Brainwashed was the first posthumous George Harrison album. It was released a year after his death, and 15 years after his previous studio album, Cloud Nine.
The album was recorded in a number of locations between July 1999 and October 2001, and was completed by Harrison’s son Dhani, Jeff Lynne, and drummer Jim Keltner.
His life was in those final songs, the things he got up to each day, like riding down the River Thames. Lots of very personal stuff. Some of them are really good. We gradually just filled them in. It was just about mixing them and making them sound like George would like them. You just had to go with your gut feeling. I felt so bad for Dhani having to do that, after his dad had just passed on, but he really wanted to do it. He’s a good lad, Dhani. It was joyful when it sounded great – ‘Well done, George, nice one!’ – but such a shame he wasn’t there to hear it with us.
Uncut, May 2020
Lynne, the album’s co-producer, was involved in the project from the beginning.
We started working on the album in 1999. George would come round my house and he’d always have a new song with him. He would strum them on a guitar or ukulele. The songs just knocked me out. George talked about how he wanted the album to sound. He told Dhani a lot of things he would like to have done to the songs and left us little clues. There was always that spiritual energy that went into the lyrics as well as the music.
Brainwashed press release
Harrison had amassed a huge backlog of songs by the time Brainwashed began to take shape. One, ‘Rocking Chair In Hawaii’, had its roots in the All Things Must Pass sessions, and several others were from the time between 1987’s Cloud Nine and his Japanese tour of 1991.
‘Run So Far’ was written by Harrison but originally recorded by Eric Clapton for his 1989 album Journeyman. Harrison also offered Clapton two other more rock-oriented songs: ‘Cheer Down’ and ‘That Kind Of Woman’.
In 1991 Harrison appeared on Jools Holland’s Channel 4 show Mr Roadrunner, in which Holland travelled to Tennessee and Mississippi in search of the music of America. In one section of the show, Holland pitched a “musical tent” in which he discovered Harrison, who played ‘Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea’ on a ukulele, with backing from Holland on piano, Ray Cooper on drums, Joe Brown and Mark Flanagan on guitars, Gilson Lavis on stand-up bass, and Herbie Flowers on tuba.
Mr Roadrunner was first broadcast in the UK on 6 June 1992. ‘Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea’ was first recorded by Cab Calloway in 1931, Harrison’s Brainwashed version was a remix of the TV recording.
Between January and August 1996, Harrison produced Ravi Shankar’s album Chants Of India, which was released in May the following year. To promote it, Harrison made a live appearance on the US cable music channel VH1, in what was his final public performance.
The show, titled George & Ravi – Yin & Yang, was recorded on 14 May 1997 and aired on 24 July. Harrison played impromptu versions of ‘All Things Must Pass’ and The Traveling Wilburys’ ‘If You Belonged To Me’ on an acoustic guitar. He also performed an early version of the previously-unknown ‘Any Road’, after which he joined Ravi and Sukanya Shankar for a performance of ‘Prabhujee’.
Only ‘All Things Must Pass’ and ‘Prabhujee’ were included in the VH1 show. ‘Any Road’, meanwhile, was subsequently recorded at Friar Park and released on Brainwashed.
Sessions for Harrison’s album continued sporadically throughout the 1990s, but progress was frustrated by business problems related to his former manager, Denis O’Brien, as well as his work commitments with Ravi Shankar, The Traveling Wilburys, and on The Beatles’ Anthology albums and documentary series.