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Sipping tea with George Harrison

By CNN's Mark Davies

LONDON, England (CNN) -- George Harrison sat back in his chair, wearing a revolting purple shirt, sipped tea and put the world to rights.

Politicians were no good. It was time for a change, he drawled. Let's give the other guys a chance.

It was 1992 and we were in a small room at a film studio near London. George had agreed to a few interviews so he could add his voice to the UK's general election campaign of that year.

He wanted us all to support a fringe group called the Natural Law Party (NLP).

A group of earnest men in sober suits -- some of the NLP's candidates -- milled around. Their campaign centred on the teachings of one-time Beatles guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. They promoted things like "yogic flying." They had no chance of even the smallest victory in the upcoming poll.

But they had George.

No matter that the party was seen by most as eccentric at best and by many as downright loopy. They had George.

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He was backing a surefire loser. But who cared? He was a Beatle.

That day was some kind of dream for someone who had grown up listening to his mother's Beatles greatest hits records. As a reporter for the Liverpool Echo, George's hometown newspaper, I'd been asked by the news editor if I wanted to interview a Beatle.

Who turns down that kind of chance?

George was doing a benefit concert for the NLP, his first live performance in the UK for years.

He sat at a table as journalists filed in one by one for their 20 minutes with one of the most famous names in music history.

He was friendly, animated, at times intense, and occasionally prone to meandering into mystical dead ends.

In truth the interview became a bit of a tussle. I wanted to talk about his music, about The Beatles and about Liverpool. He was on a one-man mission to promote the merits of the NLP.

But when he did talk about the things I wanted to talk about, his mood changed. He became less intense, more reflective and even wistful.

He told me about how he would drive up to Liverpool for secret visits.

He said: "I just look at all the places and say, 'there's where I was born, there's where I lived, there's where I went to school, there's where the Cavern got knocked down.'

"My friends were really John, Paul and Ringo and we all moved at the same time. I do miss Liverpool."

It wasn't long though before we were back to the election. Some of it made sense, even if it was hopelessly idealistic. Some of it in truth, made no sense at all.

But it didn't really matter. When you are a Beatle, people listen whatever you are saying. When I listen to my recording of the interview today, it is haunting to hear that Liverpudlian drawl.

I can still see his face from that day. A man with a determined view about the way the world should be, but also with a twinkle in his eye.

In Liverpool today the local paper will be filled with tributes to George Harrison. Fans will flock to the city in the same way they did when John Lennon died.

Flowers will be laid at the site of the original Cavern, where The Beatles began their journey to immortality. A city will remember one of its most famous sons.

After our interview that day nine years ago Harrison went off to rehearse for the concert in aid of the NLP. His manager said I could sneak in and listen for a while. At the back of a huge darkened hall, I watched George Harrison and his band play a version of his song "Taxman" from The Beatles Revolver album.

Life does not get much better than that.


• The Natural Law Party

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