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Music

The thing Dave Stewart loved most about his friendship with George Harrison

Everyone has their influences, even someone as accomplished as Dave Stewart. Because even if you’re not necessarily a fan of Eurythmics, you’re no doubt inspired by an artist he has since then gone on to produce. From the rollicking, back to basic anthems of Ringo Starr’s output, to the psychedelic paintings of Tom Petty, Stewart has released a number of brilliant songs, each one better than the one that came before it.

Understandably, The Beatles have helped to typify Stewart’s backdrop, creating an entirely new form of production style that was more brusque than the more complex, ornate style favoured by Jeff Lynne. The songs were moulded in The Beatles backdrop, making it a diverse catalogue of production duties that included a stint with George Harrison.

Stewart’s work with Eurythmics borrowed from The Beatles, particularly on ‘Here Comes The Rain Again’, which was considered by many to be as stirring a composition as any from the 1980s. The tune is coated in keyboard hooks and riffs, bringing the pathos from the bottom of the mix to the top.

“Having been really influenced by the Beatles’ more psychedelic stuff,” Stewart recalled, “I became really great friends with George Harrison in the ’80s and all the way through until he got very ill. In the Martin Scorsese film you see a lot of interviews with George, that’s me interviewing him. Some of it’s my footage of him. But George was a really big influence on me, not musically, although he was an absolute genius musically and I’d have this amazing time sitting around in the kitchen with him playing and going on holiday with him and his family, Olivia and little Dhani. But it was more the way he would think in he had a really mad sense of humour, like something in the Monty Python films. Then at the same time very spiritual and at the same time that eclectic brain was never-ending. Under his breath, he’s got this classic Liverpool sense of humour.”

Stewart worked with Harrison on a recording of ‘This Guitar (Can’t Keep From Crying)’ in 1992, although it wasn’t aired to the public until 2006. The new recording featured contributions from Ringo Starr, Dhani Harrison and Kara DioGuardi, and though it sounded impressive, the writer himself was not around to see it. Harrison died of cancer in 2001. Who knows what he might have felt about Stewart’s contributions, but there’s no doubt that he would have enjoyed Dhani’s contributions to the track. He had inadvertently spawned a guitarist, who could play rhythm on his recordings.

In an interview with CultureSonar, Stewart said he admired Harrison’s slide playing, feeling that he put much of his soul and identity into the work. “He managed to bring out a pure tone, with a thick glass slide,” Stewart revealed. “Beautiful tone. There are slide players out there who can play, but you can’t always make them out. But you can always make out George.” Stewart pencilled out All Things Must Pass as a favourite of his, which makes sense, considering how densely the guitars enter in and out of the mix, bringing texture and timbre to the mix. The songs were brimming with potential, bolstered by Harrison’s shimmering slide riff.

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It’s nice to hear that Stewart admires Harrison both as an artist and a person. This is fitting because both Stewart and Harrison saw themselves as guitar players first and foremost. Stewart later met with Paul McCartney, but his greatest working relationship was with Ringo Starr. Stewart is co-credited on Starr’s ‘Liverpool 8′, a jaunty, chorus heavy track that outlines his views on The Beatles’ stratospheric rise. The Beatle drummer says he started off as a sailor before drums and destiny brought him to greater plains.

It wasn’t the most enlightened of tales, but it was a very good one.
During the course of ‘Liverpool 8′, Starr namechecked the other Beatles, including his “friend John”. And although Stewart never worked with Lennon, it’s unlikely he even met him, he was happy to let his work pour praises on the band virtually everyone has considered their superior. Stewart did get to work with another icon from the early 1960s, Mick Jagger, and the two worked on some of the vocalists’ solo work.

More recently, Stewart formed a new band called Stewart Lindsey, which focuses on the dobro as an instrument of choice. It’s tempting to imagine that Stewart Lindsey is his way of paying tribute to Harrison, in an effort to carry the guitar instrumentals into the forefront. Unlike the more sophisticated textures Eurythmics utilised on their recordings, Stewart Lindsey were harder-edged and pivoted as much influence on the central guitar lines as it did on the vocal deliveries. The tunes were produced with great focus and finesse, creating a sound George Harrison would have enjoyed.