Monday, 27 July 2015

Lindisfarne "Elvis Lives On The Moon" (1993) (Very Revised Review!)

You can buy 'Passing Ghosts - The Alan's Album Archives Guide To The Music Of Lindisfarne' in e-book form by clicking here!

Lindisfarne "Elvis Lives On The Moon" (1993)

Day Of The Jackal/Soho Square/Old Peculiar Feeling/Mother Russia/Demons/Don't Leave Me Tonight/Elvis Lives On The Moon/Keeping The Rage/Heaven Waits/Spoken Like A Man/Think!

"With a gun at their heads they died on their knees"

Rather eerily, Alan Hull's last album with Lindisfarne before his untimely death in 1995 (where he died of a heart attack after returning home from a party held to celebrate bassist Rod Clement's birthday) is a half-concept album about making the most of your time before it slips away from you. Rather thankfully, it's a much more fitting place to say goodbye than any of the past few comparatively dodgy albums would have been. With founding members Jacka now gone (he'd jumped ship in 1990 as he was making more money representing Guinness than he ever was with the band without writing royalties and he was getting tired of the intense travelling from one job to another; a drunken Hull one night effectively forced him into leaving before he was ready although it was only a matter of time before Jacka would have been forced to choose one or the other) and Si preparing to leave as soon as the album and tour were over (he retired from music to run a pub) there's more of Hully's usual good sense and quiet anger here than ever before (we so sorely miss him today - I'd love to have heard his condemnation of David Cameron). So much so that at times this sounds like a Hull solo album (with a couple of Clements and Craggs songs tacked on to it) with the same 'feel' as Hully's solo records which tended to be more political and weirder animals than the Lindisfarne collections. So much of this album burns with his sense of injustice and outrage, the band 'keeping the rage' as one of the songs puts it as Hull rips into modern life with every fibre in his body: the credit crunch in the western world, the crumbling of the soviet empire and the poverty it left behind, the innocent prisoners trapped in a 'lonely cell', the modern desire for people to grow up too fast. Some writers tend to get softer with age - but Hully's songs kept getting tougher and his latest crop (including both this album and his ultimately unfinished solo album 'Statues and Liberties' recorded soon after this record) are some of his best, full of the wit and courage and passion of old. Alan Hull hasn't had this much to say in a decade and he has more space to say what's on his mind than usual. Suddenly the likes of 'C'mon Everybody' and 'Dance Your Life Away' seem like a bad dream.

That's the good news about this record. But before you get too excited about 'Elvis' being a better-than-average Alan Hull album it also simultaneously makes for quite a frustrating Lindisfarne listening experience. Reading between the lines of the interviews made at the time and for the excellent 'Fog On The Tyne' biography it doesn't seem to have struck anyone that Jacka was going to be that big a loss to the band. Lindisfarne had had Marty Cragg in the band since 1984, principally a sax player but also a vocalist who'd been taking on more and more of the vocal work as Jacka's interest waned. Marty does indeed have an excellent voice and might well have established the same sort of following as his predecessor had he joined the band at the same time - but there's the small problem of the fact that his voice now sounds so different to Jacka's that it's done something weird to the harmonies. Not that there are many across the album anyway - Jacka's loss also means that this is the first Lindisfarne album not to have any mandolin anywhere, although it's role in the band had been shrinking across the past few LPs. Though Si's distinctive electric guitar bursts are all over this record (with Steve Daggett's keyboards gone, he gets more to do than he has for a long time too), he's all but inaudible on the vocals (and doesn't get a 'farewell' song either sadly!) That leaves just one of the band's three distinctive vocalists - Alan - centrestage, with a few solo spots from Marty, with barely any harmonies at all across the album (though I think I can still hear Jacka's distinctive tones on older song 'Mother Russia'). This is a major blow, like asking The Byrds to record without Roger McGuinn's jingly-jangly rickenbacker, getting Liam Gallagher to sing a song with the word 'sunshine' which isn't pronounced 'sun-shee-iiiine' or asking The Spice Girls for a discussion of their musical and social beliefs; it's just a waste of what they're there to do. Ask any music-fan in the street what Lindisfarne were all about back in the day and they'd have answered in no particular order 'pints of Newcastle brown ale' 'Elizabethan ladies' 'fogs on bridges' 'sausage rolls' 'corners' 'Geordie accents' (why-aye man, that had to be there!) and the band's distinctive sweet-and-sour harmonies (of course, depressingly, if you ask someone today you'll either get a blank stare or the line 'weren't they Paul Gascoigne's backing band?!' I despair sometimes...) Anyway, without Jacka's instinctive understanding of pop and Si's eccentric edge all we get is Hull's passionate 'sour' without the 'sweet'. To add insult to injury, Ray Laidlaw is continuing to play the drums as if he's an 80s drum machine automaton instead of the characteristic 'feel' player he should be and Rod Clements' bass-lines are so of the time you half expect him to get up and moonwalk. Though Hull's songs can just about get away with this (he did after all sing solo occasionally with the band throughout their history), the Craggs and Clements songs sound alien, without any distinctive Lindisfarne features despite their obvious worth. Fine album as 'Elvis' undoubtedly is - and an improvement as it marks on the immediate predecessors - it's not exactly a fine 'Lindisfarne' album.

That's a shame because there's so much the 'old' band sound could have done with this album. Lindisfarne were lucky (or unlucky depending how you look at it) to be one of the first English bands to play behind the iron curtain after communism fell in 1989. Most of the bands who went in the immediate aftermath of the fall tended to be pure American capitalists, putting on big shows with lots of lighting and dancing - everything that the Russian world had been told to expect from Westerners. After so many generations of deprivation they seemed to come from another world. However after the glitz and glamour wore off many of the original Soviet empire music-goers fell for bands like Lindisfarne who came with a much smaller and cosier repertoire and passed their music off more like the town criers of old spreading news between empires than a capitalist adventure and media soundbite. Though the Geordie accents must surely have been a challenge for a country that didn't know much English, music can reach out across language barriers in a way that words never can and Lindisfarne were a major hit that year, more 'real' than a lot of the other bands they'd have been introduced to and whose music would be likely to linger after they'd gone home compared to the U2s and Motley Crues. Hull was surely a communist (however small the 'c') - money is the issue behind many of his most depressed and outraged songs and he really feels the pain of those forced to do without while fatcats 'split their face with grins' and the people in the audience who 'understood' English enough to hear songs like 'Dan The Plan' 'City Song' 'Winter Song' 'We Can Swing Together' 'Cruisin' To Disaster' and 'Stormy Weather' would have 'understood' them at a deeper level too. Lindisfarne really pulled together across the tour, which was a great boost for morale on stage however troubled they were backstage.

The 'discussion' went both ways though. An artist as sensitive and outraged as Alan Hull couldn't help but be outraged at what he saw away from the concert stage. The people who went to the band's concerts had so very little, even less than it had seemed from the outside looking in and the scared faces trumped even those back home in the Thatcherite 80s (John Major taking power more or less at the time this record was released). Many 'Russian' songs poured from Hully in this period (although interestingly perhaps the most overtly Russian-centred song 'Day Of The Jackal' was actually written as early as 1983 and re-recorded for this album) and describe the terrible poverty he saw around him on tour. Realising that he has a 'duty' to tell the people back home what he's seen, Hully doesn't know where to start ('It isn't easy to explain!') but conjures up tales of a proud people crushed by the weight of a way of life they've been taught not to challenge and how they barely understand any other way of life anymore. Hull is quick to praise the art that's flowed out of this sense of depravation but argues that 'no Tolstoy, no Tchaikovsky gonna get you out of this!' 'Day Of The Jackal' is Hull at his mocking best, making the world 'dance the berserker' as beserkly as he can and takes on the role of a twelve-year-old made to grow up too fast, a gun his only weapon against a world out to get him. 'Mother Russia' is a sad ballad about the wrongs that Hull can't put right and the memorable line that 'history is bunkum' - that too people suffered for what, in the end, turned out to be nothing.

'Keeping The Rage' is a more general Hull song about injustice but is about reaching out to the oppressed everywhere that must surely have come from his travels too. 'Demons' too have 'the dance of the dead' as they prowl first a town and then the inside of Hull's head, the singer unable to get the images out of his mind's eye. Marty and Rod's 'Heaven Waits' mirrors the theme, sighing over the faults of both capitalism and communism and commenting on the ordinary person's struggles to change anything - 'This is the way of the world, this is the way it goes' is the sad and desperate chorus, reflecting the helplessness of the crowds Lindisfarne played to. Perhaps the best of the songs on the subject though is Hull's album highlight 'Spoken Like A Man' in which he charts how people on both sides of the iron curtain have been 'brainwashed' into believing that only one way of life exists, 'childish minds that have been distorted' and turned into a cynical adult world view. Hull is having none of it, rejecting everything he's learnt as an adult and of being trained to 'speak like a man' and challenging the idea that mankind is wiser from experience. Final track 'Think' then rounds off the album with a cry for people to consider other people's opinions more and see past the 'lies' they're told - as fitting a final Hull message as you could wish for, although there is a standalone Lindisfarne single to come yet. Returning to Russia one last time, Hull sighs that 'your mother's dying consider why' but he's worried about the impact of Americanisations on the former empire, warning too that 'your sons are lying'. Hully has clearly had more than a few sleepless nights after the band's Russian tour. Throughout ticks a clock timing out the people who couldn't be saved and died from their poverty, the challenges of restoring Government to a people who have known another way of life and perhaps even the time until Russia and her empire become just another branch of the Western world. The Day of the Jackal is now - but worse is to follow if someone doesn't do something soon. Alas nobody appears to hear the cries and put things right, making 'Elvis' one of Lindisfarne's most overtly depressing albums - in great contrast to the last three (which could have done with taking themselves and their legacy a bit more seriously to be honest!)

Elsewhere this is an album with a rather odd feel. 'Soho Square' at least fits, an 'English' version of Hull's Russian songs with Hull 'meeting on the corner' a London prostitute and being dazzled by all the fake glitz and glamour - a 'clown from a Northern town' as Hull puts it completely out of his depth (it's this song's anti-capitalist rant to go alongside the anti-communist ones). But the rest of the album sounds like it's come in from a different record entirely: Rod's 'Old Peculiar Feeling' set the tone for the two Lindisfarne albums still to come, a nostalgic acoustic song that's at one with 'Ghost In Blue Suede Shoes' and 'Rock and Roll Phone' as an old trooper prepares to re-create his old past-times; Hull's 'Don't Leave Me Tonight' is one of his occasional 'pure' romantic songs of the sort Jacka would have been superb on a few years before; the deeply odd title track throws in references to Nostradamus, Uri Geller and Tutankhamen's curse and seems to suggest that mankind has a passion for the weird and strange (compare with Belle and Sebastian's 'A Century Of Elvis' in which the singer is re-incarnated as a dog!) It's as if Lindisfarne were trying to make a 'normal' album and were trying to hide all the more controversial 'Russian' references - so successfully that many fans don't seem to realise what this album is really all 'about'.

Talking of not understanding what things are all about, the album cover has to be one of the weirdest Lindisfarne ever made (in fact it's a point worth making that the better the Lindisfarne album cover the worse the albums tend to be and vice versa - I have a soft spot for 'Dingly Dell' despite the cardboard sleeve, 'Nicely Out Of Tune' and 'Fog On The Tyne' sound like classics but don't necessarily look it, while I love 'Sleepless Nights' for every reason but the revealing album cover, honest - by contrast 'Dance Your Life Away' looks great and sounds ghastly). On the front cover a spaceship seems to have crash-landed into a junkyard, with the back sleeve showing the now five-piece Lindisfarne squatting on old rubber tyres and abandoned hunks of metal. It's an arresting image, but not necessarily one suited to the more black-and-white horror-world of the album (although you could argue that the 'sparks' signify some hope I guess or - stop press as I've only just thought of this after years of playing this album - the sheer extravagance and waste of the Russian Government spending a fortune on the space race while her 'children' are left abandoned on the scrapheap! I take it back, unless of course that's just a convenient coincidence). Still don't see what it has to do with Elvis living on the moon, though (we could have had a 'Blue Moon of Kentucky' and everything!)

Overall, then, 'Elvis' is a flawed step in the right direction for Lindisfarne. There are many excellent moments here, with Alan Hull going back to basics and tapping into the source of rage and depth that he used to bring to the Lindisfarne party. Great as the poppier side of the band with Jacka was, his absence offers the band an excellent chance to go down a whole new route as a 'protest' band and we haven't heard Hull this moved for this long since for a whole shelf-full of LPs. The rest of the band are right with him too, with Rod's songs, Marty's singing, Si's stinging guitar and Ray's sturdy drumming alongside the album's unsung hero Kenny Craddock (from the 'Lindisfarne Mark II' line-up) who adds a much softer, subtler keyboard sound than Steve Daggett's more in-yer-face style (it's a shame he didn't join the band full time, but then he was rather busy playing with a whole host of Newcastle bands in this era). He also produced the album alongside engineer and bass player Steve Cunningham. However there's still something slightly lacking about this album that prevents it being the truly must-have reunion album the band so badly needed right now with members leaving left right and centre. The songs are great but they're not all great, with a handful that not only don't fit but aren't worth fitting in anywhere anyway. The production sound is less off-putting than the recent run of CDs but it's still from vintage Lindisfarne. The lack of an extra 'voice' - in both vocal and compositional senses - rather unbalances the record, so that all we get is Hull's sudden veers from detached to emotional wreck; thrilling as these moments are it gets tiring across a full album with so little else to dilute the sound out. Marty Craggs is an excellent vocalist but his vocals are so different to anything we've had before (even on 'Amigoes' he tended to sing the 'most' Lindisfarne tracks and was surrounded by harmonies so we didn't notice) that you'd be hard pressed to recognise any of his three songs as Lindisfarne (I often find myself checking in puzzlement when these songs come up on my mp3 player's 'shuffle'). Most unforgivable though is the  lack of harmonies - even lots of Hulls and Craggs multi-tracked would have sounded better than nothing. It's sad that Si seems to have disappeared before the vocal sessions took place preventing us from one last great Lindisfarne hurrah. As things will turn out, the band will even lose this album's biggest link with their past in Alan Hull whose songs and vocals are the powerhouse behind this album and the main creator of most of the album's highlights and will sound very different again by the time the band next re-groups in five years' time for the under-rated 'Here Comes The Neighbourhood'. However by then the band will know where they're going and where they stand, with Rod Clements the safe pair of writing hands and Jack The Lad colleague Billy Mitchell adding a familiar vocal style. That album bears almost nothing in common with this one (even Marty doesn't get a chance to do much!) but what both albums have in common is a sense of being 'nearly' where the band need to be during a dark and difficult time in the band's development, both a little further down the road to the quality they left behind around 1982 than they've been for a while if not quite as far down the road as fans would like. However, after a patchy period, it's a relief to have the band simply back in the same solar system as where they began - and that's close enough, after all, when Elvis lives on the moon.

'Day Of The Jackal' sets the tone for much of the album to come, although it's actually an older song first written for Hull's 1983 solo album 'On The Other Side', Hull's original was sparser and less produced, more of your usual outraged rock song, but Lindisfarne's re-recording is an epic, full of dancing balalaikas, Russian fiddles and keyboard swirls. Though at the time was written Hull hadn't been anywhere near Russia, he'd clearly been keeping a close eye on the press reports of what was happening during the cold war (trust Hull to take up the 'other side' - the album is full of songs like this, notably Argentina in The Falklands War, although this is the only 'Russian' song). Hull's usual sensitive eye for suffering and anger at this causing it make for a fascinating song full of danger and skull-duggery, perhaps inspired by the Frederick Forsyth novel of the same name only this time instead of fictional spies plotting down to overthrown a French Government, it's a real story of real Russian leaders damaging themselves. Once communism used to be about solidarity and equality - but here it means that nobody has anything anymore. Hull takes the part of a twelve-year-old boy named David whose been made to grow up too fast, known locally as 'Billy The Kidd' for his knowledge of guns (note the comparison of American gangsters, turned into folk heroes, with Russian ones we're meant to 'despise' in the West). We then switch to Ishmael from Beirut, watching his Russian dissenting parents pay for speaking out with their lives (has there ever been a more chilling line than Hull's 'with a gun at their heads they died on their knees?', their bowing subservience to a greater power outraging Hull almost as much as their needless deaths. themselves). He doesn't want pity though - he knows how to shoot, uncaring for his own safety now that he's the only family member left. A third verse has Hull as God, no less ('or Allah if you choose') causing 'despair, destruction and abuse' as wars are fought in his name and he does nothing to stop the humans he created 'tearing apart' the lands named in his honour. Throughout it all sufferers everywhere are made to 'dance the beserker', a pun on both the dance 'mazurka', with poverty-stricken peasants everywhere under the gun of a Government who makes them fight other poverty-stricken peasants, all praying to a different Lord to allow them to live together. Back in 1983 this was a clever ahead of its time song about social injustice and Hull sings it well, but now that he's seen the suffering of at least the Russians mentioned in this song Hull's vocal is ice-cold, exploding with quiet fire as everyone is damned and nobody can stop the mad dance that's causing it. Often Hull's atheist-bordering-on-religious songs like 'Clear White Light' conclude with the idea that mankind can live together if enough people demand it - but this time his plea that 'we can live together somehow' sounds desperate and hopeless. The epic production perhaps tries a bit too hard to make what is really a simple rocker sound like it's being fought on the world arena, but the band performance is a good one, with Cowe's guitar wrapped around a terrific Ray Laidlaw drum part that's manic and insistent, while Hull's delicious vocal is just the right side of theatrical. One of the better songs on the album, although the simpler 1983 version probably still has the edge.

'Soho Square' is another song that might have been quite lovely without all that OTT production full of synths and saxophones (plus what have they done to Rod's bass? He sounds like he's just strutted in from a disco album!) although the production again adds a grandeur and mystery to the song. The song is another one of Hull's which sounds like it's recalling his first trip to London and his first trip away from Newcastle anywhere, lost in a land much bigger than anything he can comprehend. For all the scale of the surroundings, however, Hull is appalled at how many people are going without - the sheer scale of the homeless on the streets and the prostitution racket on the street corners. 'You look good enough to eat' is Hull's leery chat-up line, but he discovers to his horror that food is not a good comparison, that these aren't good-time girls but people who would starve without selling their bodies (the sexual innuendo of 'nothing's passed my lips in a week' turned into a sad statement on hunger). A shocked Hull thinks 'pretend you haven't heard' and walks away with his head 'ready to explode' over what he's seen. It's a sad tale that again, unusually for Hull, has no twist to make it better or take the sting away - this is a world that's messed up beyond the point where he can do much about it. The song is worth putting back into a historical context - though today we think we're the only ones to suffer a credit crunch, the one in the early 1990s was as sharp and biting as anything we've had recently, though it was repaired a bit quicker than the current one in Britain at least (mainly because the Conservative party didn't spend good money on bad ideas as they are doing now). It's perhaps key that Hull should set this song in London - his only London based song as far as I know - rather than his usual Newcastle setting: these are people who drifted to England's capital in search of a better life and with big ideas without knowing the state was about to spit them out. While there have sadly always been homeless much everywhere at almost every era, they do tend to peak in London during times of crisis with high rents and so on and usually represent people who've fallen from bigger heights than the poverty everyone shared to some extent back in Newcastle. In context too this is a madder, sadder 'Meet Me On The Corner', taking place on a similar junction, only this time the dream-seller has been replaced by prostitutes trying to scrape a living (compare with 'Jubilee Corner' from the next LP too) - the contrast between dreams and survival couldn't be greater. Though the melody could have been sharper and Marty's sax is a tad intrusive, Hull's lyrics are once again moving, reflecting not just the pain of those he meets but his confusion and frustration at not having a solution anymore. We could have done without the verse about him having 'my hands in my pants and doing a little dance' though!

Rod's much more gentile 'Old Peculiar Feeling' features a rollicking good riff and a nice vocal from Marty, while the lyrics represent the first in a sequence of acoustic songs about Rod remembering where his career started. Clements has often written about his career with other metaphors thrown in - 'Don't Ask Me' is his angry attempt to deflate the press' expectations and 'Fast Lane Driver' a metaphor for him being driven off the road after Lindisfarne's split, handing over the wheel to a new group of motorist-musicians. The song is sweet, comparing the 'feeling' Rod gets seeing his wife in middle age reminding him of their older dating days and in a wider sense his music, a 'feeling' that lets him know it's time to write and tour again. The two halves of the song combine when 'a certain song from way back when' is played, with music the biggest instant reminder of times past. However strong as this song is it doesn't fit the album that well - it's gentle reminders of times gone by doesn't fit this hard mad world of cold jagged edges and the fact that there is nothing in keeping with any sound on the last two songs (there's no Hull on this one, just Marty and the sound is predominantly acoustic guitars and Rod's fiddles, not keyboards and drums) makes it sound very much like the odd one out. Ironically for a song about timing, it's this that lets the song down - had the 'old' Lindisfarne done this with their old harmonies and Jacka on lead (this song would have suited him down to the ground!) then it might have been an album highlight - instead it just doesn't quite work somehow.

'Mother Russia' is a song that's been splitting fans ever since it came out. Hull's clearly been reading a bit too much 'War and Peace' as he tries to make this song an epic of mammoth proportions, complete with nearly six minute running time, some spacey Kenny Craddock classical piano, a fiddle part and an accordion. However this is one of those songs that's better kept simple and a lick faster - Hull's solo live performances of this (as captured on 1994 CD 'Back To Basics', again with Craddock on piano) are far superior somehow and it's a much better song than a recording Lindisfarne give it here. The lyrics you see carry enough grandeur on their own - Hull is trying nothing less than summing up the entire mad seventy-two years of Russian history between the October Revolution of 1917 and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Though many casual commentators assume that communist Russia was always corrupt in any era, left-wing socialist Hull knows that isn't too - that the contemporary Russia of scared peasants supporting tyrannical dictators is not how things started. Instead 'Lenin lies stately', a relic rather than an active creator of society, while 'Karl' (Marx) is a 'forgotten man'. Hull finally speaks out against Stalinist Russia without fear of reprisal by saying 'Joseph played his cards wrong because he didn't understand' - Stalinist Russia was a dictatorship, not the communist equality paradise envisioned by Lennin, Marx and Trotsky. The inequality and injustice really hurts Hull who sings from the heart that 'your sadness tears my heart out'. Though many Russians greeted the influences of the Western world, Hull depicts the capitalist influence as equally wicked and corrupt, a 'rat race coming to get you' rather than a chance for peace and prosperity for everyone. Hull depicts the speed with which Americanisations were greeted (many pressmen said that they knew the soviet empire had truly fallen when the first McDonalds opened in Moscow) as a 'Judas Kiss' that cannot be reversed and fears what will happen to the 'fields of rapture' and beauty that Hull walks through on tour. Hull makes good use of the idea of 'Mother Russia' too - because a mother is exactly what the broken and splintered country he sees really needs, caring and sharing not fighting and biting. Hull's lyrics is expressive, full of poetic touches that reach back to great Russian writers and his own sense of sadness at a once great nation brought to her knees all because the original concept of a nation working for the greater good of all her people has been subverted into an even bigger divide between rich and poor than the West. Unfortunately much of that good work is undone by one of Lindisfarne's weaker band performances - Hull's vocal is all over the place, the  tempo is too slow and there's just too much going on in this arrangement. Instead we should be concentrating on the bare basics like the words and melody - the band could have done with paying more attention to the song's lyrics and the sense that being big and powerful doesn't necessarily mean being better.

'Demons' is a rather odd Hull song, a track that goes back to his deliberately ugly sound of writing. It's hard to know whether this song is meant to be a comedy or a tragedy, as Hull depicts a group of demons who 'twist and shout' their way through the world and get into people's mind and then make them do the cruellest things. The theme is 'what's wrong is right' and Hull reprises his 'oh mamma' cry from 'Mother Russia' as he cries out for someone to put it right. There's a hint too that these demons are really the little black dog of depression, gnawing away even inside the naturally happy mind of Alan Hull ('inside my head is where I hang my happiness!'), leaving him 'messages' on his cerebral answer-phone and leaving him trapped, pleading 'get me out of this mess!' It's nice to hear Lindisfarne returning to their harder, bluesier-edged sound for the first time in a while, but they've usually had stronger than this to sing and again the rather overcooked production full of gimmicky effects gets in the way of what would have sounded better recorded simply and quietly. The guitar riff is a good one though and it's great to hear Si Cowe dusting off his telecaster one last time with a punchy sound that sounds like he's been sticking knitting needles in his speaker cabinet a la Dave Davies.

The weakest song on the album is probably Hull's passionate ballad 'Don't Leave Me Tonight'. Normally this would be the 'Jacka' song on the album, cosy and romantic but as good as Marty's vocal is he's not as natural a 'fit' for a song like this. Hull's song is full of his characteristic harmonic sequences and chord changes, but it's a bit one-dimensional by his standards - like the over-simplistic ballads 'Make Me Want To Stay' and much of his 'Phantoms' record without the usual sting in the tales or any emotion except love. The narrator doesn't want his loved one to leave just yet and although he knows its futile and the winds of change are blowing through his windows  he's still in denial. And that's about it really. There aren't even many harmonies this time around sadly, with Hull inaudible on his own song which comes across just like any other simple pop song from any other era. At least this time the production techniques add a certain something to the album, though, with a combination of parping saxes, held organ notes, a synth riff that sounds like a doorbell and some more lovely guitar work at least making this sound good, if a bit too much like every other pop song around in 1993 (if this had been released with a 'Meatloaf' or a 'Bryan Adams' credit I've have quite believed it).

Title track 'Elvis Lives On The Moon' is, on the other hand, a bit too wildly adventurous. An oddball surreal song that mentions Nostradamus, Uri Geller and Tutankhamen's Tomb alongside a chorus that simply consists of the title. What is Hull getting at here? Well, it seems to be a love song first and foremost about how whatever weird life events are due to happen the narrator and his lover will get through them if they're together. But it also seems to be saying that the world is becoming a 'weird' place in 1993, full of so many things happening behind the scenes that have come to light (it might be related to the press reports from  behind the iron curtain again, although apparently an early version of this song was being performed by Lindisfarne on stage before the Soviet collapse) that the weirder dismissed stuff might as well be true too. Hull has an 'open mind', even willing to believe that Elvis had merely returned to his home-world after his mission to help people fall in love ('If Elvis is any friend of mine, you'll be mine someday'). The rather weird lyric is somewhat undersold by the melody, however, which breezes in and out as if it's another contemporary atmospheric pop song with Hull singing as detached as can, as if he hasn't realised quite how weird the songs he's singing are. Some songs can work wonders by having the words and music do two different things at once, but neither half of this song is quite as good as it ought to be - the lyrics are mildly strange and confusing rather than outrageously wacky and the melody is easy to singalong to when it's on but hard to remember when it's off. The decision to put Elvis on the moon of all places (when everyone knows he comes from Zigorous Three!) is also unexplained - 'moon' seems to have been chosen because it rhymes with 'Uri Geller bent a spoon' rather than for any artistic sense. This is by the way assuming that 'Elvis' really is 'Elvis' - the lyric is so vague Hull might as well be singing about Elvis Costello (whose really from Neptune) or even Elvis, the colleague of children's TV character Fireman Sam (whose wildly varying accent is closest to Geordie, funnily enough).

'Keeping The Rage' is another of the album's songs that out to sound great because all of the ingredients are there. The song is exactly what Lindisfarne should have been doing - a catchy song about injustice that sums them up nicely - standing up 'for the man condemned in a lonely cell and a 'bird of prey in a gilded cage' and against the 'strong who beat the weak'. The title was strong enough to be the title of the band's 1990 tour and should by rights have been the alum title as it sums them up so well, stoking the fires with the latest turn of the knife in the wider world since their last album. However after his fine beginning Hull (with help from Marty) seems to have got a bit stuck. The 'I-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi' verse works well the first time we hear it, but by the fourth straight repeat of that alternated with the same chorus used five times you're longing for the song to do something else except just keeping on. If ever a song needed a middle eight, it's this one and Hull was usually a strong enough writer to know this (his middle eights are some of the best in the business) which makes this song all the more of a puzzle. While Hull's vocal is strong enough, the rest of the band sound comparatively unsure of this song and turn in a performance that's fair rather than fantastic - it's ironic really for a song titled 'Keeping The Rage' that the one thing missing from this song is a bit more 'rage'. Nice to hear some harmonica back in the band's sonic textures again, though, courtesy of Marty Craggs filling in for Jacka. The result is still a good song, but it ought to be great.

'Heaven Waits' was written by Rod and Marty - my guess would be that the distinctive unusual chord structure comes from Clements and the Dylanesque lyric, especially the chorus, comes from Craggs. Though the chorus sounds quite relaxed about it being 'the way of the world', the verse is far stronger with long lists of things that people want to 'know' about and perhaps the narrator's response to a singer. One song in particular has him 'stood on a corner, thinking on my feet', perhaps referring back to Rod's most famous creation and throws in the phrase 'you want to know about the future but don't know what to believe'. Unlike Hull though, who feels full of confusion and helplessness, Clements sounds like a mystic seer with all the answers (was this song even written 'for' his colleague?) - that if you want to know what the world has to offer you have to go and seek it out instead of sitting at home wondering. 'You want to know about tomorrow? You've got it all at your feet!' is Rod and Marty's mantra, with the uplifting chorus that 'heaven waits...for those who try' and is in the reach of all of us if we reach out in the direction that suits us best. Though this still doesn't sound much like Lindisfarne, with a very Dire Straits sound on Cowe's guitar and Marty singing solo for much of the song, at least what it does sound like is rather better than on some other tracks on the record this time around and both song and performance are amongst the stronger ones on the album.

The album highlight, however, is surely 'Spoken Like A Man'. The song is just so Lindisfarne on so many levels; half-mournful, half angry, slow burning and suddenly piercing, ramshackle blues and polished protest all at the same time and with a gloriously hypnotic chorus to boot. Starting like some native American tribal cry (with Marty on pan pipes), the contemporary production suddenly comes in from nowhere to disrupt his happy scene. Hull's best melody on the album has him going round and round in circles until the narrator is 'spat out' at the end and finds a release of a sort. That's all very in keeping with a song that's all about trying not to believe what you've told and decades of establishment brainwashing. Throughout our lives our 'childish minds have been distorted' and the 'dreams we'd die for' have been turned into 'tokens' given to us to keep us quiet in our quest to 'speak like a man'. The irony of this song being that we spend our lives trying to act wiser when being wiser means being more like we were when we started out, before the adult world distorted our ways of re-acting to the world. He struggles to remember the boy he was once was, so desperate to 'reach out to the sands' of time and grow up - when all he wants now is to be young again, to nbe nearer the 'truth' of how mankind is meant to behave.  Hull spends most of the verse sounding old before his time and under the weight of the world before finally snapping in the memorable chorus 'I just don't believe you!' Hull won't 'give a damn'; about how he's meant to act and whether he's meant to act grown up and responsible and only care about himself and not other people - he's seen through the smokescreen of how the world works and wants us to break our vows too. Though the impact is lessened through over-use the first time Hull hits into this chorus is a glorious moment, cutting through the claustrophobia of the track with a very Lindisfarne vow of difference and - at long last - the only real harmonies across the whole of the album. The bluesy backing could be better - there's too much going on with several guitar parts, plus keyboards and balalaikas pinging in and out - but the performance is a good one and the whole band sound as if they're on 'message' here and one of Hull's last recorded vocals are also some of his best. 'Listen!' he cries at the end, with one last go at breaking us out of our slumbers.

'Think!' he demands in the next song, the last on the album, which in many ways is a continuation (it even has the same 'new agey' opening, although this time the tribal Indians seem to have brought along a saxophone...) Hull addresses us as if he's Mother Nature herself, a lonely rock 'the third stone' from the sun and wondering why the people who live on her are so cruel. 'I gave you history, I gave you sons' she complains and wonders who'll look after her 'children' now that she is dying and unable to survive much longer. Waving us a sad goodbye, mother Earth dies before our ears with her last message to think about what we're doing to her. It's very much of its time this song, when ecology and environmental issues with the same sort of epic production costs as this one were all in vogue (remember Michael Jackson's 'Earth Song' from a year later? For the hope of your sanity we hope you don't...) despite the fact that the electric technology and man hours needed to make these songs probably cost quite a lot of natural resources anyway. It's not the best song on the subject, performed too slow with Hull's vocal going from a too-quiet whisper to a too-loud yell and the many effects are just too overbearing. The arrangement is nice though and needs another take rather than a re-invention: Marty's flute playing is lovely and his mournful sax playing is the best on the album as he and Craddock enter a competition to see who can sound the saddest. The lyrics too read better than they sound on the album - it's the rather one-note melody that lets this one down. Yes I bet you knew this was coming - 'Think' could have done with a bit more forethought.

Overall, then, 'Elvis Lives On The Moon' is a stronger-than-average album that is perhaps too patchy to match the best of what Lindisfarne can offer. It's a curious mix of the great (the emotion that's dripping throughout a majority of these songs, with Hull keeping the rage like never before) and the ghastly (the anti-sceptic production that means all of this emotion gets somewhat lost in translation). At times this can be infuriating with really promising songs sounding average and forgettable because of the way that they're made, although occasionally the arrangements and production techniques do come up trumps. If nothing else, this is an improvement on the last few albums when in truth there hasn't been much going on under the surface to pay attention to - at least this time Hull's creative spirit is beating strongly as the band's adventures in Russia give him a while new crusade to rally against and Lindisfarne's most crusading album in many a long year is all the better for it. Had the band had a bit longer to make this album, with a couple more top-notch songs, a slightly tweaked production style that's less of its time and had Jacka back in the band then 'Elvis' had the potential to be right up there with the classics of old. Unfortunately most fans coming to this won't hear the album's worth at first and instead get caught out by the detached performances, the lacklustre playing and the dated production values. However if we do what Hull tells us to - 'Listen!' and 'Think!' respectively - there's enough here of worth to keep Lindisfans happy. It's also a sadly fitting way for Hull to say goodbye to the band he'd been so much a part of, dominating the writing and vocal credits like never before and returning to the more aggressive radical sound of his early days whatever the rest of the band are doing. Lindisfarne will recover and they'll recover well, adding in the folkier elements from the 'Jack The Lad' days and much more of the acoustic sound and harmonies that this album lacks. However Alan Hull will leave a sizeable shaped hole for the rest of the band's career that few writers/singers could have matched, a difficulty exaggerated by the loss of the rest of Lindisfarne's front row too with Jacka already gone and Si about to join him. To some extent the 'real' Lindisfarne ends here - while to another extent it already ended before this record was even made. In all, not out of this world entirely, then, but other-worldly enough to get you to see Elvis for a visit - he lives on the moon you know!


'Nicely Out Of Tune' (L) (1970)

'Fog On The Tyne' (L) (1971)

'Dingly Dell' (L) (1972)

'Roll ON Ruby' (L) (1973) 

'The Squire' (AH) (1975)

'The Old Straight Track' (JTL) (1975)

‘Jackpot’ (JTL) (1976)

'Magic In The Air' (L) (1978)

'Back and Fourth' (L) (1978)

‘The News’(L) (1979)

'Sleepless Nights' (L) (1982)

'Dance Your Life Away' (L) (1986)

‘Amigos’ (1989)

'Elvis Lives On The Moon' (L) (1993)

'Here Comes The Neighbourhood' (1998)

'Promenade' (2002)

Si Cowe Obituary and Tribute (2015)

Surviving TV Clips

Live/Solo/Compilation Albums Part One 1970-1987

Live/Solo/Compilation Albums Part Two 1988-2015

Essay: Keepin’ The Rage On Behalf Of The Working Classes

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

'Unknown Delight - The Alan's Album Archives Guide To The Music Of George Harrison' is available to buy now by clicking here!

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!

'Extra Texture (Read All About It)' (1975)
'Thirty-Three And A Third' (1976)

'George Harrison' (1979)

‘Somewhere In England’ (1981)
‘Cloud Nine’ (1987)
'Brainwashed' (2002)
'Hidden Harrison - The Best Unreleased Recordings'
Live/Compilation/Spin-Off Albums Plus The Occasional Wilbury
Non-Album Recordings 1968-2001
Surviving TV Appearances 1971-2001

Essay: Why The Quiet Beatle Always Had So Much To Say
Five Landmark Concerts and Three Key Cover Songs