George Harrison had the kind of influence on guitar playing that is difficult to put into words. Sometimes that manifests itself literally, as when some of the best musicians, entertainers, and even comedians get starstruck when handed some of Harrison’s legendary equipment. To talk about Harrison and his guitar playing is one thing, but being handed one of Harrison’s actual guitars is another altogether.
If you want some pure geekdom shot straight into your veins, you can check out Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age getting verklempt over being handed Harrison’s Rosewood Telecaster, the same one that he used during The Beatles Get Back sessions and the culmination concert on top of the Apple Corps roofs. But during that same exhibit, other guitarists and players filtered in to see the classic collection in all its glory.
One of those figures was Conan O’Brien, one of the greatest late night comedians of all time. O’Brien is a guitar player himself and had previously expressed a fondness for Harrison’s work, so when Harrison’s son Dhani invited O’Brien to hold Harrison’s Gretsch 6128 Duo Jet, it was a rare moment when O’Brien seemed at a loss.
Of course, this still being Conan, eventually O’Brien had enough sense to turn the encounter into a bit where he thanked Dhani for letting him keep the guitar permanently. O’Brien doesn’t even play the guitar. Instead, he just marvels at its intricate features and is stunned by the amount of history behind the guitar. O’Brien is fully aware that this is the same axe that Harrison played at the Cavern Club, plugged in for Please Please Me, and dusted off for the cover shoot of Cloud Nine.
“You can get crazy, you know,” O’Brien says in a rare moment of genuine awe. “You could lose your mind. It’s like staring into the sun. You can just start looking at little nicks and scratches and then you can go into this whole world of ‘What’s the story behind that. What does it all mean?’ And then soon you’re just a babbling madman.”
Conan would solidify his George Harrison bona fides by performing at George Fest, the 2014 tribute concert organised by Dhani that featured other Harrison superfans like Brian Wilson, Norah Jones, Brandon Flowers, Britt Daniel, Ann Wilson, and “Weird Al” Yankovic. O’Brien stepped in to sing ‘Old Brown Shoe’, also giving an introductory monologue for the event.