It does seem topical with the recent release of The Beatles: Get Back, but today marks 20 years to the day that the one and only George Harrison, the youngest of The Beatles, died at the age of 58 after living with with throat, lung & brain cancer over the final 4 years of his life, the end result of a lifelong smoking habit, which managed to do more damage to him than that intruder on New Year’s in 1999.
If you can cast your mind back 20 years, Harrison’s death was also around the same time as the Invasion of Afghanistan, which is funny to think after the events of this year in the Middle East….
Obviously Sir Peter Jackson has done a mighty job detailing Harrison’s fraught end to his time with The Beatles, while at least 500,000,000 people have chronicled his time with the Fab Four, so in commemoration of the day that we lost the Quiet Beatle, or as he was also known in the Traveling Wilburys, Nelson Wilbury, here’s a random non-musical George Harrison story, and as we all know, there’s craploads of them, from gardening, to motor racing, to film making.
Financing The Life Of Brian
In 1978, after EMI withdrew financing for Monty Python’s Life Of Brian due to finding the script blasphemous, Harrison, who had previously worked with Eric Idle and was an unabashed fan of the Pythons dating back to Flying Circus, came to the rescue and agreed to finance the film through his new production company HandMade Films, which was achieved by mortgaging his Henley-on-Thames mansion, plus the London offices of his business manager Denis O’Brien, raising the required sum of between £2-3,000,000.
Of course, the simple reason for doing so, according to Harrison himself?
He wanted to go and see the film.
Harrison & several of the Pythons would jokingly describe it as the most expensive cinema ticket in history, and if you’ve ever seen Life Of Brian, Harrison, who would serve as an executive producer, makes a very sneaky cameo at the 1 hour 9 minute mark:
In short, when it come to Life Of Brian, George Harrison was both the messiah, and a very naughty boy.
A few other George/Monty Python fun facts, which were briefly alluded to: Harrison made an appearance on the 1975 Christmas special of Eric Idle’s sketch show Rutland Weekend Television, which was also the birthplace of The Beatles parody band The Rutles.
Idle also directed the music videos for Harrison’s 1977 singles True Love (A cover of the Cole Porter song) and Crackerbox Palace, which were both filmed at Harrison’s estate in Friar Park… Eric can be seen briefly in the chair at 2:43:
That connection is part of the chain of events that led to Harrison financing Life of Brian.
And finally, during the Concert For George in 2002, held on the one year anniversary of Harrison’s passing, the surviving Pythons were joined by Tom Hanks to perform Sit on My Face and The Lumberjack Song as a tribute to their friend: