Saturday, 10 July 2010
It was always assumed that John Lennon was the most far out and experimental Beatle (mainly because that’s how John thought of himself and encouraged others to do the same) but, in recent years, Paul McCartney’s avant garde credentials have been reassessed (mainly at Sir Macca’s behest) and his experimental rating revised (he liked Stockhausen; he nearly got Delia Derbyshire to arrange ‘Yesterday’; he grew a moustache).
In actual fact, though, it was poor, quiet, largely unsung George Harrison who was really getting his conceptual hands dirty. Not content with putting at least one droning sitar track on every Beatles LP, George started slipping away to his ashram and garage with the latest electronic equipment and began whipping up ragged improvisations and atonal electronic sound pictures.
Harrison’s first solo album (the first from any Beatle) was ‘Wonderwall Music’, an odd set of Indian devotional themes, home recordings and circular jams for an extremely boring but fairly psychedelic film about a peeping tom and the dolly he spies upon. Assembled by Harrison using some of his famous friends (Ringo, Eric Clapton, Monkee Peter Tork), the album makes much more sense with the visuals but, in parts, can be quite beautiful. Incidentally, the LP was the first Apple Records release; it was also the first to be deleted.
George’s next LP ‘Electronic Sounds’ really pushed the boat out in terms of experimentation and listenability, consisting of little more than two sides of Harrison(and Bernie Krause) noodling around with a Moog. The second (and last) release on the short lived Apple offshoot label Zapple, a critical hammering and extremely poor sales closed the imprint down and steered Harrison back into song based waters.
I’ve concocted a little cocktail of music from across both releases, and you can listen to it here. It’s generally good stuff, I think, but even better chunked up with most of the white noise taken out.