George Harrison’s second solo album was an experimental set made with a Moog IIIp synthesizer, and was released on The Beatles’ Zapple label.
In October 1968 Harrison travelled to Los Angeles to produce sessions for Jackie Lomax’s album Is This What You Want?. While there he was introduced to Krause, who on 11 November added Moog parts to the songs ‘Is This What You Want?’, ‘I Fall Inside Your Eyes’, ‘Baby You’re A Lover’, ‘How Can You Say Goodbye’, and ‘Little Yellow Pills’.
Harrison was intrigued by the synth’s sounds, and after the session asked Krause to give him a demonstration of its capabilities. Krause remained in the studio into the early hours of 12 November.
The demo was recorded, and later edited down to a 25-minute piece titled ‘No Time Or Space’, which featured two tracks of Moog sounds.
We did the [Lomax] session, it was very normal, and we finished in the wee hours of the next morning. Harrison asked me to stick around and show him some more things on the synthesizer. Paul [Beaver] and I were just preparing some new material for our second Warner Brothers album, and I was showing Harrison some of the patches and ways in which we were thinking of doing our work. What I didn’t realise, because it was late and I was tired and I wasn’t paying attention, was that he had asked the engineer to record the session that I was demonstrating. I didn’t think anything of it at the time.
Upon his return to England, Harrison called Krause asking to buy a Moog of his own.
There was a kind of urgency in his voice. I said he’d have to get in line with Moog like everybody else, we were just representatives, we didn’t have any control over the factory. I asked him for the folks at Apple to write a cheque for the deposit. He said, ‘I want one right away,’ and I said, ‘You’re not going to get one right away, you’ll have to do what everyone else does.’ He got in a huff but then said okay, he’d do that.
The Moog IIIp arrived in London in early February 1969, and was initially installed at Kinfauns, Harrison’s bungalow in Esher. Krause was summoned to help the Beatle learn to use it.
The Moog synthesizer was set up on a table. Understand, he had just got it delivered that afternoon. It had just arrived. He said, ‘I want to play you something.’ After supplying the requisite amount of smoke he put on this tape. Now, one thing I have is a really good memory for sound, and I remembered what we had done back in California in November – and here it was on that tape! Harrison says to me, ‘Well, I’m putting it out as an album. If it makes a couple of quid I’ll send it to you.’ I said, ‘Not without my permission you’re not, that’s Paul and I’d stuff.’ And then he said, ‘Trust me, I’m a Beatle.’ Trust me, I’m a Beatle! I said, ‘Yeah? Call me a cab, I’m going home, and don’t use my stuff.’ He said, ‘When Ravi Shankar comes to my house he’s humble,’ and something else about Jimi Hendrix. Then he asked me to patch him a bagpipe sound. Perhaps he was more conscientious about his behaviour at other times. Maybe it depended on how much you genuflected.
Krause demanded that his name be taken off the record, claiming that the recording was made without his knowledge or consent, and was issued without due acknowledgement. His name had originally featured on the cover of Electronic Sound, but was painted over at Krause’s insistence. The album did, however, carry the words “Assisted by Bernie Krause”.
I wrote to Apple and said, ‘Take my name off it, I don’t want to be on it.’ I wasn’t litigious, I just let it go, but it was my stuff. It’s an incredible story, but it’s incredible too about [him plagiarising] ‘My Sweet Lord’ – and Randy Newman has stories too. I had no control over any of it. I didn’t know it was being recorded, I didn’t want it out, and I felt very badly that he had to do that. I guess spirituality comes to different people in different ways. An expression of his seemed to be, ‘Trust me, I’m a Beatle’.
In early August 1969 the Moog was set up at EMI Studios for The Beatles to use. It appeared on the Abbey Road songs ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’, ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’, ‘Here Comes The Sun’, and ‘Because’.
I first heard about the Moog synthesizer in America. I had to have mine made specially, because Mr Moog had only just invented it. It was enormous, with hundreds of jackplugs and two keyboards.
But it was one thing having one, and another trying to make it work. There wasn’t an instruction manual, and even if there had been it would probably have been a couple of thousand pages long. I don’t think even Mr Moog knew how to get music out of it; it was more of a technical thing. When you listen to the sounds on songs like ‘Here Comes The Sun’, it does do some good things, but they’re all very kind of infant sounds.
The other track on Electronic Sound, ‘Under The Mersey Wall’, was Harrison’s own, and was recorded at Kinfauns. The title was a reference to ‘Over The Mersey Wall’, a column by another George Harrison which was published by the Liverpool Echo.
All I did was get that very first Moog synthesizer, with the big patch unit and the keyboards that you could never tune, and I put a microphone into a tape machine. I recorded whatever came out. The word avant-garde, as my friend Alvin Lee likes to say, really means, “’Aven’t-got a clue!” So whatever came out when I fiddled with the knobs went on tape—but some amazing sounds did happen.
George Harrison: Reconsidered, Timothy White
The sleeve notes for Electronic Sound credit ‘Under The Mersey Wall’ to “Rupert and Jostick The Siamese Twins”, references to Harrison’s cats.