Balance, “Beware of Darkness” and George Harrison
By NICK TAVARES
STATIC and FEEDBACK Editor
What’s music if not a tool to balance out the rest of world?
By “music,” that’s not some sort of recommendation on any specific style — it’s going to be different things for different people. Recently, as has been the case before and will be the case again, it’s George Harrison. With a lot of noise and static and clutter in the air, it’s been Harrison lately that’s helped keep me moving. And it’s even called for a little extra effort.
I try really hard not to damage my things, and I’ve been carrying around a minor shame for years. I got my vinyl copy of All Things Must Pass at some point in my senior year in high school, and that triple album was one of the first rock and roll box sets. As a result, it’s boxed the way classical sets from the 1950s and ’60s had been packaged, with a thin paper binding keeping the two halves of the cardboard together. This was already frayed when it got to me, and at some point, it ripped entirely, rendering the package two separate covers that stayed together simply due to the weight pressed against it from both sides by the other LPs on the shelf.
So I stopped pulling it out as often as I had. And that’s silly, which I realized a few days ago when I started listening to All Things Must Pass on my desktop. It struck me that this was ridiculous — my desk is right next to my record player, and I’m not going anywhere, so let’s do this right. Out came the box, on went side three and so began “Beware of Darkness” in all its glory.
Like so much of his work, that song hits a chord that rings deeper that most, even when compared to his famous former colleagues in the Beatles. I’m not especially spiritual, but it’s hard not to feel something greater burning inside when that song is playing in the correct context. It carries four verses of these calming mantras, urging the listener to “Watch out now, take care, beware / of thoughts that linger,” or of “greedy leaders,” and other manners of intrusive, destructive elements. And as much as a song is relegated to the realm pure entertainment, the best ones do carry more weight than merely serving as background noise.
This, clearly, is not meant exclusively for the background. Trying to listen to a few songs in a passive sense hadn’t worked, so I was drawn to get the more laborious version of it to better take in the music. And as much as I love my record collection, it’s not always that way. There’s a lot of music in my digital library and most of the time, that’s fine. The music is still there and it works. But when the option is available, George Harrison’s music seems to inherently demand more than that.
For all the legitimate criticisms of the Wall of Sound that Phil Spector applied to some of these songs, it doesn’t apply to “Beware of Darkness.” The guitars echo and swirl and crest into this voluminous break as the first words of the song emanate through Harrison’s voice. But through that large reverberation, his voice is almost delicate. It strikes this balance with the sometimes bombastic sound that echoes the message of the song itself.
And that balance is appealing. At least it’s on my mind at the moment. I’m going on a trip soon, and I’ve made sure that my ipod is charged and my headphones packed so that I can, as usual, take a reasonable facsimile of all this music with me as I make my way through airports and unfamiliar cities. Within the unfamiliar, there’s something comforting to work as a sort of guide. Where there’s potential duress, there’s an old friend beside.
But that’s fretting about a vacation. The rest of the time, all this is much more necessary. Any kind of music could do, but for right now, it’s this. It’s not always easy out there. Not that it can’t be fun or entertaining, but there’s more than enough to stress out about, more than enough to be angry and furious about. It’s a delicate balance to ride the line between fury and disenchantment, between amusement and labor.
If anything, I suppose that was one of the points Harrison was always trying to make with his music. Take it all in, dissect it but don’t overthink it. Don’t stop working but don’t forget to laugh. Truly, watch out now, take care, beware.
Nov. 7, 2018
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