Somewhere-in-England

For today’s Beatles rarity (and in recognition of George Harrison’s birthday week) I am featuring an alternate mix of George Harrison’s closer track for his Somewhere In England album. Since the song is addressing a few environmental concerns, George decided to give his newly-created mix to the Greenpeace organization for release on a charity album. This record, simply titled Greenpeace, was released on vinyl in 1985 and hasn’t been reissued since. Consequently, and despite the considerable differences with the original version, it has gone out of print. I discuss the track in a little more detail and get the remix on the player for your own ears to enjoy. Listen here.

Life Itself (demo)
  • Life Itself (demo)
  • George Harrison
  • Somewhere in England
Play

“Like "My Sweet Lord,” “Hear Me Lord,” and “Your Love Is Forever,” this painstakingly created ballad comes to the heart of George Harrison’s musical life. It explores the same ground as Bob Dylan’s pivotal “Every Grain of Sand,” also released in 1981 on Shot of Love.

Harrison’s piece is a love song to his God, a concept hardly likely to endear him to critics, who were wont to liken these songs to musical chloroform. But there is a touching simplicity of expression here, as the superstar again adopts a childlike stance to express his feelings. Unlike with Dylan, there is no narrative exposition of a spiritual journey. “Life Itself” is the work of a man who has arrived at his destination. Harrison is not ‘hanging in the balance of the reality of man’ - he’s making an offering.

It is the offering of a man who lavished all he knew on the song, starting with a demo version that itself represented many hours’ effort. This private work features four guitar tracks, three backup vocals, and a little ukulele. George introduces a new, clean-and-clear electric guitar sound to the song, picking out the melody as an acoustic David Bromberg would. This is supplemented by two slide guitars and Harrison’s vocal, which give collective exposition to a simple refrain, similar in construction to “Don’t Let Me Down.”

The first completed version appeared on the original Somewhere in England,with an added rhythm section, while the final version installed the finishing touch - gospel Hammond organ, similar to “Sing One for the Lord,” with the George O'Hara Smith singers returning to provide sweeping, multilayered backup vocals. This, combined with George’s guitar choir, represents his attempt to convey his spiritual vision in music. Such meticulous craftsmanship typifies George Harrison’s best art. Although the song is lyrically naive compared with the sheer poetry of “Every Grain of Sand,” George reaches the same depth of expression in his music. His poetry is contained within the elegance of his guitar idiom, coupled with the finely etched span of the vocal chorus.

Inevitably, the critics hated “Life Itself.” The man could surely have expected nothing else in 1981 - what place did the music of belief have in a new age of reason, economic utilitarianism, and cultural iconoclasm? His problem was that his belief system was not born from the fads of the 1960s; it had deeper roots and was something he maintained until the end of his life. Even if the zeitgeist of the day had changed, he was unable to change his core values.“

- Simon Leng, While My Guitar Gently Weeps: The Music of George Harrison

2

Yes, getting to travel around the world with my friends was no doubt some of the best memories of my life, but it was what happened during that hour and a half on stage each night that was truly magic. And none of it was possible without you. Whether it was in front of 15 people at Brendon’s church social or 15,000 people in a field somewhere in England. What we created, the four of us onstage, and you in the audience, that was something special. It was on those nights I’d say to myself “If I could be anywhere in the world tonight, with anyone I wanted, it would be right here with you”. It’s what I’ll miss the most. So, thank you. I truly cannot wait to see what’s next for Panic, whatever it is, it’s going to be great. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for giving me the life I only dreamed of 10 short years ago.

Today’s Beatles rarity is a George Harrison track that never made it onto any of his albums called “Lay His Head.” An out-take from his Somewhere In England LP (1981) it went on to be used (in remixed form) as a b-side for “Got My Mind Set On You” six years later. A stream and further background information about this George Harrison favorite of mine is available here.

4

Somewhere in England

Where oh where to begin with the tragic mistreatment of this wonderful album?

The eighth studio album was released in 1981 after a lengthy battle with Warner Bros. and George’s choice to take his time with the creation of it and his first album to be released after the death of John Lennon. Beginning in 1979, George worked at his own speed and finally delivered the first edition to Warner Bros in late 1980. Warner Bros. soon rejected both the album and its art cover stating it was too “downbeat” and it needed to reflect the changing musical schemes that were now punk and new wave. Ordered to drop 4 of the songs, “Tears of the World”, “Sat Singing”, “Lay His Head”, and “Flying Hour”, George was forced to go back and come up with 4 new songs, “Blood From A Clone”. “All Those Years Ago”, “Teardrops”, and “That Which I Have Lost”. After he came back with the new songs and the new cover shot in the Tate Gallery, Somewhere in England was accepted for release. Even with its reformed release, the album was, sadly, mostly overlooked.

Original Rejected Track Listing

  1. Hong Kong Blues

  2. Writing’s on the Wall

  3. Flying Hour

  4. Lay His Head

  5. Unconsciousness Rules

  6. Sat Singing

  7. Life Itself

  8. Tears of the World

  9. Baltimore Oriole

  10. Save the World


Final Track Listing

  1. Blood from a Clone

  2. Unconsciousness Rules

  3. Life Itself

  4. All Those Years Ago - Single

  5. Baltimore Oriole

  6. Teardrops - Single

  7. That Which I Have Lost

  8. Writing’s on the Wall

  9. Hong Kong Blues

  10. Save the World


- Flying Hour -

Warner Bros. seriously screwed up rejecting this song. The best out of the 4 songs, in my opinion, there were actually 2 versions. A slower, alternate version was released on a cd single/book for the rare Songs of George Harrison and can also be found on the Itunes album as a bonus track, but sadly, album only. The faster track that was intended for the LP release was edited with it being sped up, some changed vocals, and it does not fade out. I love the feel and the lyrics to both versions.

What was and what may be,

Is not here, it is not clear to me.

Right now is the one thing

That I can feel, the one thing real to me,

The whole song pertains to living in the now and not carrying on about the past or worrying about the future. The past is gone, we don’t know what the future holds, all we can do is improve the present.

Here are both versions of the songs, courtesy of Youtube.

The Slow Version

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ogxbx2tUC64


The Faster, Edited Version

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UnrVDMMHK94


- Lay His Head -

This is a lovely little ballad from George. Although I have not much to say about it, I find it speaks better for itself than I would, it’s a song that is pure George.

I know that it will work out all the same

And whoever it is in here can overcome the pain

A true friend’s shoulder to lean on

I’ll make it through

And over and over

I feel for you

Courtesy of Youtube

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FE1EiZNi0pw


- Blood from a Clone -

The title song behind All Those Years Ago, this song sums about how fed up George was with the record industry and who wouldn't be? After being forced to dump 4 hard worked songs and an album cover because it didn't meet the demands of the changing music schemes would tick me off to no end! So, what did we get? A seething rebuttal to the record industry and one that makes me cackle to no end that they approved it.

I hear a clock ticking, I feel the nitpicking

I almost quit kicking at the wall

There seems a confusion under the illusion

That they know just what will suit you all

I love it. I love that even under that sweet voice of his, you can tell he was pissed, insulted, and so done with it all in dealing with the “music business”. Why did he have to conform to what others were playing? Who cares if he stuck with what he knew? Because the recording companies were assholes. Again, George found himself under the scrutiny of if you wanted your music out there, you had to succumb to what others wanted you to do.


- All Those Years Ago -

The top single for the album, it was actually written for Ringo with different lyrics and was recorded, but Ringo felt the vocals were too high for him to actually sound good. After John Lennon’s death, George took the song back and changed the lyrics to reflect a tribute to his former bandmate and friend. Keeping Ringo’s original drum track on the song, George called Paul and Linda McCartney to aid in backing vocals for it. This would be the first time the 3 remaining Beatles would come together in song before “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love” were made some years later. Unable to make amends with John, who felt he was not praised in George’s autobiography, I Me Mine, All those Years Ago is a wonderful, loving tribute to John. One that no doubt he would've appreciated.

I’m talking all about how to give

They don’t act with much honesty

But you point the way to the truth when you say

All you need is love.

~

Words can’t express how much I adore this album, both the rejected and final version. One of George’s top albums in my book, it’s a collection of treasured songs that define George in a nutshell. This isn’t a recommendation, this is an order. Go. Go listen to it if you have not.


DO IT.

youtube

On this day in music history: June 5, 1981 - “Somewhere In England”, the ninth studio album by George Harrison is released. Produced by George Harrison and Ray Cooper, it is recorded at Friar Park Studios (FPSHOT) in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, UK between October 30, 1979 - September 23, 1980, and November 1980 - February 1981. His first studio release since his self-titled album in 1979, George Harrison will work on the follow up on and off over a year and a half. The initial version of the album he submits in September of 1980 is rejected by Warner Bros Records, feeling that much of the material is “too downbeat”, forcing Harrison to drop four songs (one of the rejected tracks “Lay His Head” will surface as the non-LP B-side of “Got My Mind Set On You” in 1987) and replace them. It will spin off two singles including the John Lennon tribute “All Those Years Ago” (#2 Pop) (initially written for Ringo Starr) which also features Ringo on drums along with Paul & Linda McCartney and Denny Laine singing background vocals. “Somewhere In England” will peak at number eleven on the Billboard Top 200.