The title

Cloud Nine was named after ‘Cloud 9’, the opening track on the album.

There seems to be a running thread here about music and its powerful hold, eh? And it’s that way, too. We who love music, we love the people who make it, we love the sound of it, and we love what it does to us, how it makes us feel, how it helps us love.

When I was writing ‘Cloud 9’ I had these ideas in mind. I’d read once in some spiritual context that the bad part of you is your human limitations, and the good part of you is God. I think people who truly can live a life in music are telling the world, ‘You can have my love, you can have my smiles. Forget the bad parts, you don’t need them. Just take the music, the goodness, because it’s the very best, and it’s the part I give most willingly.’

George Harrison
George Harrison: Reconsidered, Timothy White

To be ‘on cloud nine’ is to be in a state of blissful happiness. It is believed to originate from the first edition of the International Cloud Atlas (1896), which defined ten types of cloud. The ninth was the cumulonimbus, which rises to 10km, the highest a cloud can be.

I wracked my brain for a title, trying to think of something that didn’t have one of the song titles in it. It was called Fab for about half an hour.
George Harrison
Creem, December 1987

The release

The first single from Cloud Nine, ‘Got My Mind Set On You’, was released on 12 October 1987. ‘Lay His Head’, a leftover from the Somewhere In England album, was on the b-side. A 12″ vinyl single also contained an extended mix of ‘Got My Mind Set On You’.

The single was a huge hit for George Harrison, topping the singles charts in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Ireland, and the USA. In the UK it peaked at number two for four weeks, held off the top spot by T’Pau’s ‘China In Your Hand’. ‘Got My Mind Set On You’ also went top ten in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, and West Germany.

It was Harrison’s final US number one single, and the last by any of the former Beatles to top the Billboard Hot 100. It also hit the top the week prior to The Beatles’ induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and was Billboard’s third best-selling single of 1988.

There were two videos made for the song, both directed by Gary Weis. The first was set in an amusement arcade, and featured black-and-white footage of Harrison performing the song. The second video received greater airplay and was nominated for three MTV VMA awards. It showed Harrison playing the song in a wood-panelled room, with various parts of the room coming to life to sing along.

Cloud Nine followed in the UK on 2 November 1987, and the next day in the US.

Warner’s seemed really happy with it and, so far, the people I’ve met in interviews all seem to like it. Warner’s, I think, are just going to do the best sales thing that they normally do for an album they consider worthy of it. All I can do is my bit and hope they play it on the radio… Radio stations might be interested, after all that [Sgt Pepper anniversary] stuff going on, to hear what’s happening now. Plus the fact that I’ve not made an album for a number of years. They do say absence makes the heart grow fonder; I don’t know if that’s true (laughs).
Creem, December 1987

While Cloud Nine didn’t repeat the chart success of ‘Got My Mind Set On You’, it reached number eight on the Billboard 200 chart and number four on the Cash Box Top 200 in the USA. It was also number one on Cash Box’s Top 40 Compact Discs chart.

The album peaked at number 10 in the UK, and it was a top ten hit in Australia, Canada, Norway, and Sweden.

The album was a fantastic success, and George was thrilled. I had a message on my answerphone one day: ‘Hey Jeff, we’ve just gone No 1 in America!’ You could tell he was really chuffed.
Jeff Lynne
Uncut, May 2020

Two more singles followed in 1988. ‘When We Was Fab’ was issued on 25 January with ‘Zig Zag’ on the b-side. The 12″ and CD singles had the additional tracks ‘That’s The Way It Goes’ (Remix) and ‘When We Was Fab’ (Reverse End).

‘When We Was Fab’ reached number 23 on the Billboard Hot 100, and number 25 in the UK. It was Harrison’s final top 40 hit in either country.

A third single, ‘This Is Love’, was issued on 13 June 1988. The original b-side was to have been ‘Handle With Care’, a collaboration with Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, and Tom Petty. Warners decreed that the song was too good to be buried, however, and it became the lead single from Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1.

‘This Is Love’ was less successful than its predecessors, peaking at number 55 on the UK Singles Chart. Its b-side was ‘Breath Away From Heaven’, with the 12″ and CD singles adding ‘All Those Years Ago’ and ‘Hong Kong Blues’.

Reissues, remasters

A remastered version of Cloud Nine was issued in 2004, as a standalone release and as part of the box set The Dark Horse Years 1976-1992.

The reissue contained two bonus tracks: ‘Shanghai Surprise’, and the ‘When We Was Fab’ b-side ‘Zig Zag’.

When Cloud Nine was made available digitally on the iTunes Store it included both bonus tracks as well as the Extended Version of ‘Got My Mind Set On You’.

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