George Harrison, “Give Me Love [Give Me Peace on Earth]” (1973): One Track Mind

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We’re departing from the usual format for what would have been a final installment of Deep Beatles in 2015 in order to celebrate a song that not only applies to the holiday season, but to the current state of the world:

“Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth),” a track off George Harrison’s 1973 album Living in the Material World, represents the singer/songwriter at his best. Its memorable melody, excellent slide guitar work, and poignant lyrics deliver a message that resounds with all listeners — particularly during the turbulent world events of 2015.

Under pressure to follow up the massively successful All Things Must Pass, Harrison recorded Living in the Material World with many of the same musicians along with new collaborators such as drummer Jim Keltner, who had worked with him during the Concert for Bangladesh. The album would see Harrison delving fully into his spiritual interests; the LP artwork even incorporates an illustration from the Bhagavad-Gita.

Recording sessions took place from October-November 1972 and January-March 1973, with Harrison assuming the producer role (with the exception of “Try Some, Buy Some,” which was co-produced with Phil Spector). Held at Apple Studios, the sessions featured an all-star supporting cast: Nicky Hopkins and Gary Wright on keyboards; Klaus Voormann on bass; and Keltner, Ringo Starr, and Jim Gordon on drums.

In his autobiography I, Me, Mine, George Harrison reflected on the composition of “Give Me Love”: “This song is a prayer and personal statement between me, the Lord, and whoever likes it,” he explained. According to Andrew Grant Jackson’s Still the Greatest: The Essential Songs of the Beatles’ Solo Careers, Harrison wrote the hopeful track in the midst of an otherwise depressing period. Monetary issues resulting from the Concert for Bangladesh remained, with Harrison battling the artists and record companies to donate all royalties to the country’s people.

When the U.S. and U.K. governments refused to waive their taxes, Harrison was forced to personally pay over a million pounds to cover the costs. Making matters worse, Allen Klein (onetime Beatles manager and co-organizer of the Concert for Bangladesh) was accused of pocketing some of the revenue generated from the concert. Ultimately, the event raised 15 million pounds, but the money was tied up in courts for two years.

Despite these setbacks and the sometimes pessimistic tone of Living in the Material World, Harrison composed the ultimately upbeat “Give Me Love.” Featuring stripped-down production, the song includes Hopkins on keyboards, Voormann on bass, and Wright on organ. The star, however, is George Harrison’s exquisite slide guitar, a constant presence throughout the track.

Beginning with acoustic guitar, slide guitar, and subtle percussion, “Give Me Love” immediately sets a gentle tone. Hopkins’ gospel-tinged piano and Wright’s organ underscore the song’s spiritual connotations, the track gradually increasing in volume and intensity until reaching a crescendo: the repetition of the chorus. At the song’s conclusion, the instruments gradually fade out until only the acoustic guitar can be heard, as if coming down from spiritual ecstasy.

Lyrically, according to Jackson, “Give Me Love” represents the “purest expression of the Aquarian Age dream,” a plea to God for support and guidance. In a plaintive voice, Harrison calls upon the Lord to “help me cope with this heavy load” and help him in his quest for understanding. The narrator is “trying to touch and reach you with heart and soul,” wanting to clasp hands with God in order to gain knowledge and empathy. Love and peace on earth, Harrison declares, will help humankind achieve wisdom (“give me light, give me life,” he cries) and serenity.

Clearly, audiences connected with the tune, as Harrison performed it during the Dark Horse Tour as well as the 1991 concerts in Japan with Eric Clapton. In 2002, Jeff Lynne paid tribute to his friend and frequent collaborator by performing the track during the Concert for George.

“Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)” may have been a No. 1 hit for Harrison, but it remains unappreciated as a song for the holiday season, as well as the rest of the year. Wishing for love and peace on earth is a common denominator of numerous carols, although George Harrison’s lyrics add another dimension of struggle toward understanding. These are messages that are welcome as we enter 2016 with hope for a better world.

WHAT IF THE BEATLES NEVER BROKE UP?

Deep Beatles will return in January with more underrated tracks and fascinating journeys into the Beatles’ catalog. Thank you for your continuing support of the column; if you enjoy these articles, be sure to check out my first Beatles book ‘Songs We Were Singing: Guided Tours Through the Beatles’ Lesser-Known Tracks.’

Kit O'Toole

Kit O'Toole

Kit O'Toole is a lifelong music enthusiast who maintains a stand-alone music blog called Listen to the Band. In addition, she is the internet columnist and a contributing editor for Beatlefan magazine. She also holds an Ed.D. in Instructional Technology. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Kit O'Toole
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  • Forrest Humus

    Amen. Another great holiday song by Harrison is DIng Dong Ding Dong. It is beyond my understanding why the song isn’t played all Season long. Tref sez, Check it out.

    • Siegel – New York

      I like Ding Dong, and some may say that Macca’s wonderful christmas time borrows from it. Wouldn’t be the first time Macca did that…

  • Siegel – New York

    Always loved this song. It’s majestic. The stop and go drumming in the last repeat of the chorus (Give me love, give me love, give me peace on earth) is one of my favs little moments.

    Happy holidays everyone.

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