2020 Album Draft- Round 13 Pick 4- Film- MSJADELI- selects- The Concert For Bangladesh.
I remember way back when, when this concert caused such a stir. I remember seeing the photo of the starving child and being shocked into awareness that there were places in the world where babies were starving to death in the streets. I was a self-centered teenager at the time and it went in one ear and out the other. It was only within the last couple of years that I finally saw this concert film. The performances have stuck with me since then. When Hans added bonus rounds in the Desert Island Draft and one round was for a music-related movie, it was in my top 5 to choose from. “The Last Waltz” was pretty danged close to being chosen, but here we are with my favorite musical genius/guru and friends’ effort at raising money for those starving in the streets in a place far away.
The Concert for Bangladesh is a film directed by Saul Swimmer and released in 1972. The film documents the two benefit concerts that were organized by George Harrison and Ravi Shankar to raise funds for refugees of the Bangladesh Liberation War and were held on August 1, 1971 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. As well as notable performances from Harrison and Shankar, the film includes the following musicians, who gave of their talent and their time without compensation and with humility (with the exception of one hotdog, Don Preston.) I watched this again on Friday night to confirm that it’s my best choice and to figure out why. I transcribed every name in the scrolling credits at the end so as not to miss anyone: Ravi Shankar and Ensemble (Ali Akbar Khan, Alla Rakha, and Kamala Chakravarty,) Ringo Starr, Leon Russell, Billy Preston, Eric Clapton, Jesse Ed Davis, Klaus Voormann, Jim Keltner, Carl Radle, Don Preston, Badfinger (Pete Ham, Tom Evans, Joey Molland, and Mike Gibbins,) The Hollywood Horns (Jim Horn, Chuck Findley, Jackie Kelso, Alan Beutler, Lou McCreary, and Ollie Mitchell,) and The Soul Choir (Don Nix, Claudia Lennear, Jo Greene, Dolores Hall, Jeanie Greene, Marlin Greene.)
The film was the final part of Harrison’s “pioneering” aid project for the people of former East Pakistan, following his “Bangla Desh” charity single, the UNICEF benefit concerts, and a triple live album of the event credited to “George Harrison and Friends”. The Concert for Bangladesh was produced by The Beatles’ Apple Films; after delays caused by problems with inadequate footage from the event, it opened in US cinemas in the spring of 1972.
The documentary combined footage from both of the Madison Square Garden shows using George Harrison’s preference of the performances of the songs. Harrison later explained that much of the concert footage was unusable, as a camera on the right-hand side of the venue was faulty and out of focus throughout, while the one opposite, down the left side, had cables hanging down in front of it. The compromised quality would result in some brutal edits in the released movie – Eric Clapton, for instance, appears to change jackets and guitar part-way through a song.
A two-disc special edition DVD of The Concert for Bangladesh was issued in October 2005, with the concert on disc one – at 99 minutes, slightly shorter than the original film – and an all- new documentary. The Concert for Bangladesh Revisited with George Harrison and Friends on the second disc includes recollections from many of the project’s participants and contextual input from then UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, US Fund for UNICEF president Charles Lyons and Live Aid founder Bob Geldof. In an interview accompanying the 2005 DVD release of the film, Swimmer would cite the audio syncing and the frame-by-frame conversion to 70mm format (from the original 16mm) as other challenging, labor-intensive tasks. With work almost completed on the Concert for Bangladesh live album, Harrison is said to have begun editing the footage on September 6, being joined by Bob Dylan at some stage during the next few months for the process.
What knocks me over about the concert is how effin good it sounds, despite the technical difficulties. I look at it as a rock orchestra with all of those guitars like violins, the double drum sets, organ and piano, the hella good backup singers, and that outta sight horn section. Unlike a classical orchestra there is no tightass in tails on a platform with a chop stick directing the sound. There is an organic nature to the output of the rock orchestra that manifests the music of heaven.
Let’s get back to the humility. George is undisputed leader in his white disco suit but there is no ego in sight from this great man. The musicians, packed into the too-small space with their equipment and trying not to fall over each other, share the space with acceptance and dignity. When Billy Preston does his thing, I think nobody is expecting him to jump up and start dancing across the stage with the exuberance of a child playing outside on the first sunny day of the year, but it pumps everyone up in a beautiful way. This is not ego, this is spirit shining through.
It was difficult to choose favorites out of this bunch. The first one is the opener, which is one of my favorite George songs anyway.
Ringo gets his time to shine here and he does it up right.
If this doesn’t give you the goosebumps I don’t know what will.
I wanted to find the live video for George, Bob, and Leon singing, “Just Like a Woman” but I couldn’t find it. What I did find, however, on Vimeo, is the entire concert (which does include the song.)
My Sweet Lord
Awaiting on You All
That’s the Way God Planned It
It Don’t Come Easy
Beware of Darkness
While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Jumpin’ Jack Flash/Young Blood
Here Comes the Sun
A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall
It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry
Blowin’ in the Wind
Just Like a Woman
Songs Not in the Film ( those with a * by them are included on the 2005 DVD set):
Mr. Tambourine Man
Love Minus Zero/No Limit
Hear Me Lord
If Not for You*
Come On in My Kitchen*
As with the live album, sales of the DVD release of the film continue to benefit the George Harrison Fund for UNICEF.