lennon, dylan, and harrison were nervous - 11/06/17

Today's selection -- from Never a Dull Moment by David Hepworth. John Lennon and George Harrison experienced stage fright at their post-Beatles performances, as did Bob Dylan upon his return from an early-career hiatus:

"From the moment [the Beatles] broke up, George Harrison was uncom­fortable with life on his own. The Beatles' performing experience had been as narrow as it was deep. When Lennon played the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival with his hastily assembled Plastic Ono Band in 1969, he threw up before going onstage because of his nerves. He'd spent thousands of hours onstage, but he'd never spent any time with anyone but the Beatles. He'd always looked to his right and seen the same faces. George felt much the same. Although all of them took every opportunity to describe what they had created as 'just a band,' at the same time they had great faith in the power of that band's brand and worried that people would not accept them as readily if they were out on their own.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono Perform Live at
Toronto Rock & Roll Revival

"Harrison's junior position in the Beatles' second line had given him the opportunity to shine without needing to be a load-bearing wall. As soon as he was free from the Beatles, he rushed to join Del­aney & Bonnie's Friends, where his contributions were largely unheard as he merged among the teeming multitudes at the back. His comparative youth had allowed him to play the mulish adoles­cent when it suited him. The fact that he was in a group with the two most talented and productive songwriters of the age meant that only his best songs got on their records, which shielded him from criticism. Unlike Lennon and McCartney in their very different ways, he was not a leader. All groups pretend to be democracies while depending on one member being prepared to endure the deri­sion of the others by taking a lead. Harrison was never comfortable being that person.

"As the prime mover behind the Concert for Bangladesh, Harri­son was in an even more exposed position. Had he been a few years older, he might have been sufficiently cautious not to take the risk. In this situation he had to advocate for something that had never been tried before -- putting on a high-profile charity concert featur­ing rock superstars while keeping those rock stars happy even though many of them, like [Eric] Clapton, were wrestling with terrors of their own, and all of them were entertaining the single thought that goes through the mind of a performer once outside their familiar zone of operation -- how will this make me look? Whatever anxiety they felt could only be a fraction of what Harrison was feeling. When Bob Dylan said he was nervous about going out in front of the twenty thousand people in Madison Square Garden, Harrison reminded him that he had never been out front in the Beatles and that the few
steps toward the microphone at center stage was going to be a very, very difficult journey for him to make."

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David Hepworth


Never a Dull Moment: 1971 The Year That Rock Exploded


Henry Holt and Co.


Copyright 2016 by David Hepworth


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