Most would agree that "Something" is George's pinnacle as a writer, too. (It's also clear that he's pretty high up as a singer. His sensitive phrasing here is a long way from "I Need You" and the cuteness of "Please remember how I feel a-bouchu.") When we gather all the songs he wrote for the Beatles, we see a body of work that held its own. If Apple/ Capitol wants to do a tribute, one thing it could do is give his official Beatle recordings their day in the sun by putting them on a special-edition disc: "Don't Bother Me," "I Need You," "You Like Me Too Much," "Think for Yourself," "If I Needed Someone," "Taxman," "Love You To," "I Want to Tell You," "Within You Without You," "Blue Jay Way," "Only a Northern Song," "It's All Too Much," "The Inner Light," "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," "Piggies," "Long, Long, Long," "Savoy Truffle," "I Me Mine," "For You Blue," "Old Brown Shoe," "Something," and "Here Comes the Sun."
What can we learn from these songs? The music for nearly all of them gets excellent mileage out of long, melancholy phrases. The lyrics for many of them express that melancholy as a kind of solitude: "So, go away, leave me alone, don't bother me." "Please, come on back to me, I'm lonely as can be, I need you." George's later lyrics are effective in quoting and making variations on a spiritual theme: "The farther one travels, the less one knows." "We were talking - about the love that's gone so cold / And the people who gain the world and lose their soul." Those two songs, "The Inner Light" and "Within You Without You," can be heard with "Love You To" as a mesmerizing triptych of Westernized Indian music, anticipating the popularity of world music by decades. At the same time, George could rock with the best of them in "Taxman" and "It's All Too Much." Hot tip: to dig deep into the layers of the latter, hear its stereo remix on the Yellow Submarine Songtrack and especially its 5.1-channel remix on the movie's DVD.
Looking at some of the coverage of George's death, you'd think the acoustic gem "Here Comes the Sun" actually marked the sun setting on his creativity. But his solo career lasted three times as long as his tenure with the Beatles. It had its ups and downs, to be sure, but it included some rich music that has been unjustly ignored.
Take his first solo album, Wonderwall Music (1968). Asked to write a movie soundtrack, George tried to create "an anthology of Indian music." And he succeeded admirably, leavening the Eastern sounds with Western influences from vaudeville to rock. It's a fascinating listen. Unfortunately, many who haven't listened assume it should be lumped with George's next album, Electronic Sound (1969). Here, he took one of the first Moog synthesizers and basically let it rip and blip and burp. Not a fascinating listen. Or, as George's colleague Alvin Lee once defined "avant-garde": 'aven't-got a clue.
But then came The Big One: All Things Must Pass (1970), with its No. 1 hit, "My Sweet Lord." When he remastered the set last year - the first step in a comprehensive (though now up-in-the-air) reissue program for his albums, many of which are out of print - George wrote: "I still like the songs and believe they can continue to outlive the style in which they were recorded. It was difficult to resist remixing every track. All these years later, I would like to liberate some of the songs from the big production that seemed appropriate at the time but now seems a bit over the top, with the reverb in the wall of sound."
Copyright © 2013 Bonnier Corp. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.