Welcome to the Beatles Rarity of the Week. In recognition of the seventieth anniversary of the birth of George Harrison, lead guitarist of The Beatles, I’ve rounded up something I hope you will find enjoyable for the occasion.
1974 was a challenging year for George with his marriage to Pattie Boyd coming to an end and a lot of despondence over many of the critics’ opinions toward his previous album Living In The Material World. While it was undoubtedly a huge commercial success, it was being criticized for the overabundance of Hindu spirituality in the music. Keeping himself busy through the hard times, George made plans to begin his own record label. It was to be called Dark Horse after a recent song he’d composed. He also planned by year’s end to be the first Beatle to tour North America since the Beatles stopped touring in 1966. He put a band together for that very purpose that included his friend Billy Preston, Robben Ford, Willie Weeks, Jim Keltner, Tom Scott and others. He even planned to record an album, also titled Dark Horse while rehearsing with the band in preparation for the tour. In hindsight, George may have pushed himself a bit too hard. Between the problems in his personal life and arrangements for his new record label, George found himself down to only three weeks to get the album recorded and rehearse the band. The tour was to be named after the planned album as the Dark Horse Tour and was scheduled to kick off on November 2nd, 1974, but at the beginning of October, there was still lots to get done.
Unfortunately, the long rehearsals while simultaneously recording the album took it’s toll on George’s vocal chords and he developed laryngitis during the album sessions and shortly before the tour began. Despite the setback, George completed the album in time for the tour. However, his voice on the record was not at it’s best, particularly on the title track, and it was also problematic throughout the tour.
Even through these difficulties, George’s Dark Horse album fared well on the American Billboard album charts, remaining in the top 10 for 5 weeks and peaking at number 4. The cleverly written lyrics of the title track seem to have a few possibilities as to who they are directed toward: critics of his previous album, Pattie or even John and Paul – all of these are good guesses. For BROW this week I’m offering up a demo of the song recorded earlier than the master and played only by George singing to his own acoustic guitar accompaniment. His voice is in better form here, making this quite an enjoyable listen. I hope you like it too.
Here are some Amazon links to read more on, or purchase, some music related to this post:
1) Dark Horse – 1992 CD remaster of original 1974 Apple LP, featuring title track “Dark Horse.”
2) Live in Japan (Hybr) – 2004 Hybrid 2-CD/SACD of original 1992 2-CD concert footage in Japan with Eric Clapton band. Includes live version of “Dark Horse.”