In my recent blog It was 20 Years Ago Today, I got quite excited about sharing my memories of a very special Paul McCartney gig back in 1990. And as fantastic as that night was, there is one that tops it.
I think it’s safe to say, that in my 40 years on this planet, the particular date in question goes down as one of the absolute best nights of my life. So in anticipation of reliving the feelings all over again, I have settled down to write this blog with a glass of wine, a huge smile and All Things Must Pass banging very loudly from iTunes.
I agree, Paul puts on a great show and happily, for hundreds of fans around the globe, he tours fairly regularly. George, however, did not.
In my early days as a novice Beatles fan, my favourite Beatle changed from day to day, from song to song. John was a sharp wit and undoubtedly walked a fine line, Paul was undeniably pretty and a very polite PR man, whilst Ringo was the missing piece of the Beatles puzzle and despite many differing opinions on the subject, was, as far as I’m concerned, the only man for the job. But deep down, the one who really and truly won me over, was, and always has been, George.
I’m not easily fooled by phonies and I can spot a blagger a mile off – so judging by the personality he displayed in public, George always seemed to me like something of a joy. Cheeky and adorable, in a slightly ‘wet behind the ears’ kind of way, he would always make me laugh unexpectedly, without the feeling of angry sarcasm that would often project from John.
I loved the fact George was kinda shy, yet obviously not. He had a sense of peace about him and always seemed to be smiling. OK, maybe with the exception of the “I’ll play whatever you want me to play or I won’t play at all if you don’t want me to play” incident, but Paul WAS being a pompous ass and George did well not to lamp him (in my opinion).
Anyhoo, one day in early 1992, as I sat behind the counter of the council shop – awaiting the next barrage of abuse from an angry punter complaining that his front door had come off during a domestic altercation with “me Mrs” and “what the council gonna do about it?” – the phone rang…and it was for me. Happy for an excuse to escape frontline misery, I took the call, completely unaware of the joy that was to follow.
My friend and fellow Beatles nut Christine had by chance had a day off work. By chance she had been listening to Radio 2, when by chance they mentioned that George Harrison was going to be supporting The Natural Law Party in their election campaign. His support was to take the form of a gig. Had she heard that right??
As if that wasn’t exciting enough, Christine had decided to phone the ticket hotline, just in case, by chance, she might get through. And get through she did. Tickets were in the bag.
Answer me this. How on earth is any normal person expected to concentrate on their work after a revelation like that?! I was immediately filled with enormous butterflies which emerged from my throat as a childish shriek every time I tried to get my head round what had just happened.
I apologise if you’re reading this in any other capacity than that of a Beatles fan, because you are probably asking yourself whether it was actually such a big deal. Well believe me, not only did the entire music world buckle at the news George was going to be appearing live, but little 80′s-perm-Perrins, had only gone and got herself a ticket. It was like peeling back the wrapper of a candy bar and finding a golden pass into Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. Best of it was, we hadn’t all that long to wait, but at that very moment, Monday 6 April 1992 seemed like a lifetime away.
My Golden Ticket - 20 years old and still in perfect nick
I don’t remember much, if anything, about the events leading up to the gig on the actual day, so I’ll cut to arriving at our seats in the Royal Albert Hall.
You can see from the ticket, that we were in Row 8. As 7.30 arrived, a little bit gutted not be at the front, we listened patiently as the leader of The Natural Law Party did his bit for peace, love and transcendental meditation. Any other time, I’d have been completely openminded to learn something new, but surely he knew why we were all there? Even so, he was determined to rattle on.
Eventually, he started to deliver what sounded like an intro….for someone very special who was supporting their cause.
The Albert Hall went quiet. You could hear the goose bumps sprouting in anticipation. Finally, George emerged from the wings. Sweet, sheepish and obviously a little nervous.
I was shocked at what followed. The Albert Hall erupted into a standing ovation – the love for George was never in question. But no-one moved from their seat. Was it in a bid to remain polite in the presence of The Law Party’s spiritual leader? Or was it because we could see that any sudden movements might have sent Jumpy George running straight back into the wings? In hindsight, whatever the reason, it was a very respectful act, but hey, I hadn’t come all the way to London to be NICE.
I looked at Christine. Christine looked at me. Within one split second, we had kicked back our seats and made a run for it. Before they knew what was happening, the front row had lost their prime position (survival of the fittest I believe it’s called) and my elbows were firmly planted on the edge of the stage. Like a tree standing by the waterside, I would not be moved.
Once the kerfuffle (it’s not often you get chance to type that) had subsided, my position suddenly struck me. My elbows were 6 inches away from a certain pair of Harrison size 9′s. I looked up – and there he was. I had the best view in the house, and could see right up the very nose that created the gorgeously adenoidal scousisms that came through in his vocals.
I was pretty much dumbstruck throughout but will never forget the awkwardness of catching George’s eye on a number of occasions during the gig. I was stood slap-bang in front of him so it was hard not to, but George was clearly uncomfortable with our proximity. What do you do when your favourite Beatle stares right at you? I didn’t quite know where to put my face.
As the night went on, everyone, including George, relaxed and the entire Hall was revelling in his Greatest Hits. The guest line-up was impressive to say the least – Andy Fairweather Low from Amen Corner, old favourite Ray Cooper on percussion, Joe Walsh from the Eagles and the late, great Gary Moore. Rumour had it that Eric Clapton should have been there but didn’t turn up due to a pre-gig barney with George – not sure whether that was true, but to be honest, as cool as it would have been, we didn’t need him. I did, however, get a lovely surprise when George introduced Mike Campbell from Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers. I’d been to see them not long before this gig and had fallen madly in love with Mike, largely due to the unbelievable way he handled a mandolin. Sighhhh…..
George sang everything we could have possibly wanted him to sing, even Piggies. I feel so lucky to have been there. I can’t remember which song he did as an encore (maybe someone reading might have been there and could refresh my memory?) but the best was yet to come.
George’s last guest was the irreplaceable…..Mr Richard Starkey. Now I’ve heard some crowds go wild at gigs before, but jeez, this was off the planet. Two Beatles on one stage for the first time in God knows how long, was quite an emotional treat. There were middle-aged men crying behind me, their childhoods staring them right in the face. That’s pretty great.
In fear of not doing the night enough justice, it feels too soon to draw this blog to a close, but I do have one last thing to share. A picture can speak a thousand words and one thing I failed to mention earlier, is that I had my camera with me.
If you didn’t believe me when I said I was staring right up his nose, here’s my proof. My apologies for the copyright, but these pictures are so precious to me that I couldn’t risk anyone using them. They have never been seen before by anyone other than my family and friends.
George seemed to be a truly sweet soul and remains not only my favourite Beatle but one of my all-time favourite people. Martin Scorsese’s recent documentary made me love him even more and looking at these pictures really makes me smile. Enjoy them. Thanks George xx
With Mike Campbell
With Gary Moore