George Harrison: the self-titled album 40 years on
George Harrison was my favourite Beatle. The youngest of the Fab Four, he was known as the ‘quiet one’, although he was just as forthcoming as the others in interviews that I have seen with all four of them. I was drawn to him and he became my first celebrity crush, at the tender age of 12.
The first song I remember hearing him sing was “I’m happy just to dance with you” which was on the soundtrack for A Hard Day’s Night, and can be heard when they slip out of their hotel room and attend a party. The first song he wrote was “Don’t bother me” which appeared on the 1963 album With the Beatles, which he wrote as an exercise to see if he could write a song. From the release of Help! in 1965, which featured two of his songs, he regularly contributed to the Beatles’ album content. He released his first solo album in 1970 following the break-up of the band.
He wrote two of my favourite album openers – “I’d have you anytime” on All Things Must Pass, written in collaboration with Bob Dylan, and “Love comes to everyone” on his self-titled album released in 1979. I don’t have many of his solo albums – the first one I bought was Extra Texture on vinyl, as it was recommended by Ron Schaumburg in his book Growing Up with the Beatles. Of the ones I do have my favourite is probably his 1979 album.
I didn’t buy this album when it first came out – pocket money was limited and I was starting to discover other bands. There was a lot of great music around at that time, and the 7” single ruled. So I bought the single “Blow away” which featured “Soft touch” on the B-side; both tracks appear on the album. The single failed to reach the Top 40 to my disappointment (as did Elton John’s “Are you ready for love” which got to No. 1 on its re-release in 2003). Radio 1 used to have a show where they reviewed new albums and I remember hearing some of the tracks from Harrison’s album.
I eventually bought the album in 2005 on CD, just before Easter. I developed a chest infection while camping at a festival in Miskin in South Wales on the Easter weekend, and I remember listening to the CD the following week curled up on the sofa recovering. Many of the tracks were written on his travels in Hawaii.
Here are the highlights for me. “Love comes to everyone” is a lovely mid-tempo feel-good track, with optimistic lyrics and featuring the ‘Roland’ guitar effect. “Here comes the moon” is a real gem of a track, a kind of follow-up to “Here comes the sun” – it fades in, then a descending triplet riff starts it off. Like its predecessor it encompasses a tricky time change in the chorus, but Harrison handles it well. The single release “Blow away” is another feel-good track, laid back in the verse but picks up the tempo in the chorus, with lyrics about how to manifest love and be happy. “Dark sweet lady” is a tribute to his second wife Olivia – he wrote it on her request for a Spanish sounding song, and it features harp in the instrumentation. “Soft touch” was written in the Virgin Islands and inspired by the surroundings – you can almost feel the palm trees swinging in the breeze in these Caribbean islands. The CD also has the demo version of “Here comes the moon” as a bonus track.
On its release 40 years ago Rolling Stone described the album as “refreshingly lighthearted. The austere, pontifical tone is gone, and the singer sounds more like a happily eccentric gentleman/mystic than a burningly devout Krishna advocate. The new album is filled with breezy love songs to the deity and to women — to Harrison, the two seem almost interchangeable.” To me it remains an album that I regularly turn to when in need of being uplifted, and to celebrate the music of George Harrison.