Monday, 27 July 2015

George Harrison: 'Hidden Harrison' - The Best Unreleased Recordings




Considering that nearly half of all bootlegs sold in the 1970s-1990s pre-internet heyday featured one or all of the Beatles, it's no surprise that there are an awful lot of George Harrison outtakes out there. Consider too George's comments in his later Beatles years that he had an overwhelming stockpile of songs but no space to put them on and it's clear that the unofficial unreleased Harrison shelf is fit to burst with more gems than the official unreleased recordings (the paltry offerings given to us on the 'Apple Years' and 'Dark Horse' box sets or the half-hour 'Living In The Material World' 'Early Takes' 'soundtrack' CD) would suggest). However it's fair to say that George's solo catalogue is a bit lopsided - after proving against all odds that he could release a full album - and how! - with the triple LP 'All Things Must Pass' in 1970, his releases got fewer and inspiration dried up. That's true of the bootlegs too, with over half of this list coming from that first year alone when George was on such a creative roll that 'All Things' could easily have been a triple even without the 'Apple Jam' included. You wonder, too, how many acetates of the sessions were flying around given that these songs exist in almost every form imaginable, from demos to early basic takes to mixes only a fraction different (but still an important fraction) from the finished versions. By contrast most of the later albums were made in a more self-contained style, often at George's Friar Park home studio with very little material leaked to bootleggers from later years.

Next up the usual caveats that we make with these 'unreleased recordings' series of articles: no this isn't a complete list of what's out there - with several over recordings rumoured down the years or mentioned in Beatles book - but a list of what we know for a fact to have survived the years (because we've heard them with our own ears). No this list doesn't include Beatles-era outtakes (we've already covered that in our 'Beatles' book where we mention an alternate version of 'Here Comes The Sun' with a very different guitar solo and the classic 'Sour Milk Sea' given away to Jackie Lomax and 'Maureen', a song for Ringo's first wife five years before their affair!), although we've made an exception for 'Dehra Dun' because nobody quite knows when it dates from (and its too good to miss out!) Please note too that we've already covered the 'missing' songs from the 'first' version of the 1981 LP 'Somewhere In England' recklessly vetoed by Warner Brothers as part of that album's review. Sadly none of these recordings are currently available, although there are more volumes of 'Living In The Material World' outtakes planned so let's hope some of these classics are released soon!

1) I'd Have You Anytime (George and Bob Dylan Demo c.1970)

We start with the uneasy vocal warblings of a too-high George and a too-deep Dylan, who just about mange to start and end through a rough home demo version of their collaborations for 'All Things Must Pass'. Both of them are in full voice - as opposed to the Traveling Wilburys years when both are fading slightly - and it's interesting to note which parts each singer sounds more comfortable on: given this tape you'd have to guess that George wrote the verses and Bob the choruses. Though lacking the polished feel of the finished version, like the rest of the 'All Things' demos it's a welcome chance to hear these songs without all that Phil Spector production echo.

2) My Sweet Lord (Early Version c.1970)

Originally 'My Sweet Lord' was a gospel-inspired track George thought might go nicely on Billy Preston's second album for Apple 'Encouraging Words' in 1970 (it's pretty similr in feel to his best solo song 'That's The Way God Planned It'). However after handing the song over George realised how well the song might work for him and he decided to re-cut it during the 'All Things Must Pass' sessions. One of the early takes that has survived finds George still very much singing the song like Billy and before many of the additions have been: there's no 'Hare Krishna' chants at all, no backing singers and the sound is dry and brittle before Phil Spector decided to have some fun in the echo chamber. I doubt anyone would want to take this version over the finished product but it's nice to hear this humble song when it was even humbler (note: this is a different, fuller version to the 'Material World' one which is more of a demo-with-bass-and-drums). 

3) Wah-Wah (Early Version c.1970)

This version has George alone with an electric guitar running through the changes of his song and singing an unfinished lyric to them. Heard like this, without the thundering wall of drums and the wah-wah effects on the guitar this passionate angry rock song sounds more like a sad eulogy, with George reflecting sadly on the egos of the other Beatles in more of an 'I Me Mine' type way.

4) Isn't It A Pity? (Demo/Early Version c.1970)

Two versions here for you. The first version is a simple acoustic guitar demo played for a coughing Phil Spector and presumably played at the same session as 'Let It Down' and 'Beware Of Darkness' as heard on the CD re-issue of the 'Pass' album, You wonder why this sweet and very different demo wasn't released too, with a cute gentle vocal from George and a surprisingly quick tempo that makes this sound more like the early Beatle version of the album title track than the finished magnum opus (a confident George tells Phil it can be any speed you want') while someone in the control room, possibly Ringo, exclaims 'that's a beautiful song!) A nearly finished mix of 'Version Two' features every element in place except for George's lead vocal which is subtly different. Sung lower and huskier, this version of the song sounds even more trodden-down and frustrated than the finished version, with George rocking out on the second verse ('Suuuuuuuuuume things take too laaaaawng' he drawls, as if trying to sound like Billy Preston again).Both versions are beautiful - not quite as beautiful as the finished version perhaps, but still beautiful.

5) What Is Life? (Early Version c.1970)

A fascinating early version before any lush production or horn parts have arrived - even the abandoned horn part heard on the 'All Things Must Pass' CD re-issue - makes this hit single sound like a completely different song: punchy and aggressive. Presumably that's Eric Clapton playing the grungy guitar part that's heard loud and clear without the overdubs getting in the way (at least it sounds more like him than George - whose presumably playing the main riff heard lower in the mix - and indeed this track sounds very like Clapton's sixties band Cream all round) and that's almost definitely Ringo on the clattering drums, with a much livelier and exciting part than what made the album. George clearly has the lyrics already, kick-starting each verse with a few opening words ('What I feel...') that are left to hang in the air while the other musicians kick in. Freed of the Phil Spector production this sounds like an even better song, with a gonzo Clapton solo at the end to play the song out that was sadly cut from the finished take.

6) Beware Of Darkness (Early Version c.1970)

Another track that's pretty close to being finished, we've included this one because of all the parts that weren't used or at least can't be heard too clearly including a xylophone part that works rather well. There are no guitar solos as yet - just George's acoustic guitar - and he sings single-tracked without any of the echo of the finished album, sounding as if he's got a cold (so this is probably a guide vocal intended to be re-done later). Ringo too sounds a lot louder in this version, adding drum-rolls right left and centre. The song sounds far less worldly wise and more like a mess, but it's an interesting mess at least, much more in keeping to the 'earthly mistakes' vibe of the finished product in fact.

7) The Ballad Of Sir Frankie Crisp (Let It Roll) (Early Version c.1970)

George's ode to the Friar Park architect is also nearing completion, but the final vocal hasn't been laid on yet - offering a rare glimpse at hearing all the many layers that went into a 'Pass' production without the distraction of the lyrics - and Phil Spector's experimenting perhaps a touch too far in the echo chamber. There's a most peculiar noise on the wah-wah guitar parts that sound even more like an Eastern sitar drone, while Gary Wright's piano sounds even more as if its playing under-water. Still, for all the mistakes, this 'psychedelic' version of the song still sounds remarkably good.

8) Awaiting On You All (Early Version c.1970)

This song is all about the horn parts to the exclusion of most everything else, so it's fascinating to hear another 'backing track version' out there with everything subtly out of alignment. The guitar and drums clatter along as accompaniment, both sounding rather odd without the vocal there to tie things together, while the horn part sounds remarkably good and authentic, very like the sound of fellow Beatle Paul McCartney on the 'Thrillington' easy listening re-make of his 'Ram' album.

9) All Things Must Pass (Early Version c.1970)

There are multiple versions of the title song of George's first album out there - including a harmony-drenched version The Beatles tried out for 'Let It Be' (as released on 'Anthology Three') and a demo (as heard on 'Early Takes'). However there's a third that still isn't out officially, an almost-finished mix missing just the strings and the final lead vocal, with extra guitar 'wails' across the song. George sings less like a choir boy and more like a gruff Northerner which gives this haunting ode to impermanence a very different flavour.

10) The Art Of Dying (Early Version c.1970)

This track however sounds very different: there's basically only a frenetic guitar burst (seemingly played by George this time, while Clapton occasionally squeals away to George's left), Klaus' spot-on bass and Ringo's rather clunky drum track. Without the deep lyrics to reflect on this version sounds more like a guttural howl of pain and takes on quite a different feel to the finished product, with the inevitable fate of mere mortals sounding deeply unfair. There's some nice Chuck Berry style sound in the guitar that gets lost in the big booming Phil Spector production of the finished version and the guitars do much of the work of the overdubbed horn parts too.

11) Hear Me Lord (Demo c.1970)

A simple demo presumably recorded alongside the ones played for Phil Spector as released on the CD, this  'All Things Must Pass' closer sounds even more different without the huge and epic production scale. George sounds even more alone as he apologises to God on behalf of his species and the grungy guitar part is at least as convincing as the mammoth choir added over the top. What's interesting is how powerful this song already is, even with so little to accompany it.

12) Window Window (Unreleased c.1970)

Proof of George's creativity across 1970 is the fact that this song is the first of a seven part sequence on this list of material recording during the 'All Things' sessions but never returned to. George seems to have submitted a 'first' version of this song to Phil Spector again as a simply guitar demo, admitting to his producer that 'this one's a bit silly' before later overdubbing his usual slide guitar and some clattering Ringo drums (which sound more like his playing later in the decade - was this track exhumed for, say, 'Somewhere In England' perhaps?) As for the song it's a nursery rhyme piece akin to 'Apple Scruffs' and would have sounded out of place among Pass' songs of divine wisdom. However its far too good to throwaway: George uses his favourite period rhyme of a girl with 'beautiful hurr' who 'hadn't a 'curr' on a song about perception and Earthly illusions. The track features a window acting as a sort of mirror from fairy tales: 'I look out the window and see - but I find it doesn't see me'. However this time round George's solution is not to pray or preach about what he's learned but simply to 'give up and go back to bed!'

13) Mother Divine (Unreleased c.1970)

'Mother Divine' is potentially more interesting, a sad and solemn verse merely repeating the title welded onto a singalong 'My Sweet Lord' style singalong ('Hare Krishna!') Unusually, though, George clearly has a Christian theme running alongside his favourite Hindu ones, recalling his 'sister Mary' line from 'Art Of Dying' by calling out to a feminine religious figure. George sings about discovering what true beauty really is and discovers to his delight that 'I know that she loves me' while the spiritual gospel backing makes it clear and chants of 'Hare Krishnas' and 'Hallelujahs' make it clear he's talking about more than romantic love her. The song clearly needs work and sounds more like something written for Ringo in mind, but its pleasant enough and far more deserving of release than most of what appeared on the 'Early Takes' CD.

14) Going Down To Golders Green (Unreleased c.1970)

This roackabilly Carl Perkins knock-off sounds improvised, but the fact that George counts Ringo into the song suggests that they'd spent at least a little time on it. The words are unusual and may well deal with the problems of moving house from Esher to Friar Park, although neither are anywhere near the 'Golders Green' London district of the title (was George planning to move here first perhaps before discovering Frankie Crisp's unique home and gardens?) George may also be ripping off Lennon here (the sound is crisp and bare and retro, very reminiscent of the 'Lennon/Plastic Ono Band' album Ringo had no doubt been passing on tales about working on), with George complaining that 'I don't get out much - too busy staying in bed for peace!' However the rest of the song is actually a witty take on a very Lennon subject of 'phony' people interested only in appearances and features a celebrity telling us that he's downsizing 'going down to Golder's Green in my limousine!' (even though the first verse tells us he has a 'chauffeur driven merc!' and that he's had to sell the carpets that only he can see to keep up appearances). Some Beatles fans record this song as first debuting during the 'Let It Be' sessions, but while this song sounds as if it dates from there it's not appeared on any of the multiple hours of bootlegs of those days I've sat through so far.

15) Dehra Dun (Unreleased c.1970)

A lovely song written for The White Album although the earliest recording only dates back to 'All Things', this sweet catchy ditty may well be the crown in Harrison's unreleased crown. The song may have inspired or been abandoned because of similarities to McCartney's 'The Long and Winding Road' although the road metaphor comes with a typical Harrison spiritual twist re-written in part for 2001's posthumous 'Any Road'. 'Many roads can take you there, many different ways one direction takes you years, another takes you days' George merrily tells us as he searches for something close to the 'truth' of life (the title translates as something like 'worldly appearance' - not that far away from his later depiction of 'maya' illusion and 'The Material World'). You can see the start of George busking this tune in the extras on the Beatles Anthology DVD where Paul and Ringo ask him if he wrote anything else for The White Album; George's memory is clearly playing tricks as he informs them he has this one 'which I've never recorded to this day' - actually the recording sounds quite close to being finished (he also 'forgot' about 'Circles', a song revived for his 1983 'Gone Troppo' LP and another song well worth looking out for in White Album demo form).

16) Everybody Nobody (Unreleased c.1970)

An early version of 'Let It Roll' (the demo begins with the announcement 'the ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp') possibly demoed for Phil Spector again, though actually the two share very different lyrics and melodies. Rather than singing about exploring Friar Park in search of his architect's wisdom, George moans about a world in ignorance, left believing only in a 'solid state' and without grasping the idea that God can be 'everywhere' and 'nowhere' at the same time. Harrison's blocking in his unfinished lyrics like mad, though, with some comedic lines like 'he' ie God' 'is always around a roundabout' and 'nobody's without twin reverb' that might well have been changed. The main lyrics though, a return of the idea of mankind lost in a road ignoring their map 'not quite sure what they're meant to do' and 'looking through the highway code', are fascinating and very George.

17) Nowhere To Go (Unreleased c.1970)

A second Dylan-Harrison collaboration to go alongside 'I'd Have You Anytime', this deep and wordy song is closer to what you'd expect from two poetic heavyweights. The song is heavy, with even this early version suffering from so many guitar overdubs it sounds distinctly bass heavy and the lyrics recall 'Not Guilty' in their sense of being pushed aside unfairly to make way for something new. George sighs about 'being pushed around, trampled to the ground every-time somebody comes to town' and argues that there's 'nowhere to go and no place to hide myself - nowhere they don't do'. Both men were keen on their privacy and this song must have struck a chord with Dylan in his 'motorbike accident hermit' years especially although musically its much closer to later heavier claustrophobic Beatles.

18) Tell Me What Has Happened To You (Unreleased c.1970)

An oddball acoustic guitar demo that starts off as a lengthy solo before George finally picks up the accusatory first verse ('Tell me what has happened to you? I'll tell you what's just happened to me!'), this song might have sounded quite something built up with Spector's mammoth echo although it's one of the emptiest of the unreleased songs. The chorus is nice though despite its simplicity ('Loooooove!') and it would have sounded nice with a full orchestra and echo chamber behind it.

19) Down To The River (Unreleased c.1970)

An early version of 'Rocking Chair In Hawaii', perhaps the oddest song on posthumous album 'Brainwashed', this first version makes more sense, a Harrison blues pastiche that sounds as if he's trying to copy Eric Clapton's style. In truth Harrison's drunken 'yodeley-ee-hey's and demands for a 'rocking chair' and a 'fishing hook' while Bobby Keyes gets all traditional on the horn parts are pretty terrible and its surely a good thing that this 'Apple Jam' never made the LP - but blues was pretty much the only style he didn't try his hand at on the album and this track does at least notch up another genre on George's belt. Perhaps Eric falling in love with Patti was mere revenge for George 'ruining' his trademark sound as he's conspicuous by his absence from this 'joke'?!

20) Gopala Krishna (Unreleased c.1970)

By contrast 'Gopala Krishna' is clearly heartfelt, another beautiful hymn to the Lord sung in Hindu throughout. A chant of devotion to the 'Gopal' ie 'infant' incarnation of Krishna, it makes sense that George should choose this 'incarnation' of his God to sing to as the parallels are great: 'this' Krishna was a lowly goatherd ignored by his peers for being too young to be of any importance and yet whose flute playing could soothe any beast. The song may have been intended for the Radna Krishna Movement album that George produced for Apple in 1971 although it sounds a bit too finished for that. Whatever the intention the track is among George's best spirituals, up there with 'Hear Me Lord' and 'Jai Sri Krishna' as the 'nicer' side of his devotion compared to the preachiness of some of 'Material World'.

21) You (Early Version c.1970)

Sounding much the same as the re-made version on 'Extra Texture', George's biggest hit single of 1974 actually dates back to 1970 when he was busy producing a single for Apple by Phil Spector's wife Ronnie (once the star of the Ronettes). She passed on the song, intended for the B side leaving George to fill in with the near-improvised 'Tandoori Chicken' while George also 'borrowed' back the A side in 1973 to become 'Try Some, Buy Some'. I much prefer this early version, actually, which is just as daft and empty as the finished product but has much more life about it somehow as George sings the track more as a 'celebration' than a sour memory of what once was (in our review for 'Extra Texture' we lay claim to the idea that the song is written for Patti and sung with irony after she leaves him).

22) I'll Still Love You (When Every Song Is Sung) (Demo c.1970)

This is another song given away, this time to Ringo (though not until 1974 and 'Ringo's Rotogravure', not one of his better Starring moments it has to be said). More than one fan, aware of a Beatle connection, has assumed this bland but tuneful track must be a McCartney track - but wrong, its George trying out a new big band style that doesn't quite come off. An odd echo-drenched demo with a poor guide vocal exists and the best you can say about one of George's weaker songs is that he sounds better singing it than the drummer. A late period love song for Patti, it already sounds as if George is going through the motions. Give this one a miss I think.

23) It Don't Come Easy (Early Version c.1971)

However, not so George's other demo for Ringo which is much better in every department - arguably Ringo's best solo single - and yet one which makes so more sense in George's hands. Indeed until hearing the demo I hadn't been aware of just how many Harrison fingerprints were on this song which are obvious now: nuggets of wisdom ('The future won't last and will soon be yours tomorrow'), the lyrical calls for peace, the sad sighing chord structure and the singalong 'revelation' gospel feel of the song which recalls 'My Sweet Lord' (this demo even includes a 'Hare Krishna!' cry in the chorus that Ringo meekly asked his friend to write out!) This demo includes some other subtle differences tool, with George howling rather than singing the words in a very gruff Dr John type manner and the backing vocalists taking off for an 'oh no - you know it don't come easy' refrain in the middle that's really effective, turning the song down into a minor for a brief momentary glimpse of how badly the world might get messed up if carried on its present path of destruction, before righting itself back to the happy tune. One of George's better songs which he should really have kept for himself.

24) Living In The Material World (Backing Track c.1973)

Moving on from the busy year of 1970 (at last!), very few session tapes of the 'Material World' sessions seem to have survived the years in comparison to the oodles of tapes for 'Pass'. The little we do have is mainly made up of nearly-finished backing tracks, none of which are that exciting - except for the title track, which sounds even more 'mad' without the vocals! The verses are harder hitting than you might expect, with a cast of thousands (well dozens anyway) rocking their hearts out before the truly beautiful choruses bring the song to a stop for some truly lovely flutework that really does sounds like angels in heaven living to a different beat. You can really hear the shrug of disappointment as the narrator is dragged back kicking and screaming into the 'weight' of the 'material' verses against his will, which sound more claustrophobic each time the section if performed.

25) Dark Horse (Demo c.1974)

There is another demo of this lovely song doing the rounds on the 'Apple Years' box set. However that one's too polished for me - I much prefer Harrison's first go at the song, heard with just his acoustic guitar, sung at a much slower tempo and in a much lower key. This version sounds more like a gruff folk song than the teasing final product, while George suffers from none of the 'dark hoarse' vocal problems that blights the finished album version. The chorus harmonies, while nothing like as developed as the finished product, sound better too, two George's galloping together an octave apart as he starts his slow lonely journey at odds with a world he doesn't understand. There's no irritating flute on this version too, which is a plus.

26) Ding Dong Ding Dong (Early Version c.1974)

A fine version of a less than fine song, it's fascinating to hear a production powerhouse still dressed in its pyjamas, as it were. There are no horns, no choir, no baubles, no bangles, no beads and the musicians are clearly still learning the song, Gary Wright practising the busy piano frills as the tape gets started. George's vocal sounds grittier and more committed though as he skips the dementedly happy chorus in favour of the darker sounding verses and middle eight. The middle eight of 'Tomorrow today will be yesterday' has never sounded more menacing.

27) In My Life (Live 1974)

There were many reasons all critics and some fans were unhappy with the 'Dark Horse' tour of 1974: George's throat issues, the short length of time he was on the stage, the soul re-arrangements and the lengthy Ravi Shankar interludes that interrupted the gig just as it got going among many. However perhaps the biggest beef Beatle fans had was that their first 'real' chance to hear Beatle songs played live since 1966 (Wings hadn't quite got to America yet) was 'ruined' by George's decisions to 'edit' them. While taking the mickey out of modern politicians on 'Taxman' was fair game, fans baulked at changes to well-loved songs like 'I Want To Tell You ('It's not me it's just my mind') - and Lennon's classic 'In My Life', which George turns into a heavy soul classic complete with organ solo and heavy presence of horns. Actually I rather like this arrangement, now that I'm over the shock anyway, which takes Lennon's sweet look backwards and turns it wholesale into something new - after all, isn't the inevitability of change and being updated exactly what this song about childhood haunts being bulldozed and losing touch with old friends really about?

28) Sound Stage Of Mind (Live 1974)

Well, we said George wasn't on stage very much - make that George wasn't on stage singing very much. He was more than happy to back Billy Preston on a range of soul songs and take part in two needless instrumentals, both of which seemed to confuse the heck out of the crowd. The first will be featured on 'Dark Horse' as 'Hari's On Tour (Express)' but a funkier second - untitled on stage and probably given a name by bootleggers - has to date gone unheard. George admits in passing that the band 'made it up during rehearsal' and in places it sounds like it, although there's a nice slashy guitar part throughout that could have really been something (the similarly soulful 'Extra Texture' could sure have done with a bit of a kick like this) and I'm surprised that George never returned to it.

29) The Pirate Song (Eric Idle's Rutland Weekend Television, 1975)

A little comedy cameo for you now, already referred to often on this site but well worth mentioning again. George Harrison, already something of a recluse compared to John and Paul, only ever appeared on small budget TV programmes past 1971 up till 'Cloud Nine' in 1987, including a forgotten Monty Python spin-off by his friend Eric Idle in a show dedicated to the UK's smallest county (the joke is that only the few thousand people who live there can get it - although it was broadcast nationwide - and that most of them aren't watching anyway). In time this programme will be best known for the 'Rutles' sketch that will spin off into the feature length film 'All You Need Is Love' but that's not for a few years yet - for now George is a guest on a badly run show that are desperate to get him to play his big 'hit' but George simply isn't interested. You see, he's found the error of his ways and wants to talk about the big new thing in his life - no not Hare Krishna as we're all meant to think, but piracy. George ruins sketch after sketch by coming on to the strains of 'yo ho ho and a bottle of rum' and a pegleg, causing Eric Idle to become more and more fed up. At the end of the show George finally seems to be playing ball and the band strike up a lengthy opening to 'My Sweet Lord'. Only - what's this? - George gets his way after all and veers sideways into a brand new ditty about 'having jolly roger' and 'sailing the B B Seas'. George was proud enough of 'The Pirate Song' to include it in his book of lyrics 'I Me Mine', where it confused the 99% of the world's population who hadn't seen the unbilled sketch when it first went out. With a yo ho ho and a hee hee hee...

30) Beautiful Girl (Demo 1976)

Keeping with the 'I Me Mine' theme, George was allegedly on his way to a party at Stephen Stills' house when the tune for 'Beautiful Girl' arrived to him in the car and, excusing himself, he borrowed Stills' guitar to work on the song. I've often wondered if this demo was made on the spot - George scat-sings the missing second verse while somebody coughs in the background - and I thoroughly dispute the current claims on the internet that this is another song intended for 'All Things Must Pass' and left abandoned for years; it sounds far more like a love song for Olivia than Patti, with the same 'flamenco flourishes' that will feature on later songs like 'My Dark Sweet Lady' and 'Your Love Is Forever'. 'Beautiful Girl' in truth is not all there but she is mighty pretty already even so. I'm surprised this demo didn't make the end of the 'Dark Horse Years' box set where lots of these songs were released - especially given that corresponding LP '#33 and a third' had to make do with 'Tears Of The World', an outtake actually recorded five years later for another album altogether!

31) Mo (Private Recording c.1977)

This song wasn't released because it was meant for an audience of one: Mo Ostin, the Warner Brothers boss who'd just agreed to sign George and help with his Dark Horse label, was turning sixty and employees through it would be fun to release a 'special' record just for him featuring all the biggest acts on the label (I notice that they never asked fellow AAA signees The Grateful Dead for anything - which was probably a wise move!) George sings with a straight face on a 'typical' Harrison track of slide and acoustic guitar as he salutes his new friend 'who was not called Joe but Mo Mo Mo'. George passes on 'Mo good wishes, Mo smiles, Mo sweet kisses, Mo hits!' - thank goodness the label asked him for the song in the years before the rejected version of 'Somewhere In England' in 1981 when he'd have probably added a few expletives and ignored the line about 'hits' altogether! Still, my kind of birthday present!

32) Fear Of Flying (Demo c.1980)

George didn't often sing cover songs (and when he did they were usually by friends like Dylan) so this short demo of an obscure Charlie Dore song from circa 1980 (in between 'George Harrison' and 'England') is a real one-off. At first glimpse George doesn't seem to have much in common with this song of aviophobia. However you can see why some lyrics might have resonated in his spiritual quest: the narrator isn't really scared of flying, of being in the air, but crashing and falling back to Earth with a bump. In George's hands this song sounds more like a spiritual quest, the seeker afraid to reach out to his Maker because he doesn't understand what that entails, but going through it anyway. A nice demo that deserved to be finished.

33) Life Itself (Demo c.1981)

Another demo, this time for the highlight of the entire 'England' album, this one really should have made the 'Dark Horse Years' box set. Without the production trickers this love song/God song hybrid sounds even more 'earthy' and 'real' and even an annoyingly 1980s drum track can't get in the way of a good song. 'You're all that is real, the essence of that we taste touch and feel' an awed George stumbles into singing, his very human errs sounding all the more poignant here, while the sudden lift of 'aaahing' harmonies that suddenly soar right to the sun is a truly sublime moment in any version.

34) Abandoned Love (Unreleased c.1985)

A Dylan song written in 1975 but still up for grabs when George put this cover together (it may have been abandoned when Bob unexpectedly released it on best-of' album 'Biograph'), this track is as weak as George's other Dylan covers but is at least more deserving of release than 'I Don't Want To Do It' (the Dylan cover mysteriously included on the 'Let It Roll' best of). Some nice slide guitar and a typically slick bordering on empty Jeff Lynne production suggest this song was being aimed at some Handmade Film or another - my money's on 'Mona Lisa', the 1986 Bob Hoskins film about prostitution (they didn't tackle the safe subjects did they?!) where this song would have fitted in well, although in the end only an incidental score was used.

35) End Of The Line (Alternate Take c.1988)
A fitting end to our mini compilation of Hidden Harrison, this early version of the Traveling Wilbury classic features a rough and ready first version of the song when the quintet are still working out how to best sing together (most croak while some squeak). George, the main writer of the song, sings much more than on the finished product (including the verse Lynne tackles on the record) before handing over to Tom Petty for the dour middle eight. A simpler Jim Gordon thud-whack drum part brings the song even closer in line to skiffle. 

That's all for now, join us for lots more George in the next three issues!

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