Mark Batchelor, photographer Jonathan Stewart and I attended the preview of the I, Me, Mine exhibition yesterday, held by Genesis Publications to mark the launch of the extended version of George Harrison’s original biography published in 1980.
The viewing took place from 4pm in the remarkable surroundings of the Elms Lesters Painting Room, just off Denmark Street in London’s West End. The building was built in 1904 and was purpose built for the painting of scenery and backdrops for local theatres.
We were greeted by Sue Harris of Republic Media, who had kindly invited me to this special event. Upon entering the Rooms, we were immediately captivated by the numerous examples of photographs, handwritten lyrics, illustrations and quotations lining the walls. Glass cases containing many items of interest from George’s career completed the initial displays, together with an appealing stall displaying all the vinyl albums released by George in his lifetime. Climbing the steep staircase to the first floor proved extremely worthwhile, as the venue’s high ceiling was breathtaking. Several displays proved fascinating in this area, with books containing photographs of Bob Dylan touring Britain in 1966 and a large volume of artist Peter Blake’s work catching my eye.
George’s widow, Olivia, arrived to share her thoughts about his songwriting, the lyrics and photographs that were in the original 1980 edition of the book, and to comment on those that she has recently discovered, many of which are featured in the extended edition. I had a brief conversation with Olivia, in which I was able to inform her of the MU archive at the University of Stirling and the fact we had a number of Beatle related items from the early 1960s.
Jonathan then had to dash off as he was working in Le Mans the following day and had a very early start. Mark and I thanked Sue for her hospitality and walked towards Charing Cross Road for a quick drink in the pub that is now on the site where the Marquee used to be in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Upon returning, we met DJ Annie Nightingale and saw designer Stella McCartney and Texas front woman Sharleen Spiteri arriving in the company of their respective husbands. A VIP event had been arranged from 7pm and guests were to include Dhani Harrison, family members, Jeff Lynne and other famous names who worked with George down the years.
Mark and I then left to eat at Cabana, the Brazilian street cafe, in St Giles Piazza. Later, whilst walking towards Charing Cross Station, we chose to drop into The Club at the Ivy and say hello to the resident pianist, the charming Joe Thompson. Joe played a number of our requests, including a note-for-note rendition of ‘Nobody does it better’. He also divulged that there was a gathering upstairs of notable, including Eric Idle and Woody Harrelson – most of whom had been at the earlier VIP event. After an hour of exchanging stories, Mark and I left and ran into Noel Fielding in the lobby.
As Mark had missed his last train, we caught the Northern Line back to the Oval and I drove him back to his current home in Cobham. I got home just before 2am. A memorable evening.