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
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“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

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George Harrison - “Life Itself” - Somewhere in England

(Courtesy YouTube user mac3079b)

“’Life Itself’ is the work of a man who has arrived at his destination. […]

‘Life Itself’ is a Harrisong that touches the heart of George Harrison’s musical aesthetic, which John Barham, one of his closest musical allies, thinks derives from Indian music:

‘George felt music as deeply as any musician I have ever known. I met George through Indian music, which we both believed to be a music that can put the player and the listener in close contact with a spiritual dimension. I know that George did not want this merely for himself, but also to be able to influence others to reach the same point.
He wasn’t dogmatic that everybody should listen to Indian music or practice any particular religion. But, as he was primarily a musician he continued throughout his life to express in some of his songs his own longing for spiritual fulfillment. In as far as he wanted to move his listeners in his spiritual songs, I think he had a vision of what he wanted his music to be for.’” - While My Guitar Gently Weeps: The Music of George Harrison by Simon Leng

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.

So, we can all pretty much agree that somewhere Marvel has some sort of Chris farm or something where Evans, Pratt, and Hemsworth all came from, but I have another suggestion to offer.
Tom Hiddleston is British.
Tom Holland, the new Spiderman, is British.
So if there really is a Chris farm somewhere, then there’s definitely a Tom Ranch somewhere in England.

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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.