Secrets of Creativity from George Harrison
When listening to a song, do you ever wonder how musicians go about making their music? The lyrics, melody, and rhythm all come together to create a head-nodding tune that will be listened to time and time again, leaving me baffled as to how they put so many complex variables together to produce something that sounds so effortless. It’s magic.
While browsing through a friend’s book collection, I stopped when faced with Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and Me, a memoir written by Pattie Boyd, the first wife of both George Harrison and Eric Clapton. Being a major Beatles fan, the promise of juicy gossip and a personal account of the inner workings of one of the member’s minds made it a must-read. I was hoping for some insight into some of that magic that is so hard to understand.
Why did I think finding it through Patty was a good idea? Sometimes I think that the best insight into a person is through the eyes of those closest to them. I wasn’t disappointed – Patty’s recollection of George and his band members going through their creative process was really interesting. Among stories of fame, high-profile friends, psychedelic parties and an era filled with embracing free love, I found a glimpse into how George and his band members channeled creativity to create music that was to revolutionize culture.
“His guitars were always left around the house and in any spare moment he would pick one up and play. When John, Paul, Ringo, or any other musician appeared – as they often did – they all played. But George would never play a complete song. He played what was in his head, or he would be working on new chords or a new song, I never knew which, and weeks later you would hear a song on tape.”
“I loved listening to him, loved the sound of the guitar in the house. Sometimes I would start to talk and he’d be so deep in thought about the lyrics or the melody he was writing that he wouldn’t answer. We’d be in the same room but he wasn’t really with me: he was in his head. Most of the time I didn’t mind. I’d think, Oh, good, he’s writing a new song – he was always happiest when he was being creative.”
“Sometimes songs would come to him in the middle of the night and he would wake up in the morning and immediately start to play so he didn’t forget it; he would change chords, then stop because something didn’t sound right. John and Paul wrote most of their songs together – they sparked off each other – but George wrote on his own. He composed the melody first, but as he was not formally trained he couldn’t write the music down; he would play it and play it so it was fixed in his mind, then record it. The words came later.”
Prior to reading Patty’s recollection, I’d always imagined The Beatles making music by jamming out in a small garage, and happening upon songs as they came to them sporadically. Though I was somewhat on point with the sporadic nature, it turns out that they produced their art in ways different from even one another. Where Paul & John sparked together, George created better alone. It just goes to show that creativity can be channeled in many different ways, and it’s so individualized.
My bet is that even George didn’t consciously realize that he did some of the things that Patty observed. He just was, which is cool to think about. This person, who helped to shape the music industry as we know it today, didn’t necessarily consciously try to do so. His creativity was something practiced, down to the everyday moments, and it laddered up to something much bigger than himself.
A challenge for the Wandeleurs: Ask someone close to you what little things you do, things that you may not even notice, when you create. Their answer may surprise you and perhaps help you to explore that side even further. You may even find that, in the moments where you are at your best, you’re subconscious takes over and you just are. Like George.