How many Beatles does it take to screw in a light bulb?

October 9, 2011 – Sorry, I don’t have a funny punch line here.

It’s just one of the many questions answered in the Martin Scorsese documentary “George Harrison: Living in the Material World”.

The documentary premiered in two parts on HBO on October 5 and 6, and after being consumed with baseball all week, I watched it this weekend.

I thought I knew pretty much everything about Harrison since he’s my favorite Beatle, I’m an avid reader of Beatles memorabilia, and I’ve successfully played the Beatles’ version of Trivial Pursuit. That should practically make me a scholar.

But there was so much more to George’s public persona than I realized and I was captivated for the three and a half hours worth screen time dedicated to the quiet Beatle.

I never knew, for example, that Harrison wanted the song “All Things Must Pass” on the Let it Be album, but John Lennon and Paul McCartney were opposed to it. That happened to be the very reason George walked away from the group, something that he would later come to miss, and became a solo artist.

The documentary begins in the early years of the Beatles in Hamburg and is told through letters written by Harrison to his parents in Liverpool. The pearls of wisdom he shares are quite insightful for a young man of only 17. He apparently started on a spiritual path early in his life.

There are also lots of snapshots of George with a camera, capturing all he could of the Beatlemania hysteria that ensued in the early 1960s.

Even the most obscure of details is covered in this entertaining and educational documentary. In the movie A Hard Day’s Night, for example, there is a scene where a reporter asks Harrison what he calls his hair style. His reply was Arthur, which I always found humorous just because it’s silly. But truth is stranger than fiction. He actually copied his early hair style after of friend of his who’s name was Arthur. Harrison had an interesting sense of humor, which obviously made it on to the movie script.

Part two of the documentary delves into his life after the Beatles, his wife leaving him for his best friend, his solo recordings, the Concert for Bangladesh, producing movies, dealing with Lennon’s death, the Traveling Wilburys, and finally his battle with cancer.

And what’s the answer to the title question. It takes four Beatles to screw in a light bulb, of course, as asked and answered by Harrison himself with his trademark toothy grin.

Scorsese did a fine job making this documentary. He talked to just the right people, covered a lot that was previously unknown, and weaved together a story that is well worth experiencing.

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