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Any Major George Harrison Songbook

February 23rd, 2023 Leave a comment Go to comments


On 25 February we mark the 80th anniversary of the birth of George Harrison. That deserves a Songbook mix.

I won’t be the first person ever to marvel at the circumstance that George Harrison was only the third-best songwriter in The Beatles. That’s the man who wrote the best songs on The Beatles’ perhaps best album, Something and Here Comes The Sun (a time when the other two struggled to finish their songs).

George was perhaps the most innovative of the three innovators, even though some of these innovations I could do without [you within you].

He was the first Beatle to release a solo album, and the first have a solo UK #1 hit, in January 1971 with My Sweet Lord (I’ve discussed before what I think of the plagiarism charges brought by the publishing company who owned the rights to He’s So Fine), and the first to release a bona fide classic album, the three-LP set All Things Must Pass. And George sort of invented charity concert festivals. I wonder whether Geldof thought to invite him to appear at Live Aid…

And George was the first Beatle to die of natural sources (if we discount Stu Sutcliffe, of course), though he almost became the second Beatle to be murdered, when in 1999 he was stabbed 40 times by an intruder. By then George was already battling throat cancer, which had been diagnosed in 1997. Fucking cigarettes! He died on 29 November 2001, at the age of only 58.

Harrison’s solo career after All Things Must Pass isn’t always appreciated. McCartney produced more hits (and Ringo as many UK Top 10 hits as George); Lennon created more material for discussion. George produced a couple of stinkers (Going Troppo!), and after All Things Must Pass no real classics, so it is indeed easy to overlook his solo career. But that would be to ignore some excellent music, as the Beatles Reunited series might have shown. Only seven of the tracks here were originally Beatles releases.

Something that struck me as I compiled this Songbook was that Harrison’s solo stuff is more accessible to interpretation in cover versions than that by Paul McCartney, whose post-Beatles Songbook I ran last year. Remarkably, George’s material adapts well to soul music — not surprisingly, given that the first version of My Sweet Lord was recorded by Billy Preston. It sounds more like the Edwin Hawkins Singers rip-off Harrison had intended to be than a Chiffons number. Fittingly, the cover here falls within the soul-gospel genre.

A few Harrison compositions here were not recorded by him. He co-wrote Cream’s Badge with Clapton (the title is Clapton’s misreading of Harrison’s handwritten word “Bridge”), and played rhythm guitar on the recording. It seems fitting that George’s close friend Clapton should appear twice on this mix, with Badge and his quite lovely recording of Love Comes To Everyone, a song that appeared originally on George’s self-titled 1979 album (the one with the wonderful Blow Away, for which no good cover seems to exist). The men shared their music and their loves…

Harrison also co-wrote Ringo Starr’s big hit Photograph, writing the gorgeous melody and helping Ringo with the lyrics. It was his first writing credit with Starr, though Harrison had also contributed, uncredited, to the Ringo hits It Don’t Come Easy and Back Off Boogaloo. The recording of the hit version of Photograph (an earlier Harrison-produced take was discarded) featured George on 12-string acoustic guitar, plus Nicky Hopkins on piano, Klaus Voormann on bass and Jim Keltner on drums — all of whom were playing at the time on the recording of Harrison’s Living In The Material World LP — with a saxophone solo by Bobby Keys. Jim Keltner and Bobby Keys have both been subject of Any Major Collections.

Sour Milk Sea was written specifically as a debut single for Apple Records signing Jackie Lomax. George wrote it in 1968 during his Maharishi phase, and the lyrics promote transcendental meditation. The song was in the running for the White Album, and The Beatles recorded a demo of it. In the end it was given to Lomax, with three Beatles playing on it (Lennon took the day off, presumably) and Eric Clapton and Nicky Hopkins chipping in on the Harrison production. Alas, the single flopped.

The mix ends with another Maharishi-inspired track and White Album contender. Circles was demoed by The Beatles at Harrison’s Esher home in 1968. Harrison eventually re-recorded it for 1982’s Gone Troppo album.

As ever: CD-R length, home-meditated covers, and the above text in PDF format included. Password in comments.

1. George Harrison – Dark Horse (Live) (1991)
2. Olivia Newton-John – What Is Life (1972)
3. Ringo Starr – Photograph (1973)
4. The Lambrettas – I Want To Tell You (1981)
5. Nick Heyward – If I Needed Someone (1996)
6. Ocean Colour Scene – Wah Wah (2005)
7. Eric Clapton – Love Comes To Everyone (2005)
8. Kenny Lattimore – While My Guitar Gently Weeps (1998)
9. Billy Preston – All Things Must Pass (1970)
10. The Three Degrees – Isn’t It A Pity (1972)
11. Richie Havens – Here Comes The Sun (1971)
12. Bobby Womack – Something (1970)
13. Ralfi Pagan – I’d Have You Anytime (1973)
14. John Gary Williams – My Sweet Lord (1972)
15. Cream – Badge (1969)
16. Loose Ends – Tax Man (1966)
17. Jackie Lomax – Sour Milk Sea (1969)
18. David Bowie – Try Some, Buy Some (2003)
19. Low – Long Long Long (1998)
20. Leon Russell – Beware Of Darkness (1971)
21. The Beatles – Circles (1968)
22. Tony Bennett – Give Me Love, Give Me Peace (1973)


Previous Songbooks:
Ashford & Simpson
Barry Gibb Vol. 1
Barry Gibb Vol. 2
Bill Withers
Bob Dylan Volumes 1-5
Brian Wilson
Bruce Springsteen
Burt Bacharach & Hal David Vol. 1
Burt Bacharach & Hal David Vol. 2
Burt Bacharach’s Lesser-Known Songbook
Carole Bayer Sager
Carole King Vol. 1
Carole King Vol. 2
Chuck Berry
Cole Porter Vol. 1
Cole Porter Vol. 2
Elton John & Bernie Taupin
John Prine
Jimmy Webb Vol. 1
Jimmy Webb Vol. 2
Jimmy Webb Vol. 3
Lamont Dozier
Laura Nyro
Leonard Cohen
Neil Diamond
Paul McCartney Vol. 1
Paul McCartney Vol. 2
Rod Temperton
Steely Dan

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  1. amdwhah
    February 23rd, 2023 at 07:51 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. rat-a-tat-tat
    February 25th, 2023 at 18:42 | #2

    Excellent work. Been blasting it this weekend.

  3. Fredrick Beondo
    March 16th, 2023 at 21:51 | #3

    Having just come across Come And Get It – The Best Of Apple Records, you could sub in Preston’s take on MSL, though I get the point of choosing a less litigiously sounding cover version LOL and Ronnie Spector’s Try Some, Buy Some, though I have no complaints about Bowie doing it, just opining a stylistic preference.

  4. amdwhah
    March 17th, 2023 at 08:31 | #4

    Preston’s take (and original version) of My Sweet Lord had featured before, so I tried to avoid repeats: http://halfhearteddude.com/2018/09/the-originals-the-classics/
    Ronnie’s version of Try Some, Buy Some was in the In Memoriam – January 2022: http://halfhearteddude.com/2022/02/in-memoriam-january-2022/

  5. Fredrick Beondo
    March 17th, 2023 at 17:31 | #5

    Understandable, then :) Wasn’t questioning your choices, just making comment, of course.

  6. amdwhah
    March 17th, 2023 at 22:19 | #6

    Oh, I didn’t think you were questioning me. I’m pleased when people discuss mu choices, and suggest their ideas. Doesn’t really happen often enough.

  7. Fredrick Beondo
    March 19th, 2023 at 05:06 | #7

    The really intriguing thing, to me, about TS, BS is that I heard Ronnie’s first, and being who she was, the production leaned into her wheelhouse with nice Spectorian touches and she gave it her best. Bowie, the panversal demigod, takes *that* arrangement and makes it into some 21st century *gospel*…The cover he did of Across the Universe (that you put on Let It Be – Recovered) similarly honors the original while totally makes it HIS.

    Has, or is, there enough material out there for a Bowie Songbook? Just a passing thought.

  8. amdwhah
    March 22nd, 2023 at 08:34 | #8

    True. I have done Ziggy Stardust Recovered mixes; the question is whether there are many covers of Bowie songs that manage to do what you say Bowie did to the songs he covered: make it new.

  9. amdwhah
    March 25th, 2023 at 16:29 | #9

    By the way, was it you who asked me to re-up the originals of Elvis songs? I have finally got around to it.


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