along with him, but Lennon felt he was wet behind the ears.

The truth, however, was that George had already put in the hours and mastered all those American guitar tricks that neither John nor Paul could do!

Later, George would continue to outdo them with some of the band’s greatest numbers.

It must have galled him when Frank Sinatra described his Something as a Lennon-McCartney song, but it was from the pen of Harrison, as was Here Comes The Sun, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Taxman and others.

This weekend, the world remembers George, who would have been 74 on Saturday.

To mark the occasion, an impressive box set of every solo recording comes out on good old-fashioned vinyl records, as does a special George Harrison turntable to play them on, and an expanded version of a book featuring his works.

George had a sad last few years before his death at just 58, having throat cancer surgery in 1998, being attacked by a knife-wielding intruder the next year, and having to deal with lung cancer and a brain tumour in 2001, the year in which he died.

From an era where Jimi Hendrix and the like were still to happen, George had some unusual role models for his guitar work.

George Formby was one, and he developed a deep and lasting love for the modest ukulele, building up a large collection of the tiny instruments and often presenting them to anyone he liked the look of!

He also loved Django Reinhardt, who was a legendary master of guitar despite having lost the use of two fingers in a fire.

More traditional rockers like Chet Atkins and Carl Perkins, too, had a big influence on him, although when George had put it all together, he ended up with his own very distinctive style.

His work with the sitar, of course, added something most unexpected to some classic Beatles recordings, and it’s hard to imagine Norwegian Wood without it. He also loved India and was fascinated by Hare Krishna and transcendental meditation.

Seemingly a passing fad with the other Beatles, it remained the biggest part of his life forever, and his ashes would be scattered on the Ganges and Yumuna rivers.

If that side of him seems unusual for a rock star, well, George hated the idea of being labelled and was very serious about his musicianship and recordings.

He could also be as daft as a brush, though, with a wicked sense of humour. He loved Monty Python, and could be self-effacing or bitingly sarcastic when in the mood. Time Bandits and The Life Of Brian, both movies involving the Pythons, were given his backing.

He mortgaged his own home, in fact, to help finance The Life Of Brian, and his HandMade Films saw him as executive producer on the likes of Mona Lisa, Withnail And I and others.

When he learned to play slide guitar and then delivered “the best solo he’s played in his life” on Lennon’s How Do You Sleep, his old colleague had presumably realised the little kid from Liverpool had grown a bit.

George Harrison: The Vinyl Collection is released on February 24, as is the extended book, I Me Mine.

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