GEORGE HARRISON DISCOGRAPHY (Part Three)
Somewhere in England album (1981): The murder of John Lennon brought out musical tributes from Elton John to Molly Hatchet. George was especially hit by John’s death — George continually thought he would be the next Beatle to be murdered. In a sense he was correct (remember also that he was nearly killed by a crazed assassin on December 31, 1999, were thoughts of John going through his mind?). Lennon’s death also inspired some fine songs from George.
Most notably “All Those Years Ago.” Featuring Paul & Ringo, it is a loving ode to a missing older brother. Other songs also gently reflect these sentiments (“Life Itself”, “Teardrops” —an almost Elton John-like ditty, “Writings on the Wall”). “That Which I Have Lost” and “Save the World” have similar sentiment: what have we become? Wake up and smell the ozone!
George gives tribute to his beloved Hoagy Carmichael by performing two of his songs, “Baltimore Oriole” and “Hong Kong Blues”. Unfortunately, neither are that – memorable.
Gone Troppo album (1982). This was the worst selling of all of George’s albums. It did so poorly, that he quit the industry to concentrate on his film company. Too bad, although by now George’s music is an acquired taste, this contains some of his nicest songs. His sense of humor abounds: “Gone Troppo” is a cute calypso, “Wake Up My Love” is a fast-paced organ-based rocker. The finest song on the album is “That’s the Way it Goes”, a sad song with a nice steady beat once again decrying our materialistic world. He still preaches, but with a lighter hand.
Then there is the terminally weird “Greece“. Strange sounding song, almost an out-take. Too bad it’s so damn catchy.
“I Don’t Want To Do It” single (1985): George comes out of retirement quietly for this song from the soundtrack for, of all movies, Porky’s III. It is later featured in Harrison‘s Handmade Films production, “Nuns on the Run”, that features other Harrisongs.
The song was written by Dylan and produced by Dave Edmunds, a successful British rocker in the 1970s, and fits in with other 1950’s tinged songs (including Jeff Beck’s masterful rework of “Sleepwalk” — what if George performed that instead!). It was a great song and could have been the basis for a good album, but George probably recorded it as a favor for a friend. He would shortly after this get together with another successful British rocker from the 1970s…
Cloud Nine album (1987). George’s most successful album since All Things…, and produced his first #1 hit in 13 years with “Got My Mind Set on You” (another remake of an early 60’s tune — see George? There’s nothing wrong with your doing remakes). This album was produced by ELO leader and besotted Beatle worshipper Jeff Lynne. Guest musicians abound, but the album is all Harrison — “Devil’s Radio” is a fun lark, and “When We Was Fab” is a more fun re-working of “All Those Years Ago”.
This was a fun time to be a George Harrison fan — he did interviews with Rolling Stone, Guitar World, etc. He had made peace with his Beatle past and seemed to be on the air and in print everywhere.
One photo inside the album shows George sitting with Ringo, Clapton and Elton John sitting on a couch. How’s that for houseguests?
Traveling Wilburys album (1988). The story is thus: Legends of Rock George, Dylan, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne all ran around in the same circles. When George and Jeff were writing tunes together, they decided Orbison might enjoy singing one of them. Dylan came by and brought Petty along in his carryall. They decided on a lark to record some songs together. These five together on one album — the Justice Society of rock music!
The success of this album gave all of them renewed leases on their careers. Dylan and Petty especially were facing lags at the time; for George and Jeff this was a tasty follow-up to Cloud 9; and Orbison finally received the world-wide adulation he deserved — releasing a hit album and being inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame back when that mattered.
Generally whoever performed the song wrote it. Joint collaborations include the unbelievably catchy “Handle With Care” and “End of the Line”. “Heading for the Light” is George’s, a wonderfully upbeat life-affirming song. Guess what? These geezers show that rock and roll can still be fun.
This was the last vinyl album I purchased.
Traveling Wilburys Volume IIIalbum (1990): Roy Orbison died in the middle of the Wilbury success. Oddly, the remaining “members” did something each rarely ever did — acquiesce to corporate pressure! The remaining four decided to put out another album of unmemorable songs. This time the collaboration didn’t work, maybe that was intended. “Cool Dry Place” was memorable – whereas the rest of the album was not, “Wilbury Twist” was another oddity.
“Nobody’s Child” track from Romanian Angel Appeal (1990). A track from the CD Nobody’s Child, this time a charity album for Romanian orphans after the fall of its communist government. George’s wife, Olivia, put the album together, so naturally George participated, bringing the three surviving Wilburys along. Another remake — George sang this in 1961 with the Beatles when they performed as the backup group with Tony Sheridan. George’s announcement that “… this was an old Beatle song …” was somewhat misleading.
The song is wonderful fun, with Jeff Lynne yodeling the chorus and Dylan whining the middle eight. George and Tom Petty each take a verse,
This, along with Wilburys Volume III represent George’s sole output of new material in the 1990s.
Live in Japan (1992): With Clapton in tow, George performs songs ranging his entire career (with emphasis on his then-recently-release Cloud 9). Highlights include “I Want to Tell You”, “If I Needed Someone”, “Something”, “My Sweet Lord”. The audience’s howl of delight at the beginning of Clapton’s guitar solo during “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” will bring a shiver down your spine.
“Lead a Horse to Water” single (2001). George wrote this for ex-Squeeze member Jools Holland and is a good song. Much like the song “Brainwashed”, it is a scathing indictment of the human condition. Why can’t you see the glory in front of you instead of wallowing in the material? Unfortunately, but for his death, it would have gone unnoticed to all but his die-hard fans.
No, that’s not fair. But for his cancer, George may have continued putting out albums in the late 1990s — especially with the popularity of the Beatles’ Anthology collection. On Anthology Volumes I & II, he performed with Paul & Ringo on two Lennon demos. These songs were cleaned up, added to and re-recorded with the help of Jeff Lynne and George Martin; then presented as “new” Beatle songs. For the first ttme ever George got to share a verse with Lennon and McCartney on a Beatle song. The circle was complete.
The Beatles releases in the 1990s gave us some nice Harrison performances. The Live at the BBC album (1994) had George performing “Everybody’s Trying to Be My Baby” and “Roll Over Beethoven”. The Anthology (1995) had more: Volume I had “Three Cool Cats” and “The Sheik of Araby” from the famed Decca audition tapes. Volume II had interesting alternate versions of “Taxman”, “Only a Northern Song” and “Within You Without You”. Volume III had acoustic versions of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and early versions of “For You Blue”, “All Things Must Pass”, “Old Brown Shoe”, “Something”, “I Me Mine”, and “Not Guilty” (from 1969 — George wouldn’t record it formally until 1979).
Brainwashed album (2002), released posthumously. George laid the tracks and recorded his thoughts on how to produce the album – “a guitar here, horns in this bit” – and left it to his son Dhani and Jeff Lynne to finish it after he had gone. It was his best album in many years.
It was almost a perspective of the last 20 years: “Vatican Blues (Last Saturday Night)” could have been a Wilbury song. “Never Get Over You” and “Rising Sun” would have fit nicely on “Somewhere …” or “Gone Troppo”.
“Between the Devil and the DeepBlueSea” showcases his love for old tunes. It is the best thing on an excellent album. I dare you to listen to it and not still hum it later that day.
The opening track “Any Road” is quite fun and upbeat – with his ukulele prominent in the mix. It doesn’t sound like it would fit on a previous Harrison album. Perhaps it would have been a new direction.
No discography of George Harrison would be complete without a reminder that he co-wrote with Clapton the excellent Cream song “Badge”.
During his career George did write and perform with other artists: Ron Wood, Billy Preston, Ronnie Spector, Badfinger, Jesse Ed Davis, Gary Wright, Alvin Lee, etc. Mostly though he worked with artists he signed to his own label, most of whom wouldn’t qualify for a “where are they now” article (Scaffold, Jackie Lomax, Doris Troy, David Bromberg). Perhaps for fear of being overshadowed by a Beatle, Harrison was not that much in demand.
Does George have unreleased tracks hidden in a recording studio? Undoubtedly. Will it ever be released? Undoubtedly (… check YouTube for his version of Ringo’s “It Don’t Come Easy”…). Such an album’s success depends not only on cleaning up the material and whether or not to add new backing tracks, but also on George at the time he recorded them. Personally, I can’t wait to hear it.
Copyright 2013 Michael G. Curry