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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Some Of The Beatles And Me - Part Two

My next brush with a Beatle came at a Ravi Shankar concert, which should give you an idea of who it is right away.

I was offered two tickets to a concert at the Pasadena Community College auditorium from Ravi's tamboura player and wanted to take my girlfriend at the time, but as things happened, we broke up the day before the concert. There I was, stuck with an extra ticket with a face value of $15, so I sold it to a kid outside the venue before I headed in. I figured I was up 15 bucks, since the ticket didn't cost me anything to begin with.

The ticket said the seat was in row "OO" and when I showed it to the usher after not having much luck finding the seat, she pointed towards the balcony and said, "You're way up there." It was a freebie ticket, so I couldn't complain too much about the location.

When I finally made it up to balcony, another usher began to take me to the back row, just about as far away from the stage as you could get. Even in such a small venue (maybe 1500 seats), you still felt isolated up there. But the usher couldn't find row OO either since the seating stopped at NN, so she called over another usher who immediately said, "I know where you're supposed to be. Follow me."  Before you know it, I was in almost the best seat in the house, in the first row, almost dead center of the stage.

Needless to say, I was a little stunned, and so was the kid who bought the ticket for 15 bucks. Boy, did he get a deal! Shortly after, the lights came down and Ravi started his first spectacular raga that lasted about 45 minutes.

I was pretty much into Ravi's masterful performance during this time, and didn't pay attention to what was around me too much, but during the 2nd raga, I began to notice the guy sitting next to me. He had longish brown hair and was dressed in a very plain green t-shirt and a red plaid shirt on top of that. Very ordinary - perhaps a bit too ordinary considering the location of the seats. It began to dawn on me - Ravi Shankar in Los Angeles, George Harrison has a house in Los Angeles, George brought Ravi to the masses. Could this be George sitting beside me? What took me so long to figure this out?

At the end of the second raga, I got my answer. As we were applauding, he turned to me and smiled that smile that you've seen a thousand times on the news, television, record albums and the movies. We smiled at each other in mutual appreciation for the greatness we were experiencing together. And still I was stunned it was him.

At the end of the concert, George leapt up and ran to the stage to meet with his mentor. I wasn't fast enough to speak with him, but I didn't know what to say anyway. What do you say? Living in Hollywood for almost 30 years, I know enough that celebrities want their space. If you don't have anything to say to them that you wouldn't say to a non-celeb, it's best kept to yourself. They are just people, but they're hassled way more than the rest of us. Why add to it?

But what was interesting was that virtually no one noticed, or cared to notice him. George Harrison, one of the world's best known and wealthiest musicians, was so comfortably dressed, so down to earth, so of-the-people, that he could've been a regular in Lazarchick's Bar in my hometown of Minersville, PA. It wasn't a put-on or a disguise so he wouldn't be noticed, it was just him. How cool is that?

Since this seems to be Beatles week, we'll continue the theme on the next couple of posts with a bit on their recording innovations and sound.

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