At a time when live remains off the menu amid strict social distancing measures, the period of flux has allowed us to dive back into the Far Out archives to find a momentary period of reflective viewing. Here, we’re dipping into the vault to revisit George Harrison’s final interview and performance of the song, ‘All Things Must Pass’ before The Beatle passed away in 2001.
The interview with John Fugelsang took place in 1997 and, at the time, was just another piece of television. Sadly, Harrison’s passing from throat cancer just a few years later would mean this would be his last public interview and performance and remains a poignant piece of history.
In the nineties, following the unprecedented success of MTV, a new television channel emerged which, instead of bringing you all new music all the time like the aforementioned acid-coloured behemoth, took time to sit back and reflect on musical milestones gone by. The channel was VH1. On it they would host illustrious guests of the classic rock era such as Paul McCartney, Pete Townshend and Eric Clapton and often Fugelsang would allow them space to chat about new projects, reflect on old ones and play some tunes. He later said of the gig that with it he had the opportunity to host “the most incredible all-star concerts that nobody would watch”.
A host of incredible acts took up the invitation, with some of the biggest names in the business all filling up slots in their diary. However, during this period, many of the featured artists had not quite completed their revolution of the cool wheel and were not as memorable as you might hope. However, the interview with Harrison would go down with some extra gravitas attached.
The Beatles guitarist had popped into the studio just to complete a “sound byte” interview which was expected to last a little under ten minutes. Instead, what VH1 and Fuglesang got was George Harrison, accompanied by legendary Sitarist Ravi Shankar talking about a wide range of subjects and even performing some songs. They talk about everything from The Beatles to his solo work, from spirituality to charity and, at one point, Harrison even finds time for an off the cuff performance of the classic track ‘All Things Must Pass’. He even debuts a new solo song as well as a lesser-heard Travelling Wilbury’s track.
Some 50 years on from the album All Things Must Pass, Harrison’s first solo record, the album still ranks as one of the best ever written and is the largest selling solo Beatle record of all time. Featuring songs such as the title track, ‘My Sweet Lord’ and ‘What Is Life’ it is a lasting testament to Harrison’s belief in the interconnecting power of music and spirituality. For Harrison, there was no separating the two. Reflecting on Shankar’s album, he says: “And that’s really why for me this record’s important because it’s another little key to open up the within. For each individual to be able to sit and turn off, um…’turn off your mind relax and float downstream’ and listen to something that has its root in a transcendental, because really even all the words of these songs, they carry with it a very subtle spiritual vibration. And it goes beyond intellect really. So if you let yourself be free to let that have an effect on you, it can have an effect, a positive effect.”
The interview continues and reflects on the epic 1970 album All Things Must Pass as a seminal moment in Harrison’s career. Not only was this the year his Phil Spector record dropped but it would also be the year that he and Shankar would launch the Concert for Bangladesh, a gig in which Harrison debut much of his early solo material. It’s a heartwarming and in-depth look into the life of ‘The Quiet Beatle’.
While it is not only a touching moment of reflection for us, 19 years after his death, but also a true window into the personality or soul of Harrison. He is composed, intelligent, spiritual, unabashed and unafraid of his views. He is fatherly without being patronising, caring without sound flippant, and above all else he is genuine.
Watch below as we sadly bring you the last interview and performance of George Harrison form 1997.