Peter Blake: My sadness at the loss of the polite Beatle

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The Independent Culture

In 1967, I went to the Abbey Road studios to watch The Beatles recording Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. I was with my wife, Jann Haworth, and we walked in and saw an extraordinary sight. In the entrance hall, George had laid out this big carpet and 20 Indian musicians were sitting on it. It was the night that George was recording his track "Within You Without You".

From the studio, I could hear John Lennon singing "Good Morning". George was getting ready to do his track. He could have said "You've interrupted", but he didn't. He stood up when we came in, gave a half-bow, and introduced the Indian musicians one by one. He was then, as I always remember him being, unfailingly courteous, calm and polite.

When I was creating the Sgt Pepper cover, John and Paul took the most interest and, of the two, Paul was most involved, which might surprise some people who thought John was the most artistic.

What I do remember particularly about George is the time during Pepper when I asked each of The Beatles to suggest people to go on the cover. I remember Paul suggested the composer Stockhausen. John suggested a Liverpool footballer. He said that he didn't know anything about him but his father had liked him. I was able to suggest some painters and Max Miller, the music hall performer. Ringo just said: "Whatever you all like is fine for me." But what I remember most is George's contribution. He suggested 12 gurus – 12 of them. We used two or three.

I first met George in 1962,when it was all beginning to happen. The Beatles were back from Hamburg and were appearing on a television pop show. Billy Fury was top of the bill and The Beatles just did one number. The director of the show had invited me along. He said: "There's a great thing going on here. You must come and watch."

In the interval, the Beatles did an interview with a music paper and sat in front of me. They were wearing those little grey jackets with the high collars. They were extremely friendly andbrought me into the conversation. They were incredibly quick-witted, interrupting each other all the time as they did in those days. George was as keen to be heard as the rest of them, but he struck me, even then, as very courteous and polite.

I became closest to Paul but I saw George over the years. In more recent times, it tended to be in dressing rooms. I went on the road with Eric Clapton. George joined us in the dressing room once. He was very friendly, but much quieter than I remember him in the Sixties. He had almost become reclusive.

A friend of mine, a dealer in Indian artefacts who had been working with George on a project to recreate Indian buildings in the Harrisons' garden in Henley, told me that George had been much more traumatised and shattered by the knifing incident than most people realised. Certainly, the George I encountered most recently was quiet and withdrawn.

George's death clearly isn't the shock that John's was but it has left me with a feeling of great sadness. And it's worth mentioning that now there really is no possibility that the Beatles will ever play again. Before, there had been thoughts of Sean or Julian Lennon standing in for John. But with George now gone, that time is over.

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