Synopsis of Pop Music
“What I feel - I can't say,
But my love is there for you any time of day...”
From the outset, George Harrison was tagged as the “quiet one” of the Beatles, but he was no shrinking violet behind the scenes. Harrison's innovative guitar stylings and experiments with instruments like the sitar helped shape the band’s sound. He also became a fine songwriter as the years passed by and moved into production for other artists. As a solo artist, Harrison would blend his musical prowess with deeply-held spiritual beliefs to create a series of melodic yet thought-provoking hits. He would also become as well known for his charity work as he was for his musical talent.
By the time the Beatles dissolved, George Harrison was an experienced solo artist. His solo work began with Wonderwall Music, a film soundtrack he did in 1968 that combined conventional orchestration with Indian sounds (tablas, sitars) played by Indian musicians. The next year, he released a collection of experimental synthesizer music called Electronic Music and produced “Hare Krishna Mantra,” a U.K. hit single for the Radha Krishna Temple religious group. That single hinted at the religious concerns that would soon drive Harrison’s solo work.
After the Beatles' breakup in 1970, Harrison released his first solo album, All Things Must Pass. It was an impressive triple-album that consisted of two discs’ worth of original Harrison songs and a bonus disc of his band’s studio jams. It boasted stellar instrumental backing from an all-star band that included Ringo Starr and Eric Clapton and also produced a pair of hit singles. The mantra-like “My Sweet Lord,” built around chants of ‘Hare Krishna’ and a Harrison’s distinctive slide guitar, became a #1 hit, and the driving rocker “What Is Life” also went Top-10.
In 1971, George Harrison became aware of the famine and war in Bangladesh and orchestrated a major benefit concert to raise money. The concert featured Harrison performing both solo and Beatles tunes, plus contributions from Harrison’s friends Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan (who wrote two songs for All Things Must Pass). The event was recorded and became a successful triple-live album. Harrison also recorded “Bangladesh”, a single to promote the event. It became a hit and added to the monies raised for charity by the event.
Harrison released his second proper solo album, Living In The Material World, in 1973. It was a suite of songs that focused primarily on spiritual concerns and produced a #1 hit in “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth).” In 1974, Harrison formed his own label, Dark Horse Records, and produced artists like Ravi Shankar and Splinter under this banner. He also released a solo album called Dark Horse that year, scoring a Top-40 hit with the holiday-themed “Ding Dong” and a #15 single with the album’s title track.
Extra Texture came out in 1975 and was Harrison’s last album on Apple, the Beatles’ label. It produced a Top-20 hit in “You.” The next year, Harrison released 33 and 1/3, an album that took its title from his then-current age, on his own Dark Horse label. It contained two hits in “This Song,” a wry commentary on his experience of being sued over the writing credits on “My Sweet Lord,” and “Crackerbox Palace,” a fanciful slice of pure pop. Harrison made a memorable appearance on Saturday Night Live to promote the album and sang a duet with fellow guest star Paul Simon on the Harrison-penned Beatles classic “Here Comes The Sun.”
At this point, George Harrison took a break from recording for a few years. He formed a film company called Handmade Films that soon produced memorable, offbeat fare like Monty Python’s Life Of Brian and Time Bandits. Harrison also made a cameo in The Rutles, a British television special that satirized the Beatles phenomenon. He returned to recording with 1979’s George Harrison. The album paid tribute to his love of Formula One car racing with the song “Faster” and also produced a Top-20 hit in “Blow Away.”
Harrison scored one of his biggest hits in 1981 with "All Those Years Ago," a wistful tribute to the recently-departed John Lennon. Its parent album, Somewhere In England, also sold well. Harrison recorded another album, Gone Troppo, the next year and then took another break from music. He turned his attention to Handmade Films and produced movies like The Missionary, Water, and the internationally-acclaimed Mona Lisa. Despite his lack of solo albums during this time, he stayed musically active by contributing to soundtracks and benefit concerts.
Harrison returned to his musical career in 1987 with Cloud Nine. The album was comprised of bouncy, bright pop songs, reflecting an infectious good humor that made it stand apart from the moodier work he did in the 70’s. “Got My Mind Set On You” was a catchy tune that blended harmonies with a funky saxophone solo to become a #1 hit. It also had an amusing video that featured a deadpan Harrison singing the song in a room full of moving, dancing stuffed animals. The album's second hit, “When We Was Fab,” paid tribute to Harrison’s Beatles days and had a high-tech video with lots of computer animation.
In 1988, George Harrison teamed up with Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan and E.L.O. leader Jeff Lynne (who co-produced Cloud Nine) to form a fictional rock group called the Traveling Wilburys. Their self-titled debut was a success and boasted two rockabilly-flavored hits in “Handle With Care” and “End Of The Line.” The Wilburys also released a second album, jokingly titled Volume Three,a few years later. Harrison toured Japan in 1991 with Eric Clapton and the tour was recorded for the Live In Japan album.
In the mid-90's, Harrison teamed up with Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney to produce new recordings for The Beatles Anthology and also contributed to the soundtrack for the IMAX film Everest. He also regularly turned up to perform at benefit concerts, assuming ‘elder statesman’ status in the world of rock music.
Sadly, George Harrison passed away in November of 2001, leaving behind a rich legacy of both good music and good deeds.
Artist Release History12/02/68 - Wonderwall Music
05/26/69 - Electronic Sound
11/27/70 - All Things Must Pass
12/20/71 - The Concert For Bangladesh
05/30/73 - Living In The Material World
12/09/74 - Dark Horse
09/22/75 - Extra Texture (Read All About It)
11/08/76 - The Best Of George Harrison
11/24/76 - Thirty Three and 1/3
02/20/79 - George Harrison
06/01/81 - Somewhere In England
11/08/82 - Gone Troppo
11/02/87 - Cloud Nine
10/25/88 - Traveling Wilburys Vol. One
10/09/89 - Best Of Dark Horse 1976-1989
10/29/90 - Traveling Wilbury Vol. Three
07/10/92 - George Harrison Live In Japan
Pop Sub Categoriesrock
Essential Music AlbumsAll Things Must Pass (Capitol)
The Best of George Harrison (Capitol)
The Best of Dark Horse: 1976-1989 (Dark Horse/Warner Bros)