Saturday, April 10, 2010

"Got My Mind Set on You" by George Harrison (1988)

The Beatles were a strange phenomenon: as a quartet, they spent a scant few years together but churned out enough great music to fill a conservatory. As four individuals? Well, the truth be told, the solo Fabs catalogues are by and large underwhelming. Most disappointing is the catalogue of John Lennon, which consists of a few amazing tracks, almost nothing truly horrible, and lots that are mediocre. The same could be said for George Harrison too, but it's less disappointing in his case, because expectations were lower. It might be true that George Harrison was the first one to break the Beatles mould, and the first one to have a solo hit (the truly impressive 'My Sweet Lord'), but he was also the first one to descend into a quagmire of humourless, samey-sounding tracks (this is a particular riddle of the solo Beatles: why four people who, as individuals, had diverged to such an extraordinary degree would each find their principal early- to mid-70s sonic template in the same source: 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps'. The Apple solo years are simply swimming in that basic glossy guitar sound, the same one the Threetles returned to for 'Free as a Bird' all those years later.)

By the late seventies, it was difficult to imagine yourself caring at all about George Harrison, except as a producer of movies featuring midgets and/or Pythons. By what I'll cruelly describe as a stroke of luck, the murder of his ex-bandmate gave him a jolt of relevance with the admittedly wonderful 'All Those Years Ago', but it was then back to business as usual. Until 1988, and his last major album released during his lifetime. This song illustrates two great truths - one: that there is no relationship whatsoever between a song's quality and its popularity, and two: that the year 1988 exhibited a particularly inverse relationship between quality and popularity. What else can explain this particulary horrid song making it all the way to number one on Billboard? A washed-up has-been singing a resurrected, and previously ignored, 'oldie' that appears to consist of nothing more than its title and the phrase 'to do it' repeated over and over... and over.. and over again. Plus that damned torture instrument of the nineteen eighties, the saxophone solo. Truly annoying, this song should have been an embarrassment that the record company rejected and refused to release (something that repeatedly happened to Harrison in the 1980s). Instead? Hello #1 and 'comeback'.

How? Why? Was no one in radio in the late eighties actually listening to songs before putting them on their playlists? How could a song this god-awful chart so high?

Oh, and two other questions inspired by watching the video: how could the man who, during 'Let it Be', pretty much defined 'good hair' rock such a plastic mop? And two, how could Alexis Denisof, Wesley from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, actually outgeek his Whedon roles in his youth?

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