Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 172
Sat. July 20, 2013
“The Light That Has Lighted the World”
If I’m ever feeling confused and in need of some mystical words of advice, I open up George Harrison’s book I Me Mine, and usually during moments of intense doubt, this once quiet Beatles will share his wit and wisdom that will give me the sparks of illumination when I needed most. Today was no different, when I was bewildered; Harrison was there once again when he wrote in his book, “Why live in the darkness all your life? Why, if you are unhappy, if you are having a miserable time, why not just look at it. Why are you in the darkness? Look for the light. The light is within. That is the big message.”
George Harrison was the most spiritual of all the Beatles he believed, “All religions are branches of one big tree.” At first glance, “The Light That Has Lightened the World” may have seemed like the olive branch to George’s personal faith but a look at the lyrics shows that there’s something more personal at hand. The key words in “Lightened the World” are free and change. Like it’s Plastic Ono Band counterpart, George Harrison’s Living in the Material World’s “God.” Unlike John Lennon who sang “I Don’t believe in Beatles…I just Believe in Me,” Harrison’s “Light” is not as explicitly as John but “World” has the same theme, like Lennon, Harrison was trying to break free of his Fab Four identity and leave his Beatles life in the past.
Elton John saw first hand what the legacy of The Beatles was doing to George Harrison when he told Rolling Stone Magazine in 2002, “I think he’d had enough by 1970 to last three lifetimes … He found something worth more than fame, more than fortune, more than anything.” Even though this Living in the Material World song shares the same wording as a verse from the Bible (John 8:12), “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life;” George so wanted this passage to be true but because of his Fab Four past, Harrison felt trapped by his former self. I hear “World” as George telling his supporters who are longing for a Beatles reunion… ‘how can you follow me when you see me only as a Beatle?’
In the demo version of “The Light” from Early Takes, you can hear with George’s delicate chords like Harrison searching the darkness for the light. This early version is enlightening for the fact that stripped down rendition sounds like George is flicking a lighter trying to find that perfect spark to bring his canvas of emotions to light. But Harrison needed some keys to bring his “World” to life. Lucky he found that almost perfect sound during the recording of Living in the Material World.
Even though, lyrically, “The Light” was Harrison trying to break free from his past, musically, thanks to Nicky Hopkins eternal piano keys, the way Hopkins and Harrison shine in the middle of “World” is one of the definite centerpieces’s of Living in the Material World. In 1971, Hopkins told Disc and Music Echo, “[…] with George, I feel a very close thing … We just seem to understand each other on a personal level so well.” You can feel Nicky and George’s musical connection, as Simon Leng explained when he wrote in his book While My Guitar Gently Weeps: The Music of George Harrison, “The highlight of the track is the instrumental break, a rolling lilting passage from Nicky Hopkins, topped by one of Harrison’s finest performances. In the closing bars of the statement, repeated as the song’s coda, [George’s] guitar vocalizes a series of six string sobs. George finally made his guitar gently weep.”
Simon Leng is so right, three years after recording on The Beatles’ White Album with Eric Clapton; Harrison finally brought to life the weeping sound of wanting to be free from the fame and fandom of being a member of The Fab Four. Harrison struggled in the spotlight and longed to create his own glow away from Lennon, McCartney and Starr. It took the disbanding of The Beatles, the recording of two solo albums for Harrison to realize that he still wasn’t free from his infamous past. Harrison followed his own advice, “Why live in the darkness all your life? Why, if you are unhappy, if you are having a miserable time, why not just look at it. Why are you in the darkness? Look for the light. The light is within. That is the big message.” George felt his musical message illuminating inside and with help from Nick Hopkins, through soaring guitar changes; Harrison voiced his longing for freedom when he felt the luminescence within the “The Light That Has Lightened The World.”