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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Louise Harrison Interview, Part 4 of 4

Midwest Tape marketing specialist Chris Shope recently interviewed Louise Harrison, sister of Beatle George Harrison, and two-time Grammy Award-winning producer Dennis Scott about their new Grammy-nominated album, Fab Fan Memories, as well as their Help Keep Music Alive organization, George Harrison, and the Beatles.

Broken into four parts, below is the fourth and final portion of our interview. Click here for Part 1, Part 2, or Part 3.

Chris: Louise, I would like to ask you a few questions about your brother George, but before I do I was wondering if you could give us a quick take on the other Beatles. What were they like when you met them? Are there any interesting anecdotes you would like to share?

Louise: When I first met them, it was at the Plaza Hotel on the Friday afternoon when they had just arrived over from Britain to do The Ed Sullivan show. And for me it was just like getting three more brothers. You know I had grown up with three brothers—George, Harry, and Peter—so it was just like having three more brothers. We just reacted that way with each other, you know, it’s just one big family.

They were all so excited because they had just arrived to that tremendous reception at the airport and all through New York, so they were buzzing from room to room in the suite there at the Plaza. They were in the presidential suite, and there were, I think, three different rooms and everything. They all had their TV sets on in their own rooms, and they were running from room to room because all of the different networks were covering the arrival. And they would be saying, “Hey, look what they’re saying about us here.” And then somebody would say, “Hey, look what they’re saying about us here.” And so all of the different coverage of their arrival was there [on TV] and we were running from room to room madly watching what was going on outside and watching the recording of them coming into town.

So, we just all enjoyed each other, and they knew I didn’t have any agenda. I wasn’t a stalker; I wasn’t a fan, or a manipulator, or a predator—which they didn’t even know existed at that point. All of that came later, the manipulators and the predators. But at that time it was just a lot of fun because it was like having three more brothers.

Chris: Was that the instance when you had to show a photograph to get in?

Louise: That’s right, yeah. George had left word at the front desk when I was checking in to come on up to their room. But he didn’t realize there were guards at the end of the corridor stopping everybody and asking them if their name was on the list. So he just told me to come up, and he didn’t know there was such a thing as a list to be on. So, of course, I wasn’t on the list. But as it turned out I had that Polaroid picture of myself and George and my brother Peter. George was holding my daughter in his arms; she was about three years old at the time.

Unfortunately that Polaroid picture, I gave it to the people at Capitol Records and they made copies of it, and I still have a note from Bill Turner from Capitol saying, “I’ll get that picture back to you as soon as possible.” Well, that was written forty years ago and I still haven’t gotten the picture back. And I had somebody from EMI search through all of their archives trying to find it, and they can’t. But somebody’s probably selling it on the Internet.

Chris: It’s possible, but that’s probably the most unique access pass I’ve ever heard of.

Louise: Yeah, that’s right.

Dennis: I’m glad you had that Louise. It would be a very different story otherwise. Were you backstage at The Ed Sullivan Show when that was going on?

Louise: Well, I was in the audience on the Sunday night one. You see they taped one in the afternoon on Sunday, but it was actually shown on the third week. They did the second one from the Deauville in Miami, but the third week they actually aired the one that had been taped on the afternoon of that Sunday.

And it’s funny because on the first and the third show, George still has a temperature of 102 and that really, really bad strep throat, and he looks really ill. But during the second performance from the Deauville he had recovered and he was okay. He was bouncy and his eyes were sparkling. Most people don’t know. I tell them if you watch all three shows, notice on the first and the third one he’s ill, and in the second one he’s not. It is because that third one was actually recorded before that first two. So that’s one thing that isn’t generally known.

Dennis: I’ve watched those clips a number of times and, especially in view of what you just said, I have to give him [George] a lot of credit because. For example, when he does the solo to “Till There Was You,” the camera comes on him and he just beams a smile that goes across the entire screen. It’s so engaging, and he’s not even feeling well. He was a trooper, even in those days.

Louise: Well that’s kind of the way our parents raised us. No matter what’s happening, if you have a job to do, you do it to the very best of your ability. That was very much a part of how he behaved.

Chris: The show must go on. About your brother George, Tom Petty in a September Rolling Stone article said that George was anything but quiet. He said that he was very fun to hang out with.

Louise: Exactly. That was just because he had that strep throat that weekend and the doctor advised him to try to not say very much because his throat was still hurting. That’s why he got dubbed the quiet Beatle, but we’ve always had a joke about that. He’s no quieter than I am!

Chris: That’s fantastic! The same article also said that George was fond of the phrase “create and preserve the image of your choice,” which I find beautiful. What did that phrase mean to George and how did it affect his life?

Louise: Well, you know, he was being, what’s the word, facetious. Because of all of the images that people created about them, and the false ideas that people had about them. For instance, the quiet one and all that. He was just being sarcastic really by saying that.

One of the other things that he used to have a lot of fun with, when people would ask him questions is that he would say “well, I don’t really know. I’m the quiet one. I don’t have much to say. I’m the quiet one.” So he would kind of fall back on that myth in order to get out of having to answer nonsensical questions.

Chris: It seems like a lot of these experiences may have sent George down the road of a more inward journey.

Louise: Oh yeah, yeah. After all that fame and fortune and everything, he realized how hollow a lot of it is. They discovered very early that the money doesn’t make you happy. It just makes you a target, you know. Then there were all of the people that came into their lives just wanting to get a hold of the money. That was kind of sickening for them but you know they had to kind of put up with it. That was all part of the job, I suppose.

Chris: Is that part of what led George to India?

Louise: Oh yes. Because he realized that all the money in the world wasn’t going to make you happy. You have to have inner peace in order to be able to survive in that cauldron that they were in the midst of. They were in like a boiling cauldron of all the promotion all the time, as far as the discomfort level of their lives, and so in order to try and find peace, they had to try to find “what’s it really all about.” You know, “why are we in this crazy position?” And they were able to gradually start to understand that the message that they were delivering was a very, very vital and important thing for the rest of the people on the planet.

Chris: Indeed, they could say things that mattered from their high perch.

Louise: Yeah exactly, and people would listen. They started to realize that they had this responsibility.

Chris: Is that when George became good friends with Ravi Shankar and did the Concert for Bangladesh? Reading back on it, it was a very positive thing to do.

Louise: Exactly. They started quite a trend there. And I mean what we’re going to be doing with Help Keep Music Alive is a continuation of that trend. We’re not in this to glorify ourselves or make ourselves millionaires. We’re in it to help other people and that was very, very much in the spirit of what the Beatles were all about.

Chris: It sounds like the Concert [for Bangladesh] was a progression.

Louise: Oh yes.

Chris: What’s your favorite song that George wrote?

Louise: Oh golly, probably a couple dozen of them. But off the top of my head I would say maybe “Cheer Down.”

Chris: That’s a good one.

Louise: He would kind of take that attitude. To me cheer down is the same thing as curb your enthusiasm. You know, that was kind of how he used to react to me, because I would always be bouncing up and down with enthusiasm, and he’d kind of look at me like “cheer down, Lou. Calm down.” So I’ve always liked that song because I feel like there was a bit of a thought towards my being in that song.

Chris: It sounds like he had a great sense of humor like you do.

Louise: Absolutely. When you live in Liverpool you’ve got to have a sense of humor because the first thing you learn is how to make fun of yourself. You know I can remember doing a TV show—I don’t know whether it was Larry King or one of those others—but they have a dressing room and they have people there that come and put makeup on you. I said, “look the best thing you can do to make me look better is put a bag over my head.”

Chris: Self-deprecation is good humor, I find.

Louise: Oh yeah, that’s what we learned right from the get-go in Liverpool.

Chris: So Dennis, what’s your favorite song that George wrote?

Dennis: I hate to pick just one because I do like so many of them, but I guess I gravitate towards one that is one of his most beloved and popular ones, which is “Here Comes the Sun.” I never get tired of hearing it, and now that Cirque de Soleil came out with the Love show, we’re able to hear some of the other versions of that song. It reintroduced me to that material and I just love it even more. I do like some of his songs that were maybe not single hits, things like "If I Needed Someone," such a great song.

Louise: Yeah, yeah.

Dennis: And "Taxman" is not only a great rocker, but it’s also a pretty insightful song about the economic times and some of the tax injustices.

Louise: Back then, yeah. That’s one thing that tickles me now about this whole thing about “well, we can’t raise taxes on the millionaires.” Well, they’re only paying 35%, when the Beatles were millionaires they were paying 96%. America’s millionaires should take that one and suck it down.

Chris: That’s perspective right there.

Louise: Exactly.

Dennis: Well, what impresses me is when he wrote that he was young, but had a mature and insightful lyric, which he shared with everyone.

Chris: I’m sure that the spotlight aged them all pretty quickly to the ways of the world.

Louise: That’s right, yeah.

Dennis: Especially when they were forced to become businessmen after Brian Epstein died. I’m sure, from what I understand, they didn’t relish the thought of that. They were creative people.

Louise: Well, they still kept on getting ripped off. That was not their primary interest, but when they realized how much they were being ripped off, they started trying to look into it and see if they couldn’t solve a few problems. As a matter of fact, I remember Peter Noone—you know Herman’s Hermits—I remember him telling me that when he first started out, he was only about 16, the Beatles had told him about some of the pitfalls of the business world, and they told him some of the things to watch out for. And he said due to their advice, he was able to actually hold on to a lot more of his income than the Beatles were able to because he was looking into the things that the Beatles had told him about and getting those things taken care of.

Chris: As you said on the album [Fab Fan Memories], “for the Beatles it was all about the music.” All the rest of it was for someone else.

Louise: Exactly.

Chris: That’s what I love about music in general, like with “Here Comes the Sun,” when I hear it I think back to when I was 16. I had a convertible, driving down the road with the wind in my hair. I love music’s power to bring back memories and transport you to places.

Louise: Exactly.

Dennis: That’s very observant. I’m sure Louise and the [Liverpool] Legends experience, as do I with my group the WannaBeatles, the young faces in the audience. These kids, who are five or six or seven years old, know the lyrics to all these songs. I am constantly amazed by that.

Louise: Yeah, yeah. It’s still resonating with the youngsters coming up. There’s no doubt about that.

Chris: You can see in their eyes those kinds of memories being created.

Louise: Yeah, yeah.

Dennis: Exactly.

Chris: It’s a beautiful thing. Well, that’s all of the questions we have for you. This has been an incredible conversation and again we really appreciate it.

Dennis: Thank you Chris.

Louise: Thank you. The more people we can reach, the more people we can help.

Thanks for reading our four-part interview with Louise Harrison and Dennis Scott. To learn more about Louise's organization, Help Keep Music Alive, by visiting their website or Facebook page. You can also shop Fab Fan Memories and Beatles music and DVDs on

>>Read part one now.
>>Read part two now.
>>Read part three now.

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