Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Within You Without You

I finally got around to seeing the Martin Scorsese film about George Harrison on HBO the other night, or at least as much of the 3 1/2 hour opus as I'm ever likely to see.

It confirmed for me that George --- usually thought of as the Quiet Beatle --- was at heart a rather unpretentious guy who probably never quite got over the fact that he was able to pick up the phone at 4:00  in the morning and get Bob Dylan. He was also a lot smarter, wittier, and more creative than he was generally given credit for being.

Could there have been a Beatles without George Harrison as long as there was a Lennon-McCartney?  No doubt about it.  But would it have been The Beatles?  

Would anything great have been as great without all the moving parts as we know them?

The Three Stooges without Larry

All guys love the Three Stooges, but the curly-haired stooge in the middle often gets our short shrift, if in fact he gets any shrift at all. But Larry Fine served as the perfect buffer, smoothing out the hard edges between the more prominent Moe and Curly.

It was Larry who prevented The Two Stooges from becoming a dizzying non-stop Slap Slap Slap/Nyuk-Nyuk-Nyuk-a-Thon  difficult even for you and me to stomach much of the time,  let alone your wife or girl friend who thinks the Stooges suck and never loses an opportunity to turn them off whenever she comes into the room!  

Sherlock Holmes without Dr. Watson

A Study in Scarlet?  Sans the moderating influence of  Dr. Watson,  the great detective's  debut would have been A Study in Blow, the only mystery at hand being up which of Sherlock's nostrils all the money vanished by the end of each week. 

Even as personified by the loyal and childlike Nigel Bruce, would any other partner have stood by Holmes as faithfully and perpetually without ultimately bludgeoning the ego-tripping Englishman to death with his own pipe, slippers, and violin?

Abbott and Costello without Abbott

 "Costello: Well tell me the fellas' names.
   Costello: Well,  then who's on first?
   Costello: I mean the fellow's name.
   Costello: The guy on first.
   Costello: The first baseman.
   Costello: The guy playing...
   Costello: I'm asking YOU who's on first!
   Costello: That's who's name!?
   Costello:  I don't even know what I'm talking about! "

Hey, Abbott!  Ya done good, dude.

The Beatles Without Ringo Starr

John, Paul ,George, and Pete?  Doesn't have the same ring, does it?   Sounds more like the infield for the 1947 Chicago Cubs than the composition of the world's greatest ever musical group.

Aside from his pretty good drumming, Ringo added an important dimension to the Fab Four as a sort of comic Everyman. Here was a more or less goofy-looking but ingratiating schnook riding the express train to immortality who seemed to be just like one of us, only a good bit luckier.

And as it turned out, that's exactly what he was. 

Which brings us back to you, George Harrison.

And Within You Without You, George,  Here Still Would Have Come the Sun but things wouldn't have been anywhere near as all right, My Guitar Would Still Have Wept but never quite so gently, and that Something in the Way She Moves would probably have been gout.

So here’s to the Quiet Beatle.

And to all the Quiet Beatles among us!


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