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Why ‘Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)’ was the best thing George Harrison ever wrote

In 1973, George Harrison found himself at a curious crossroads: he could either venture forward, happily continuing the work he had built as a solo artist, or he could sit back, understanding that he’d said everything he needed to on All Things Must Pass and The Concert for Bangladesh.

Ultimately, he seemed to choose the latter, perhaps spurred on by the work he’d set out to accomplish for Bangladesh, only for a convoy of money men to step in and take a healthy selection of the earnings for themselves. Never the most relaxed in the world at large, the singer was pivoting deeper and deeper into a vortex of writs, warped schedules and warrior-like anthems in his desire to create something more understanding in its resolve.

His second album, Living In The Material World, is one of his better efforts, precisely because it is so raw, rich with texture and terror. ‘Living In The Material World’ holds one of Harrison’s most demanding vocals, rising from the rock textures that pepper the verses to something more fragile and ethereal on the bridge, his wailing falsetto gliding nicely over the mosaic of sitars, guitars and tablas that cement the track.

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Caught in the urgency of the track, Harrison acquiesces to the band and allows the saxophone to blare through the instrumental suite, the drums tumbling away as if playing along to a Led Zeppelin or Genesis track. Salvaging himself from the ruins with ‘The Lord Sri Krishna’s Grace’, Harrison rests from the vocal booth with just enough energy left to lead the band through a frantic, fever driven fade out that tipped its hat at the Elvis records of old.

It’s possible to discern in ‘Living In The Material World’ a sense of tension that was building in Harrison’s head, but the tremendous, if troubled, work nonetheless knew that the best way to generate a sympathetic response from the public was to end on a jocular, playful note.

‘Sue You Sue Me Blues’ featured on Living In The Material World, being the most overtly Beatle-oriented number on the album, but the record also holds a sneaky reference to the three bandmates on the towering title track. “John and Paul here in the material world,” Harrison screams, the power pummelling through his veins. “Though we started out quite poor, we got ‘Richie’ on a tour.”

Then there was ‘The Light That Had Lighted The World’, which was his way of saluting the pleasures a life spent chasing religion could bring. It was a jaunty work, punctuated by a collection of shimmering piano patterns. Famously grumpy, Harrison still found time to celebrate the wonderful world that surrounded him, and with ‘Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)’, he crafted the most effortlessly beautiful single of his professional career.

Unlike the more detailed performances on ‘Living In The Material World’ and ‘Sue You, Sue Me Blues’, Harrison sounds comfortable, carefully placing the notes together to create a shimmering vocal that sounds joyously pleasant, Harrison recalling the joys of the world that brought him on this journey to enlightenment. It works, both as a piece on a sprawling album of emotion, as well as a jaunty single unto itself.

Superficially, it seemed to be a quick remake of ‘My Sweet Lord’, but ‘Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)’ is actually the more enjoyable listen, creating a tune that was light on pyrotechnics, but heavy on heart and spirit. It worked, both as a performance number, and a tune that could sit nicely on an album. Simply listen to the sprightly opening arpeggio. Gorgeous.

Unlike the haughty ‘The Lord Loves The One That Loves The Lord’ – heard on the same album – ‘Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)’ was merely meant to be a dialogue between Harrison and his God.

“Sometimes you open your mouth and you don’t know what you are going to say,” he wrote in I Me Mine, “and whatever comes out is the starting point. If that happens and you are lucky, it can usually be turned into a song. This song is a prayer and personal statement between me, the Lord, and whoever likes it.”

If there is a God, may they be justly rewarded for such a gorgeous song.

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