Monday, April 23, 2007

'While My Guitar Gently Weeps: the Music of George Harrison' by Simon Leng

While My Guitar Gently Weeps is a Beatles Geek Beatles book. The bulk of the book is an album by album tour through the music of George Harrison, primarily after the breakup of the Beatles. Not only is it album by album, each song gets its own little write up. In addition to listing all the musicians on each song the songs are discussed in depth followed by a discussion of the album as a whole. For the average person with a reasonable interest in the Beatles this book is the very definition of overkill. For people like me it’s about right.

There is no way that you can enjoy this book and not be thought of as a total dork by your friends. First of all, if you enjoy this book you probably have copies of even the obscure and not great Harrison albums, like Gone Troppo. You also probably know many of the obscure facts in the book and already have opinions on the plethora of trivia and inconsequencia that lives on almost every page. But that’s just the point. So much has been written about the Beatles that it’s hard to find new things to say but Leng has said a lot here that, frankly, hasn’t been gathered in one spot before – at least not that I’ve seen.

He does a nice job of highlighting Harrison’s contribution to the music of the Beatles in the first section of the book, pointing out that George was more about adding to the song than being a guitar-slinger. He’s such a fan of George’s though that he might be giving him a bit more credit for things than he deserves. Actually, if I have a complaint about this book it’s that Leng is too much of a Harrison fan, finding the good in even his most trite and mundane songs. Granted, to write this much about a musician you better be a fan (or at least be very well paid) but Leng is occasionally over the top in his praise of all the things that George did. Even when he reviews albums that are universally panned he finds many good things to say about them often pointing out that the pans were more along the lines of “look at all these people who missed the point.” To be fair, Leng is pretty harsh on Harrison's album Somewhere in England but he lays most of the blame for that one on the record company who rejected George's first pass at that album.

So, Leng’s book is certainly one that you will want to read if you’re a real Beatles Dork. But, surprisingly, Leng’s writing is crisp enough and the story is interesting enough that even the more casual fan will enjoy many parts of it. I certainly have enjoyed it and I’m guessing that most Beatles fans will – even those who don't own Gone Troppo.

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