Friday, September 30, 2011

I've Never Wished to Have HBO More than I Wish We'd Have it Next Week



The story of the greatest Beatle, told my America's greatest living director. About time, I say.

4 comments:

Damon Linker said...

The greatest Beatle? You must be joking. Harrison was a very good songwriter marooned in a band with two of the greatest songwriters who ever lived. We can debate between Lennon and McCartney, but Harrison? No contest.

Russell Arben Fox said...

Let me amend myself, Damon: the greatest musician in the Beatles. His songwriting was good, but nowhere as good as the best of Lennon/McCartney; I'll freely grant that. And, to the extent that finished recordings are a product of the studio, I'll grant that McCartney (along with George Martin, the real Fifth Beatle) is the true genius there. But still--when you get right down to giving the sound of the Beatles a distinct sound? Of crafting those hooks which Lennon/McCartney wrote? Harrison made more difference there than did any other single member.

Scott--DFW said...

The argument for Harrison's greatness is to be made in his solo career after the Beatles. While Lennon wrote some truly stunning songs after the breakup, his output was limited (in the end, through no fault of his own) and deeply inconsistent. McCartney has been most prolific, but most of his solo and Wings output has been nigh atrocious. Harrison fell in between, in terms of quantity, but the quality of his songwriting was on average far better than Lennon's or McCartney's (post-Beatles). And All Things Must Pass, as an album, is far stronger than anything Lennon or McCartney did after the breakup. Plus there's the Traveling F'ing Wilburys to take into account. Then add to that personal stature. Harrison was serious and vital as a musician, songwriter, and personality to the very end, without ever falling into McCartneyesque self-parody or undignified grasping for approval.

If you're looking at who was the greatest Beatle qua Beatle, Lennon's the man. If you're looking at who was the greatest Beatle over a lifetime, I'd happily argue on Harrison's behalf.

Russell Arben Fox said...

Scott, I give more credit to McCartney than you--both in the Beatles and after them; I won't defend most of his solo work, but I really don't agree that most of his stuff with Wings was "nigh atrocious"--and I think you're underplaying musical skill in favor of songwriting. Still, all that being said, I don't disagree with your ultimate judgment at all: Harrison's solo and post-Beatles output (including, as you note, the wonderful Wilburys), small as it was in quantity, outstripped that of every other Beatle. So while I still think a narrow, musical case can be made for him as the greatest Beatle in the Beatles, you're right that it is looking at the whole person of Harrison, post-Beatles, where we can see his real impact.