In the studio

The Dark Horse sessions began in November 1973, and continued until the following October. One of the first to be recorded was ‘Ding Dong, Ding Dong’, inspired by that year’s festive hits by Slade and Wizzard.

The bulk of the album was taped at FPSHOT, Harrison’s home studio at Friar Park, Henley-on-Thames. Harrison used the same core musicians who had appeared on Living In The Material World: Nicky Hopkins and Gary Wright on keyboards; Klaus Voormann on bass guitar; and Ringo Starr and Jim Keltner on drums.

After returning from India in April 1974, Harrison cut two more tracks. This time he worked with members of LA Express, whom Harrison had seen backing Joni Mitchell in London on 22 April.

We all went back to the hotel and, the next day, the band and Joni went out to Henley-on-Thames to hang out. That night Joni went back to London and the band stayed and recorded with George until all hours of the morning. We cut those two tracks on Dark Horse: ‘Hari’s On Tour (Express)’ and ‘Simply Shady’.
Tom Scott, LA Express
Behind The Locked Door, Graeme Thomson

The final FPSHOT sessions took place in August and September 1974. Harrison enlisted bass guitarist Willie Weeks and drummer Andy Newmark, whom he had met while working on Ronnie Wood’s solo album I’ve Got My Own Album To Do.

Harrison recorded ‘Far East Man’, ‘Māya Love’, and ‘It Is ‘He’ (Jai Sri Krishna)’ with Weeks and Newmark. For the latter song Harrison played a Moog synthesizer, and a gubguba, an Indian percussive string instrument.

I didn’t have the sense at the time that I was part of anything Biblical. I knew he was coming off big records with All Things Must Pass and Living In The Material World, and I don’t think Dark Horse came anywhere near that. It didn’t reach those heights. They were nice tunes, he was a good songwriter, he had a great style as a player, but I didn’t think that record was going to bring down the heavens.
Andy Newmark
Behind The Locked Door, Graeme Thomson

Harrison had run out of time to finish the record. On 2 November 1974 his 45-show joint tour of North America with Ravi Shankar opened in Vancouver, Canada, ending on 20 December with two concerts at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

It was unusual at the time to tour without a new release to support, and Harrison raced to finish Dark Horse during LA rehearsals in October 1974. He recorded the title track with his live band on the A&M soundstage.

The pity with ‘Dark Horse’ – the song – was that I hadn’t finished the record when I had to go to the States to rehearse the band for the American tour in 1974. So I taught the band the tune and we recorded it ‘live’; and by that time I had no voice, so it’s a shouting, hoarse (!) version of it, while the other remains unfinished.
George Harrison
I Me Mine

Harrison claimed that ‘Dark Horse’ was the only song recorded in Los Angeles, but the state of his voice elsewhere suggests that the lead vocals for other tracks were also laid down in the city. ‘Simply Shady’, ‘So Sad’, and ‘Ding Dong, Ding Dong’ all bear the hallmarks of a struggling singer.

Studio documents suggest that at least five songs were recorded over two days at the end of October 1974. ‘Dark Horse’, ‘It Is ‘He’ (Jai Sri Krishna)’, and ‘So Sad’ were among those taped on 30 October, and ‘Māya Love’, ‘Dark Horse’ and ‘Far East Man’ were worked on on the 31st.

During the Dark Horse sessions Harrison also recorded ‘I Don’t Care Anymore’, a one-take solo performance on a 12-string guitar. It was released as the b-side to ‘Ding Dong, Ding Dong’ in the UK that December; its title gives a fair indication of Harrison’s enthusiasm towards recording at the time.

Two songs started during the Dark Horse sessions – ‘Can’t Stop Thinking About You’ and ‘His Name Is ‘Legs’ (Ladies & Gentlemen)’ – were completed the following year and released on Extra Texture (Read All About It).

Some of the basic tracks I did last November. I had Keltner, Ringo, Gary Wright, Klaus. Some of the tracks I did this year with Willie Weeks, Andy Newmark, Tommy Scott: the people in the band on tour with me.
George Harrison
Press conference, 23 October 1974
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