Music / Sad anniverary for the quiet Beatle

Today is the fifth anniver­sary of George Harrison's death, as I found out when NPR ran a sweet trib­ute to him this evening. Back when such things mat­tered, George was my favorite Bea­t­le. Why do such things not mat­ter any­more? I mean, real­ly, is there any ques­tion that is more reveal­ing than "Who is your favorite Bea­t­le?" Sure, it's dat­ed, but any ratio­nal, music-aware per­son should have one, and if they don't, well, that says a lot right there. Here's a cheat sheet for what you can expect from the peo­ple you ask, based on very unsci­en­tif­ic "research" …

  • If they say "Paul," you can expect some (most­ly super­fi­cial) charm, and a lib­er­al help­ing of cheesi­ness. Peo­ple who like Paul tend to see Sgt. Pep­per as the height of Bea­t­le achieve­ment, and they prob­a­bly enjoy "Yel­low Sub­ma­rine" and "sto­ry songs" about Bea­t­les char­ac­ters like Eleanor Rig­by more than "While My Gui­tar Gen­tly Weeps" or "Nor­we­gian Wood."
  • If they say "John," you can expect seri­ous­ness, out­ward lefty pol­i­tics, a love of "mean­ing­ful" songs, and per­haps a dis­dain for both cheesi­ness and Paul. Peo­ple who like John, I would guess, sim­ply didn't like Paul to begin with, or liked him until they heard "When I'm 64" one too many times, and then dug around to see who wrote the lyrics to "A Day in the Life."
  • No one ever says "Ringo" in this day and age, and that's too bad. He's charm­ing, a good sport, and (I think) not as bad a drum­mer as peo­ple seem to remem­ber. I chal­lenge you: Lis­ten to "Rain" and tell me that Ringo is an insuf­fer­ably bad drummer.
  • George, final­ly, will always be the favorite of peo­ple who you want to know. He rep­re­sents humil­i­ty, first of all. He's nev­er mug­ging in the movies, and most­ly he looks some­what like you or I would look if we were thrown into the Bea­t­les com­mer­cial jug­ger­naut in the ear­ly 60's. On the cre­ativ­i­ty side, he wasn't Lennon/McCartney, but his gui­tar sound was an inte­gral part of the Bea­t­les appeal. It's always taste­ful, and he nev­er tries to get all Eric Clap­ton on any song, which is why I — for one — can lis­ten to rough­ly 50 Bea­t­les songs for every Eric Clap­ton song. Final­ly, George's solo stuff was way bet­ter than either Paul's or John's, and his low pro­file is endear­ing in a world in which the faces of rock stars' are per­pet­u­al­ly up in your grill.

Beatles, Taxman — from Alternate Revolver

[audio:]Lately, I've been lis­ten­ing to Alter­nate Revolver, a boot­leg album of demoes from the Revolver ses­sions. George's first con­tri­bu­tion to the Bea­t­les' cat­a­logue — "Tax­man" — is on Revolver; it's not my favorite Bea­t­les song, but it's a lit­tle more straight­for­ward and rockin' than lat­er George songs. Is it con­tra­dic­to­ry to com­mem­o­rate an artist by lis­ten­ing to a pirat­ed ver­sion of his/her work? Hmm. I'll ven­ture a guess that George would appre­ci­ate it, so check out Alter­nate Revolver's mono mix of the song, and toast the qui­et Beatle.