Created in response to his mother’s death from cancer, midway through the All Things Must Pass sessions, this is a Harrison B-side to rival “The Inner Light” and “Old Brown Shoe.” Harrison offers band simplicity, coupled with David Bromberg fingerpicking. This is more advanced than the thumb-plucked bass lines of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “For You Blue” - it was the first time Harrison picked the melody within the chord structure.
The rare Harrison folk-blues piece is delivered with unnerving intimacy, made possible by the sparse instrumentation and light-touch production. The obvious sources for “Deep Blue” are Dylan and Bromberg. But George was developing an interest in blues styles, as shown by “Sue Me, Sue You Blues,” also from this period. Both songs feature resonant dobro inflections that aren’t bound to folk or blues models - even when Harrison plays within the classic pentatonic blues scale, his musicality imprints his own distinct identity.
As Harrison continues the catharsis of All Things Must Pass, his unerring honestly does not waver, despite the deeply personal subject matter. Unlike in later material, here his pain does not spill over into bitterness. “Deep Blue” is one of the great forgotten Harrison recordings, a worthy companion to New Morning and the future work of Ry Cooder and David Bromberg, and a candidate for the “last great B-side” accolade.
- Simon Leng, While My Guitar Gently Weeps: The Music of George Harrison
NOTE: “Deep Blue” has also been described as being influenced by the situation in Bangladesh as it was recorded around that time and was released as the B-side to the “Bangla Desh” single.