Extra Texture (Read All About It), George Harrison’s sixth solo album, was recorded and released in 1975. It was the final album released by The Beatles’ Apple Records label.
It was recorded in the wake of Harrison’s troubled North American tour with Ravi Shankar, and the poor reception of his Dark Horse album. Harrison took the criticisms to heart, and Extra Texture was conceived as an effort to re-establish his creative and commercial fortunes.
Extra Texture… was a grubby album in a way. The production left a lot to be desired, as did my performance. I was in a real down place. Some songs I like, but in retrospect I wasn’t very happy about it.
George Harrison: Reconsidered, Timothy White
Extra Texture saw Harrison moving away from his trademark slide guitar style, and using keyboards and synthesizers to a greater extent than previously. Its styles include Motown, funk and soul.
The album was mostly recorded in Los Angeles, where Harrison was establishing his Dark Horse Records label. It allowed him to fulfil his contractual obligations to EMI/Capitol, and enabled him to release future records on his own label, with distribution by Warner Bros.
George Harrison left New York for Hawaii shortly after the end of the Dark Horse Tour, to recover and reacclimatise into normal life. He had recently fallen in love with Olivia Arias, who remained by his side since midway through the tour.
If people keep on at you long enough, the chances are you will become depressed. We must struggle even though we are all rats and valueless, and try to become better human beings. So this song came out.
The song’s reference to “Rolling Stone walls” was prompted by a succession of negative reviews in Rolling Stone magazine, culminating in a review of Dark Horse in which Jim Miller described Harrison’s songs as “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.”
‘This Guitar (Can’t Keep From Crying)’ struck a defiant note, with Harrison proclaiming his happiness and resilience, and dismissing his critics: “While you attack, create offence/I’ll put it down to your ignorance”. Yet taking on the music press often leads to further negative reviews, and it took until 1987’s Cloud Nine for Harrison’s media rehabilitation to be complete.
We passed out of that ’60s period, where there was something that happened in the ’60s which brought the flower power and the hippies and the whole Love Generation. This is what kills me now, is when I see these people who supposedly, a few years ago, loved me and I’m supposed to love them. And I see them, they’re just dropping apart at the seams with hate. I’m talking about Rolling Stone, actually, talking about Jann Wenner.
But this is the thing though. God, we all came through so much in the ’60s and we all wanted so much to create something positive, something good. It’s hard to… when we come out into the ’70s, we find it’s hard to go on. A lot of these people were only part-time hippies or part-time lovers. The badness of the world, or in them, caught up on them too soon, and you find that they’ll just turn around and they all start stabbing each other in the back.
WNEW-FM, April 1975
Upon Harrison’s return to Friar Park in January 1975, he was still shaken by the experience.
When I got off the plane, and back home I went into the garden and I was so relieved. That was the nearest I got to a nervous breakdown. I couldn’t even go into the house. I was a bit wound up – then when I came in, I looked in the mirror and decided: ‘Oh, I’m not that bad after all.’ Ego. That reflection. All those bits of rubbish everywhere and I was, I realised, getting dragged down into that hole.
As he had since All Things Must Pass, he found inspiration in his home. Friar Park’s first owner had been the eccentric Victorian lawyer Sir Frank Crisp, who often decorated the walls and gardens with idiosyncratic, playful, or enigmatic messages.
With its towers and turrets, gargoyles and gardens, stained-glass windows, and underground caves filled with stalagmites and stalactites, Friar Park was both regal and fanciful. Sir Frank must have had a wonderful sense of humor and a childlike love of play. On a high spot of the grounds he built a massive sandstone replica of the Matterhorn, and the three small lakes on the property were connected with tunnels large enough to row a boat through. Engraved into the mansion’s stonework were numerous pithy sayings (‘Eton boys are a Harrowing sight’). George’s favorite dictum, carved into a monument on the grounds was ‘Don’t keep off the grass.’ I loved the little scene, carved into the front of the house, titled ‘Two Holy Friars,’ showing a monk holding a frying pan with holes in it. Giant mushrooms and little red gnomes greeted you in the underground caves, and all the light switches in the house were monks’ faces that you switched on and off by the nose.
Sir Frank found his way into several songs by Harrison, the first of which was ‘The Ballad Of Sir Frankie Crisp (Let It Roll)’. Others included ‘Ding Dong, Ding Dong’ from Dark Horse, and Extra Texture’s ‘The Answer’s At The End’ were both inspired by phrases found on the walls of Friar Park.
‘The Answer’s At The End’ was once again something Sir Frank had had painted on the walls:
Scan not a friend with a magnifying glass
You know his faults now let his foibles pass
Life is one long enigma true my friend
Read on, read on, the answer’s at the end
Seeing it for so many years and thinking it was so nice, I decided it ought to be a song. Nina Simone’s version of ‘Isn’t It A Pity’ influenced the mood of the middle part during the recording of this song.
Harrison had begun indulging once again in drink and drugs in 1973-4 as his marriage to Pattie Boyd drew to an end, and ‘Grey Cloudy Lies’ and ‘Tired Of Midnight Blue’ both came from that sense of weariness during he called his “naughty period”.
‘Tired Of Midnight Blue’ was originally called ‘Midnight Blue’ and as soon as I had it ready Melissa Manchester put out a song with that title and so I changed it to ‘Tired Of Midnight Blue’.
I had been to a Los Angeles club – ended up in the back room with a lot of grey-haired naughty people and I was depressed by what I saw going on there.
Extra Texture is unique among Harrison’s solo albums for not containing any explicit religious songs. This may have been an attempt to distance himself from the proselytising of Living In The Material World and Dark Horse, rather than any temporary loss of faith.
Gone also was Harrison’s trademark slide guitar, aside from brief reappearances in ‘This Guitar (Can’t Keep From Crying)’ and ‘Tired Of Midnight Blue’.
A notable feature of Extra Texture is its use of Moog and ARP synthesizers. The piano also became the dominant instrument on ‘The Answer’s At The End’, ‘World Of Stone’, ‘Can’t Stop Thinking About You’, and ‘Tired Of Midnight Blue’, marking another shift in Harrison’s productions.