The album was released on The Beatles’ Apple Records, despite Harrison having set up his own Dark Horse Records in 1974. He remained contracted to Apple until January 1976, along with the other former Beatles.
Dark Horse was released in the US midway through Harrison’s North American tour. Its UK release was 20 December 1974.
Critics were broadly negative, with Rolling Stone’s Jim Miller calling Harrison’s tunes “often formulaic, his melodic talent brittle. Under the pressure of composing enough new material to sustain a solo career, his songs have become as predictable as his spiritual preoccupations.” Harrison referenced the review in 1975’s ‘This Guitar (Can’t Keep From Crying)’: “Learned to get up when I fall/Can even climb Rolling Stone walls”.
And those preoccupations, untempered by other concerns, have become insufferable. No longer primarily a private avocation, Harrison’s quest for illumination populates his lyrics with sermons and awkward mea culpas: “Since I stepped out of the womb/I’ve been a cool jerk/Looking for the source/I’m a dark horse.” His religiosity, once a spacey bauble within the Beatles’ panoply, has come to resemble the obsessiveness of a zealot.
Despite this, the album initially sold well in America, becoming gold certified by the RIAA based on advance orders alone. It peaked at number 4 on the Billboard 200, spending 17 weeks on the chart.
Dark Horse was a top ten hit in Austria, the Netherlands, Norway, and the USA. In the UK it failed to chart. Harrison’s commercial decline was underway, and he never again reached the heights of his early 1970s releases.
Also on this day...
- 2009: Paul McCartney live: Gelredome, Arnhem
- 1977: Album release: Scouse The Mouse featuring Ringo Starr
- 1966: Recording, mixing: Strawberry Fields Forever
- 1966: UK album release: A Collection Of Beatles Oldies
- 1965: Live: Odeon Cinema, Birmingham
- 1964: Paul McCartney visits Ringo Starr in hospital
- 1964: George Harrison and Pattie Boyd fly to the Bahamas
- 1963: Live: Odeon Cinema, Southend-on-Sea
- 1962: Live: Cavern Club, Liverpool (evening) – George Martin watches The Beatles perform
- 1961: Live: Palais Ballroom, Aldershot
Want more? Visit the Beatles history section.