GEORGE HARRISON-THE APPLE YEARS.
GEORGE HARRISON-THE APPLE YEARS.
On the 10th April 1970, Paul McCartney announced his departure from The Beatles. A week later, he released his debut album McCartney. Meanwhile, The Beatles were in the process of releasing their swan-song, Let It Be.
Just a month later, the Phil Spector produced Let It Be, and the single The Long and Winding Road were released on the 8th May 1970. Let It Be was a disappointing swan-song from The Beatles. It was the only Beatles album not to be accompanied by glowing, critically acclaimed reviews. Worse was to come, later in May 1970, the documentary that accompanied Let It Be was released. Critics weren’t impressed by the documentary. Despite this, Let It Be won the 1970 Academy Award for Best Original Song Score. By then, the four former Beatles were concentrating on their solo careers.
After the breakup of The Beatles in 1970, John, Paul and Ringo embarked upon solo careers. Most of the attention centred around John and Paul. This suited George Harrison fine.
George Harrison’s solo career began in November 1968, nearly two before the breakup of The Beatles. That’s when George Harrison released the soundtrack to Wonderwall, which is one of six newly remastered albums to feature in the luxurious and lovingly compiled box set The Apple Years. It features some of the most of the most innovative, yet underrated music released by a former Beatle. This starts with George Harrison’s debut album, Wonderwall.
Wonderwall was the soundtrack to Joe Massot’s film. The soundtrack was a fusion of two musical cultures. Indian classical music and rock sat side-by-side on Wonderwall. This isn’t surprising. George Harrison had been interested in Indian music since 1966. Now George had the opportunity experiment with his new musical love.
Recording of Wonderwall took place between November 1967 and February 1968. On Wonderwall, George Harrison collaborated with renowned classical pianist and orchestral arranger John Barham. He played an important part in Wonderwall. So did a number of Indian musicians, including of the other Mahapurush Misra, Shivkumar Sharma and Aashish Khan. However, it wasn’t just classical musicians that featured on Wonderwall.
Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr and Peter Tork featured on Wonderwall. So did Tony Ashton and his band The Remo Four. Once recording of Wonderwall was complete, it was released on The Beatles’ new record label Apple.
Before Wonderwall was released, it failed to catch the attention of critics. Many didn’t even bother to review Wonderwall. They perceived it as just a soundtrack. However, since then, critics have reevaluated Wonderwall. It’s now perceived as a compelling and innovative album. Indeed, Wonderwall is now one of the most underrated solo albums by a former Beatle. Not many people would’ve realised this in 1968.
Wonderwall was released in Britain on 1st November 1968, it failed to chart. A day later, Wonderwall was released on 2nd November 1968. It peaked at number forty-nine in the US Billboard 200. This vindicated George Harrison’s decision to release such a groundbreaking album. The followup to Wonderwall saw George’s music head in a much more avant garde direction.
Just over a year later, George Harrison released his sophomore album, Electronic Sound. It was an album of avant garde music. Electronic Sound was released on The Beatles’ short lived Zapple label in May 1969.
Zapple was an imprint of Apple. Its raison d’être was to release of avant garde music. However, Zapple didn’t last long. When Allen Klein started managing The Beatles, he closed the label down. This was one of his cost cutting measures. One of the few albums it released was Electronic Sound.
Electronic Sound was recorded during November 1968 and February 1969. The album featured just two lengthy pieces played on the Moog snyth. Under the Mersey Wall lasted nearly nineteen minutes and No Time or Space was a twenty-five minute epic. These two songs became Electronic Sound, which was released in May 1969.
Just like Wonderwall, critics weren’t interested in Electronic Sound. Reviews were few and far between. That’s not surprising. Here was an album that ahead of its time. Very few people understood what George was trying to achieve. Later, when critics revisited Electronic Sound, it was deemed as an album for completists only or those interested in pioneering electronic albums. Electronic Sound hadn’t stood the test of time. Neither was it a commercial success.
Electronic Sound was released in Britain on 9th May 1969, and failed to chart. Just over two weeks later, Electronic Sound was released in America on 25th May 1969. History repeated itself and Electronic Sound failed to chart. However, George’s luck was about to change. His third album All Things Must Pass, which was recently released by Commercial Marketing as a double album, would transform George Harrison’s career.
All Things Must Pass.
While his first two album had been adventurous and groundbreaking, George Harrison’s third album All Things Must Pass is much more traditional. All Things Must Pass showcases George’s talent as a songwriter.
For All Things Must Pass headed to the studio with eighteen tracks. Many of the songs were new songs. Some of the tracks on All Things Must Pass were written while George was a member of The Beatles. They turned down tracks like All Things Must Pass and Isn’t It A Pity. So George kept them for his solo career. Now was the time to showcase these songs on All Things Must Pass.
Sixteen of these tracks were written by George. The exceptions were I’d Have You Anytime, which George and Bob Dylan cowrote. If Not For You was the other track on All Things Must Pass. It was a cover of a Bob Dylan song. These eighteen songs were part of what became a triple album. It was recorded in three top studios and featured an all-star cast.
Recording of All Things Must Pass began on 26th May 1970 and finished in late October 1970. Three studios were used. This included Abbey Road Studios, Trident Studios and Apple Studios. During that five month period, the great and good of music played a walk on part on All Things Must Pass.
During the recording sessions for All Things Must Pass, Derek and The Dominos featured. Jim Gordon played drums, Carl Radle bass and Eric Clapton acoustic and electric guitars. Ex-Beatle Ringo Starr played drums. Billy Preston who played with both The Beatles and Rolling Stones played piano and organ. Another Beatles’ confident, Klaus Voormann, played guitar and bass. Ginger Baker of Blind Faith played drums. Dave Mason of Traffic played electric and acoustic guitars and Phil Collins of Genesis percussion. Alan White of Yes added drums. These big names were joined by some top session players.
This included Bobby Whitlock. He was formerly a member of Delaney and Bonnie, and in 1970, session musician to the stars. Bobby played piano, organ, tubular bells and harmonium. Horns came courtesy of saxophonist Bobby Keys and trumpeter and trombonist Jim Price and pedal steel Pete Drake. Playing acoustic guitar were Pete Ham, Tom Evans and Joey Molland. Pianists included Tony Ashton and Gary Brooker. Joining this crack band of session players was Beatles’ roadie Mal Evans, who played percussion. He played a small part in what would become the most successful album of George Harrison’s career, All Things Must Pass.
With All Things Must Pass completed, it was scheduled to be released on 27th October 1970. Before then, the music critics passed judgment on All Things Must Pass. There was not one dissenting voice. Critics hailed All Things Must Pass as a classic. Critical acclaim accompanied All Things Must Pass. It was, without doubt, the greatest album of George’s three album solo career. It was a coming of age for George Harrison.
It was as if George Harrison had been freed from the shackles that were The Beatles. He was being held back by the Lennon-McCartney axis. They dictated what songs featured on albums. George’s songs were rejected out of hand. He was about to have the last laugh though.
The cover of All Things Must Pass saw George Harrison surrounded by four comedic looking gnomes. They were meant to represent The Beatles. Beatles watchers saw this as George commenting on his removal from The Beatles. No longer was he a Beatle. After all these years as a Beatle, George was had his own identity back. Even better, he was about to release a classic album All Things Must Pass.
27th October 1970 was D-Day for George Harrison. That was the day All Things Must Pass was released as a triple album. The first four sides featured the main part of All Things Must Pass. It was produced by George and Phil Spector. On sides five and six, was Apple Jam. It featured five jams. The lavish triple album that was All Things Must Pass, was about to become one of the most successful solo albums by a former Beatle.
The lead single released from All Things Must Pass during 1970 was a double A-Side. This was My Sweet Lord/Isn’t It A Pity. It reached number one in America, Australia, Britain, Canada, Germany, Holland, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. Having sold one million copies in America, My Sweet Lord was certified gold. It was then nominated for a Grammy Award. There was a problem though.
Anyone familiar with Ronnie Mack’s He’s So Fine, will immediately spot similarities between the two songs. So did Bright Tunes Music. They filed a write against George’s Harrisongs Music on 10th February 1971. Nearly five years later, on 23rd February 1976, the case was settled. It was held that George Harrison “subconsciously copied” He’s So Fine. Damages totalled $1,599,987, which was deemed 75% of the North American royalties. For George, the case caused him huge problems. He became so paranoid about subconsciously copying some else’s work, that he could hardly write. However, back in 1970, that wasn’t the case.
On the release of All Things Must Pass on 27th October 1970, it reached number one in America, Australia, Britain, Canada, Holland, Norway and Sweden. All Things Must Pass also reached number four in Japan and number ten in Germany. Given how successful All Things Must Pass was, it’s no surprise it was certified gold in Britain and Canada. In America, All Things Must Pass was certified platinum six times over. That equates to sales of six million copies of All Things Must Pass. Never again, would George Harrison reach these heights. After all, All Things Must Pass is a stonewall classic.
After the release of All Things Must Pass, no longer was George perceived as a junior partner in The Beatles. That was far from the case. He was a talented and prolific songwriter. The sixteen songs he wrote for were just the tip of a musical iceberg. For years, George had been quietly writing songs. By 1970, he had accumulated a vast body of work. Now was the time to let the record buying public hear what he was capable of on All Things Must Pass.
All Things Must Pass was George’s Magnus Opus. It’s an epic album. Lavish, epic arrangements are the perfect foil for George’s vocal. The music is both melodic and mystical. Especially when George draws inspiration from Indian music. This is part of All Things Must Pass’ spiritual sound.
During All Things Must Pass spirituality and religion play an important part. This is apparent on My Sweet Lord. Just like other tracks on All Things Must Pass, My Sweet Lord is a mixture of rock ’n’ religion. It’s an anthemic modern day hymnal. However, there’s other influences on All Things Must Pass.
This includes The Band, Bob Dylan and of course Phil Spector. His arrangements are part of the albums lavish, grandiose sound. Phil Spector co-produced All Things Must Pass. He was yin to George’s yang. Now that George was freed from the constraints of Lennon and McCartney, Phil helped the genie escape from the bottle.
In doing so, Phil Spector helped George Harrison record an album he’d never better, All Things Must Pass. Cerebral and spiritual, beautiful, thoughtful and spiritual, the music is sometimes wistful and melancholy. Always, you’re compelled during six sides of music. For George Harrison, many thought that following up All Things Must Pass was almost impossible.
Living In The Material World.
After the release of All Things Must Pass, George Harrison put his career on hold. Instead, he spent much of 1971 and 1972 raising money for the refugees in the newly independent Bangladesh. One of George’s biggest, and most ambitious, fundraising projects was The Concert for Bangladesh on the 1st August 1971.
Two concerts took place on the 1st August 1971. At 2.30pm and 8pm, George Harrison and Friends took to the stage. These “friends” included Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Billy Preston, Ravi Shankar, Leon Russell and Badfinger. These concerts were recorded and released as a triple album.
When The Concert For Bangladesh album and film were released in America on 20th December 1971 and on 10th January 1972 in Britain, it proved to be a huge success. The album topped the charts around the world, and won a Grammy for Album of the Year. Eventually, George’s fundraising efforts raised twelve million dollars, which was sent to Bangladesh. Only after the fundraising was over, would George’s career resume.
For his fourth album, and first since 1970, George penned the eleven new tracks that became Living In The Material World. It was a highly personal album. The songs dealt with George continued struggle for spiritual enlightenment. This wasn’t easy. Especially with George being viewed as a musical “superstar.” Living in the physical world, with all its temptations made it difficult for George to reach his spiritual goals. George a deeply spiritual man, it seemed, was struggling with Living In The Material World.
Recording of Living In The Material World began at George’s Oxfordshire home, Friar Park. In Friar Park’s guest room, George had a recording studio installed. It centred around sixteen-track tape machine. The sessions began during October 1972 and continued through to March 1973. Other sessions took place at the Apple Studios and Abbey Road Studios. This was where George’s band got to work.
When the recording of Living In The Material World, began, George had decided to use a smaller band. This included Gary Wright, Jim Keltner, John Barham, Klaus Voormann, Nicky Hopkins, Zakir Hussain and ex-Beatle Ringo Starr. They recorded the eleven tracks that became Living In The Material World. Later, in February and March 1973, overdubbing took place. Once Living In The Material World was recorded,it was scheduled for release in May and June of 1973.
Before the release of Living In The Material World, it was one of the most highly anticipated albums of 1972. No wonder. George Harrison hadn’t released an album since 1970. A taste of Living In The Material World was the single Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth). On its release it reached number four in Britain and number one in the US Billboard 100. This augured well for Living In The Material World.
When critics heard Living In The Material World, they hailed the album a pop classic. Words like cerebral, profound and spiritual were used to describe the deeply personal Living In The Material World. This critically acclaimed classic was an insight into life as an ex-Beatle. What was obvious, was that George Harrison was obviously finding it difficult reconciling his spiritual needs, with life as a music legend. His legendary status was about to grow.
Living In The Material World was released in America on 30th May 1973, and reached number one in the US Billboard 200 charts. This resulted in a gold disc for George. When Living In The Material World was released in Britain on 22nd June 1973 it reached number two. Elsewhere, Living In The Material World reached number one in Australia and Canada, and reached the top ten in Holland, Japan, Norway and Sweden. George Harrison’s star was still in the ascendancy, having released his second classic album.
The aptly titled Dark Horse was George’s fifth album. After all, George had released the most successful solo album by a former Beatle, All Things Must Pass. He’d followed this up by his second solo album Living In The Material World. So by December 1975, critics and music lovers eagerly awaited the release of Dark Horse. However, the Dark Horse album will forever by mired in controversy, due to the accompanying tour. The story begins in November 1973.
For Dark Horse, George wrote seven of the nine tracks. He also cowrote two other tracks, including Far East Man, which George and Ron Wood wrote. George also cowrote Bye Bye Love with Felice and Boudleaux Bryant. These tracks, like much of of the music on Dark Horse is extremely honest and personal.
This begins with Simply Shady, which opens Dark Horse. A guilt ridden George, examines his pursuit of earthly pleasures, rather than spiritual fulfilment. So Sad addresses the failure of George’s first marriage. It’s a soul-baring, autobiographical song. Maya Love is a song about illusory nature of love. George’s solo success lead to him being called the Dark Horse. After all, most people thought that John or Paul would enjoy the most successful solo career. These people had underestimated George. It Is ‘He’ (Jai Sri Krishna) was penned by George after he visited Vrindavan, in northern India, with his friend Ravi Shankar, who later, would play an important role in the Dark Horse story.
Before that, recording of Dark Horse began in November 1973. Recording began at George’s home studio at Friar Park, Oxfordshire. After a break the sessions resumed in April 1974. Then between August and October 1974, Dark Horse was completed. Some of the sessions took place in Los Angeles, at A&M Studios. Accompanying George was an all-star band.
For the recording of Dark Horse, some of the musicians that played on Living In The Material World returned. Among them, were Gary Wright, Jim Keltner, Klaus Voormann, Nicky Hopkins and Beatle Ringo Starr. They were joined by Ron Wood, saxophonist Tom Scott, Roger Kellaway and Alvin Lee. Just like previous albums, Dark Horse which was released in December 1974, was produced by George.
On the 9th December 1974, Dark Horse was released in America. This coincided with George’s Dark Horse tour of North America. This was a controversial tour for two reasons. The first was, that Ravi Shankar was named as co-headliner. Given that this was the first North American tour by an ex-Beatle since 1966, this didn’t go down well.
Audiences wanted to see George, not what many audience members regarded as a “little known” Indian musician. This was far from the truth. Ravi Shankar was a well known, and highly regarded and respected musician. He was also a good friend of George, who was struggling with laryngitis during the tour.
Due to the laryngitis, George couldn’t feature as heavily as he wanted. However, he thought this was the perfect opportunity to let audiences hear more of Ravi Shankar. This backfired on George.
Critics, including some of the most influential music critics and cultural commentators rounded on George and his decision to allow Ravi Shankar to feature so heavily. Some of the concert reviews were scathing and the George Harrison-Ravi Shankar tour called a failure. This affected sales of Dark Horse.
Rather than judge Dark Horse on its merits, it was a case of guilt by association. What was a groundbreaking album, showcasing George’s new sound was trashed by some axe grinding, influential critics. Their view of Dark Horse was taken as gospel. Looking back, Dark Horse was an ambitious and innovative album, one that should’ve been a bigger commercial success.
Prior to the release of Dark Horse, the title-track was released as a single in America on 18th November 1974, and reached number fifteen in the US Billboard 100 charts. The second single was Ding Dong, Ding Dong, was released on 6th December 1974. It reached number thirty-eight in Britain and thirty-six in the US Billboard 100 charts. However, the album, Dark Horse fared better commercially.
Dark Horse was released on 9th December 1974. It reached number four on the US Billboard 200 charts. This resulted in another gold disc for George. However, in Britain, Dark Horse failed to chart. However, it was later certified silver, having sold over 50,000 copies. After Dark Horse, critics were left wondering if George’s star was no longer in the ascendancy?
Extra Texture (Read All About It).
The criticism of the Dark Horse tour and album had affected George badly. Returning to Friar Park, George became melancholy and wistful. Some went as far as to say he was slightly depressed. This was reflected in some of the ten songs that George wrote for Extra Texture (Read All About It). They find a melancholy George in a reflective state. Unlike other albums, Extra Texture (Read All About It) has no spiritual message. It’s quite different from George’s five previous albums, right down to where it was recorded.
Whilst George had recorded previous albums in Britain, he decided to forsake his home country for Los Angeles. This made sense. After all, most of George’s band were Americans.
While most of Dark Horse was recorded in A&M Studios, Los Angeles, some recording took place at George’s home studio, in his Friar Park mansion. Abbey Road Studios were also used. However, for much of the time A&M Studios, Los Angeles was a home from home for George as he recorded Extra Texture (Read All About It).
That’s where George’s band, that included Gary Wright, Jim Keltner, Klaus Voormann, Nicky Hopkins and Beatle Ringo Starr. They were joined by Ron Wood, saxophonist Tom Scott, Billy Preston, Ronnie Spector and George’s wife Dhanni Harrison. They recorded Extra Texture (Read All About It), which was George Harrison’s Apple Records’ swan-song.
Ever since George was working on Dark Horse, he’d been working on founding his own record label, Dark Horse. It would release his future albums, and albums by artists George discovered or believed in. Getting a record label up and running, was taking time. However, at least this allowed him the opportunity to fulfil his obligations to Apple Records. Would however, George leave Apple Records on a high with Extra Texture (Read All About It),?
Critics didn’t think so. On its release, Extra Texture (Read All About It) was panned my critics. They called the album a series of sermons from George Harrison. These sermons were called aimless and pointless. Sometimes, there was air of pomposity about Extra Texture (Read All About It). Only Tired Of Midnight Blue and Can’t Stop Thinking About You were up to George’ usual high standards. This resulted in the critics turning on George. Rolling Stone savaged the album. Other critics followed suit. For George, Extra Texture (Read All About It) didn’t look like being the swan-song he’d hoped for.
Extra Texture (Read All About It)’s lead single was You, which was released on 12th September 1975. You reached number thirty-eight in Britain and number twenty in the US Billboard 200. Then when This Guitar (Can’t Keep from Crying) was released in America on 8th December 1975, it failed to chart. Two months later, history repeated itself, when This Guitar (Can’t Keep from Crying) was released in Britain. On its release on 6th February 1976, This Guitar (Can’t Keep from Crying) failed to chart. Had George lost his Midas touch?
Despite the scathing reviews, Extra Texture (Read All About It) was still a commercial success. It reached number sixteen in Britain and number eight in the US Billboard 200 charts. This resulted in another gold disc for George. While Extra Texture (Read All About It) wasn’t his most critically acclaimed album, it was a commercial success. This allowed George Harrison to leave Apple Records with his head held high.
After Extra Texture (Read All About It), a new era began for George Harrison. He released his future albums on his own Dark Horse label. It was distributed by A&M Records. For George, owning his own label made commercial sense, and just as importantly, for a musical innovator, gave him much more artistic freedom.
At Apple Records, George was one of four partners in the label. In the early days of Apple Records, George was allowed the freedom to experiment. This allowed him to record Wonderwall, a groundbreaking album, that for far too long, was underrated by critics. Then when Allen Klein became The Beatles’ manager, he wasn’t keen to release Electronic Sound, George’s sophomore album. It was far too experimental, for Allen Klein’s liking. He’d been brought in to sort out The Beatles and Apple Records’ finances. Allen Klein realised that albums like Electronic Sound, important and innovative they may be, weren’t going to be million sellers. However, Electronic Sound was released and for his third album, George Harrison released the most successful album by a former Beatle, All Things Must Pass.
Of all the albums George Harrison recorded, All Things Must Pass is his Magnus Opus. Featuring his classic single My Sweet Lord, All Things Must Pass was a career defining album. George was on a roll. He followed All Things Must Pass with Living In The Material World.
This was George’s second classic album. Living In The Material World showed, that, the man referred to as the Dark Horse had hidden depths. That was obvious from George’s Beatles’ days. He’d written If I Needed Someone, Taxman, Within You Without You, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Something, Here Comes The Sun and I Me Mine. It was obvious to most people that George was a talented songwriter. The only people who it seemed, couldn’t see this, were Lennon and McCartney. They rejected many of George’s songs. As a result, George stockpiled these songs for his solo career.
By 1974, George was about to release Dark Horse. This was a controversial album. After two albums where seemingly, George could do no wrong, the critics turned on George. Partly, the scathing reviews were down to give Ravi Shankar equal billing. When George was struck down with laryngitis, Ravi Shankar played a bigger role in the tour. This didn’t please some high profile critics. They turned on George, giving both the Dark Horse tour and album scathing reviews. This affected sales of Dark Horse.
Although, Dark Horse was a success in America, back in Britain, the album flopped. No longer was the Dark Horse enjoying the same commercial success as he had. To make matters worse, his sixth album Extra Texture (Read All About It) was also panned by critics. However, the difference was, it was a bigger success in Britain and America. For George Harrison, this was a successful, if not critically acclaimed end to The Apple Years.
The Apple Years is also the name of the recently released George Harrison box. It includes George’s first six albums, Wonderwall, Electronic Sound, All Things Must Pass, Living In The Material World, Dark Horse and Extra Texture (Read All About It). This luxurious box set includes newly digitally remastered versions of each album. These remasters have been taken from the analogue masters. There’s also previously unreleased material and a DVD that’s exclusive to the box set. For all Beatles and George Harrison fans The Apple Years is essential listening.
Especially since The Apple Years features George Harrison’s first two overlooked albums, Wonderwall and Electronic Sound. Both albums are truly groundbreaking, and feature music that was way ahead of its time. George Harrison was, and will always be remembered as a musical pioneer. However, there’s more to The Apple Years than two albums.
The Apple Years features George Harrison’s two classic album All Things Must Pass and Living In The Material World, which are career defining albums. Dark Horse and Extra Texture (Read All About It), complete The Apple Years and are a reminder of George Harrison, the man who forever will be remembered not just as a Beatle, but the Dark Horse.
GEORGE HARRISON-THE APPLE YEARS.