Picks and Pans Review: Dark Horse: the Private Life of George Harrison

updated 06/18/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/18/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Geoffrey Giuliano

Harrison has self-deprecatingly referred to himself and Ringo as "economy-class Beatles." But over the long haul, his retiring, reserved and reflective nature has made him in some ways the most intriguing of the Fab Four. Sadly, this biography by Beatles' collector and author Giuliano, while it's well-organized and informative, doesn't reveal much about this enigmatic personality.

He was born, the youngest of four, to a bus driver in Liverpool in 1943, during the turmoil of World War II. In simple, detailed prose, Giuliano covers well the early years leading up to the 1960 formation of the Beatles, describing, for instance, an independent streak that had the young George adamantly refusing to let his mother walk him to school after the first day.

The main deficit here is the music, which is mentioned only glancingly. That's too bad since Harrison fashioned what may be the best post-Beatles albums of the quartet: All Things Must Pass and Cloud Nine.

Harrison's spiritual quest gels much more attention. Along with John Lennon, he was the first Beatle to try hallucinogens and the first to hook up with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the Indian guru who introduced the West to Transcendental Meditation. Harrison's friendship with sitarist Ravi Shankar led him to an enthusiastic study of the religion, music and culture of India. Later Harrison would be a devotee of Guru Maharaji, the chubby teenage "perfect master," and eventually a benefactor of the Hare Krishna movement.

As Giuliano sees it, the world of British rock music is close-knit, if not incestuous. Giuliano cites a rumor that during Harrison's marriage to Pattie Boyd, once a potato-chip spokesmodel, he was carrying on with Ringo's first wife, Maureen. Then Pat-lie left George for (and married) Eric Clapton. Harrison, for a time, consoled himself with an ex-girlfriend of Rod Stewart.

In the early '80s, after Lennon's murder, Harrison, the author says, grew more reclusive, more disillusioned, more intent on cocaine consumption. No real secrets are unearthed here though. To the extent that this book involves the reader, it is in seeing that in the case of Harrison, more than any other Beatle, the image really matches the man. (Dutton, $18.95)

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