~WE GET BY WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM OUR FRIENDS~
Meeting Dhani Harrison is a bizarre experience. He looks exactly like his father did in the early 60s, but with evidence of a better diet and quality grooming products. And while George Harrison was a working-class Liverpool lad who played guitar in the biggest pop group of all time, Harrison junior, at 23, is the son of a multimillionaire. He exudes the kind of privilege, confidence and charming public-school noblesse oblige that you would expect from a young man who is off shooting with Eric Clapton a few hours after talking to us about his favourite records.
We are in Harrison's study; having passed framed outtakes for the cover shoot of the Beatles' Abbey Road in the corridor outside. Pete, the photographer, is trying out his new camera, which he has just bought with the help of a substantial loan. "Are you sure there won't be too much light if I'm sitting here?" Harrison asks him, casually. "I know because I've got one of those myself."
Harrison has followed his father into the family trade, and he is aware of the dangers of doing so. "I don't really plan to be a pop star; I just want to be able to make music without the whole My Dad thing hanging over me, which everyone in my position goes through," he explains. "It's a tricky one. You can' t help being a musician because you've grown up with music, yet being one means being compared to your dad and being slated for it. But I really don't have the ambitions of most people going into the industry."
Harrison's first professional job was to finish Brainwashed, the album that George was working on before he died in November 2001. It was left to Harrison, who played guitar on all the tracks, and Jeff Lynne to complete the production work. "When you're so close to someone it's really tough," he says. "There were days when Jeff and I had to leave the studio with lumps in our throats."
Many of the songs on Brainwashed, which was released on schedule at the end of last year, had been written many years before, and Harrison had grown up hearing them. "[George] never really had a desire to be releasing solo albums the whole time and spent most of his days gardening. My job was to finish off the recording of the songs in a way that I know he would have wanted.
"I've been criticised for making them sound too posh. One interviewer asked me: 'How do you feel that you've betrayed your father?' That wasn't really very cool." Among his top records, the Beatles' Revolver is high on the list. "I think it might be the best album ever," he says. "I know people rate Sergeant Pepper, but for me, and I think for my father, it would be this and Rubber Soul, which makes sense when you know that they were originally intended to be released together as a double album. Revolver also has the best cover artwork, and Klaus Voorman, who did it, is an amazing artist and a lovely man."
The family house was filled with the peaceful sounds of Indian classical music, and Ravi Shankar, who taught George Harrison how to play the sitar, remains a close family friend. But George's favourite piece of Indian music was Mandolin Ecstasy, an album recorded by a child prodigy from Madras called U Srinivas at the age of 13. "It was, like, my dad's favourite album of all time," says Harrison. "U Srinivas is 27 now and still making music. He plays an electric five-string mandolin, he's fantastic, and beyond that I don' t know anything about him. But he's the man."
The western music played chez Harrison was Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Bix Beiderbecke and Hoagy Carmichael. "People at school were surprised I liked that stuff, but those were hardcore dudes," says Harrison. "I only discovered electronic music as a teenager and I still love the Prodigy and Massive Attack."
Bob Dylan's Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie is Harrison's favourite song. "It's a life lesson, and far, far beyond what most people would expect to find on a CD," he says. "It's like the meaning of life: 'When your head gets twisted and your mind grows numb and you think you're too old, too young, too smart or too dumb.' I've felt that a million times and I haven't been able to say how I felt. But Bob said it for me."
After rifling through CDs by Leadbelly, Jimi Hendrix, the Prodigy and Air, Harrison arrives at Midnight Vultures by Beck, mainly for the song Debra, the slow jam in which Beck woos a checkout girl at JC Penney, promises to take her out for a meal in Glendale in LA, then chases after her sister. "It's a real LA album, and if you go there, you realise that Beck is definitely on the outside of things," he says. "I was there for five months for the recording of Brainwashed, and my mum's from LA, but I'm definitely English. They're complete freaks out there."
Harrison likes the New York hip-hop collective the Wu-Tang Clan for their originality and dark imagination. He picks out Liquid Swords, the solo album by Wu-Tang member Genius. "They're all well scary and they probably hate a little white boy saying he likes their music, but I think they're wicked," he says. '"Especially Ol' Dirty Bastard, who is a genius. It' s unfortunate that they keep carting him off to rehab, mental institutions and jail."
Harrison concludes by stating that he doesn't like music that pulls its punches. "All the records I like are hardcore. Bob Dylan is the hardest core of the core. Air are chilled out, but they're hardcore musicians. U Srinivas is a hardcore dude from Madras. Leadbelly? He killed a man! Enough said!"