I read the two reviews again, and something obvious slipped from my scrutiny. The first one is British, from an established Times journalist; while the other came from an American Student’s review.
Now, one has to go back to the specifics of 1968 to understand the huge difference in perspective. Peace and Love, waned in favour of the 1968 buzzword: Revolution! And that was much more specific in the US with the turning point of Vietnam war, Civil Rights unrest, Presidential campaign and campus uprisings. More than anywhere else – except in France. And Harvard U was at the epicenter of a significant debate: Timothy Leary had been expelled from it a few years before and now displayed overtly leftist political views, while running for governor of California. I suggest that expectations were stratospheric that The Beatles endorse wholeheartedly the passion and aggressiveness of its US young followers; not unlike the Rolling Stones, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix and others that were significantly involved in a confrontational attitude with the establishment. The White album, in these circumstances, might have been viewed by some as a qui tacet consentit, if you will. Thus, for better of for worse, back in 1968 (and the few years that followed) many viewed everything as political: wearing long hair was considered a political statement of sorts. And popular music would not escape that huge movement. Might be hard to understand for today’s youth but – for a significant chunk of listeners – an overamplified electric guitar solo communicated some kind of reaction against political inertia.
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Be that as it may, and as already said, far from being a superstar guitar hero, I believe that George had always done a good job with the Beatles, by blending in instead of standing out. But I suggest that he was also innovative in many subtle ways. Wasn’t he the one who incorporated sitar in pop music, back in 1966? Who brought a moog synthesizer, during the Abbey Road sessions? An who introduced oriental mystics to many of us, and so on and so forth?