Here Comes The Sun: The Spiritual and Musical Journey of George Harrison

Sunday, February 26, 2006

STORY BEHIND THE BACK COVER PHOTO

In 1974, 22-year-old Murray Silver was putting himself through college in Savannah, Georgia, by booking pop groups in local venues and doing some photography on the side. That year, George Harrison became the first solo Beatle to tour the United States, promoting his new album Dark Horse. It was also the year that negative reaction to Harrison’s spirituality threatened to derail his success as one of history’s top music artists. Silver managed to get himself appointed official photographer for the southern leg of the Dark Horse tour, and in the following interview with author Joshua M. Greene he describes the background to the above photo—which makes its print debut here.

Q: How did you manage to get yourself signed on as photographer for the Dark Horse tour?
A: Back in 1970, I’d brought Billy Preston to do a concert in Atlanta. That was at a time when he and his God Squad were having trouble making ends meet. When the Harrison tour was announced, I saw that Billy would be playing keyboards. So I called him up and said I wanted to shoot the show and asked if he’d introduce me to George. Billy said he’d be happy to make it happen.

Q: Were you the official photographer?
A: There was no such job as official tour photographer in those days. When rock groups toured in the sixties, local media would send a staff photographer to grab a shot for the morning news. The major media usually waited for tours to hit New York or Los Angeles before getting their shots.

Q: You took this on even though you were still in school. How did you manage both?
A: I took off as much of the fall quarter as I could without being dropped from the rolls. Thankfully, Thanksgiving vacation factored in, so I hit the road and picked up the tour in New Orleans. My intention was to take the southern swing through the U.S. and then get back to Atlanta in time for Thanksgiving dinner with family. Well, I turned up for my meet with George, prepared with stacks of Beatle memorabilia for him to sign. He looked at the books and records and said, “I don't sign autographs. Autographs are a thing from the sixties.” I mean, it was heartbreaking. I told him, “I've been waiting ten years for this.” He looked at me and said, “Then I’ll shake your hand.” And he did.

Q: That must have been a big disappointment. Did he do or say something to explain his position?
A: Not at first. I’ve played the scene over in my mind many times and wondered what would’ve been the outcome if I’d answered his point about autographs being a thing from the sixties by saying, “So are you”. I’m glad I didn’t, but at that moment I didn’t like him as much as I had. I mean, he’d just wounded the love of a fifth grader who first laid eyes on the Beatles in 1963, a kid who took a Greyhound bus from Savannah to Jacksonville on the heels of a hurricane just to see them perform in the Gator Bowl.

Q: But something happened to change that impression?
A: Very much so. George must have sensed my discomfort. So the first thing he did was to introduce me to his father, and then we split for the show. He made sure that I had a seat in the front row and gave me a tour pass, which was a laminated pin of the Dark Horse logo—and that’s when I discovered that I was the only person allowed on-site with a camera. That night, he played directly to me. And every other night as well. If you look at the shots I took, you’ll see that his eyes are locked on my lens. And in nearly every shot there’s an effect I’ve never seen before or since, a kind of halo of color surrounding him.

Q: Couldn’t that simply be backlighting?
A: You’d think that’s the case and that I was simply at an angle where the stage lights were flooding my lens. Even so, the effect is ethereal, surreal. George does not look like he's playing in some arena in the material worlds of New Orleans or Atlanta or Memphis. He looks like he’s in another world, a better place—a place much like the one I’m guessing he’s in now. Later, when he saw the prints, he said they made him look just like he felt at that moment, walking onstage for the first time in a long time to an adoring crowd. There were other stops on the Dark Horse tour where the response wasn’t as warm. But for those few concerts here in the South…

Q: How is it such a great shot as this one has never been published before?
A: My photos were scheduled for the cover of a live album from the tour, but it was never produced because George had severe vocal problems at the time. So the photo was never printed, never reproduced or publicly displayed. And I never found a fit venue—until your book came along. Remembering the circumstances of how we met and the resulting conversation and how it ended up as the conclusion to your book, I felt that letting the photo come out now would be the perfect karmic conclusion for what had been laid down long before—as well as a lasting tribute to George.


Murray Silver is author of Great Balls of Fire: The True Story of Jerry Lee Lewis. Joshua M. Greene is author of Here Comes the Sun: The Spiritual and Musical Journey of George Harrison.

4 Comments:

Blogger all2much said...

Is it possible to obtain Mr. Murray's photos from the Dark Horse tour? Does anyone know?

What a grat addition to a collection that woiuld be.

2:53 PM  
Blogger all2much said...

grat = great.

Sorry.

:-)

2:54 PM  
Blogger Gypsy Jo said...

I was a long time co-worker with Mr. Silver's father, who was an attorney ( and good thing when you hear the rest of this) and am well aquainted with the Silver family. Mr. Silver has had his books turned down by every major publisher in the biz because of his wildly fabricated stories. He finally had to publish them himself. It's a sad truth, but unfortunately it IS true. He also "plagerized" some Bob Dylan photos from the early 70s, claiming to have taken the cover of the Hard Rain LP... and got into some trouble for it. That's not even the least of it all. There's more, a lot more, and it's really rather disappointing, because Mr. Silver has some talent as a writer and photographer but he couldn't seem to keep himself from telling stories that only aquaintances or eager newbies would accept. He was fired from two universities for reasons I won't go into here because they don't matter, but I say: Please beware of claims from Mr.Silver, I'm sorry to say. I hope what is in this interview is all true, but I have my doubts. It could be...but reader beware. Peace.

9:44 PM  
Blogger mouse said...

Gypsy Jo, as a teller of half truths and whole lies, is wrong on all counts: Murray Silver has been published by Morrow, Quill, St. Martins and Goldman; while it is true his book about the death of Elvis was turned down, it was because he was totin' water for Dr. Nick, and not because his work was not publishable. I've known him longer than most who claim to know Murray, and I knew him back in 1975 when he designed the OZ record store in Atlanta and used the Dylan photos for a display, all of which was legal and aboveboard (I know because I worked on the project). Further, Murray was fired from neither Georgia State University or the Music Business Institute, where he was routinely voted by his students to be their favorite professor (Please, check both HR Depts for the facts). His stories might seem out of this world, but he is ultimately who he says he is and he has very real photos to prove it. If you have a problem with Murray you have a problem with me, Gypsy Jo. Call me, and I'll be happy to straighten you out.

2:58 AM  

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