In the studio

The first song recorded for George Harrison was ‘Dark Sweet Lady’. It was taped at Amigo Studios in Los Angeles, before the sessions moved to Friar Park in the spring of 1978.

Gone were the soul influences of Thirty Three & ⅓, the rock elements of Dark Horse, and the Spector soup of All Things Must Pass.

Harrison did, however, bring back the rhythm section from Dark Horse – drummer Andy Newmark and bass guitarist Willie Weeks. Newmark noticed a profound change in Harrison’s temperament.

He was more relaxed than when I knew him in 1974: everything seemed more intense for him at that time. When I saw him in 1979 [sic], nothing was quite as traumatic. He wasn’t quite as worried, fidgeting, and frantic. He only got mellower from 1974 onwards.
Andy Newmark
Behind The Locked Door, Graeme Thomson

The backing tracks were recorded live in a two-week period, with overdubs following after a short break. The string parts were added at George Martin’s AIR Studios in central London.

A select group of guest musicians appeared on George Harrison. Steve Winwood contributed Polymoog, harmonium and vocals, with his voice prominent on ‘Soft-Hearted Hana’.

Stalwart session musician Ray Cooper played percussion on several songs, and would co-produce the follow-up albums Somewhere In England and Gone Troppo, as well as appearing on Cloud Nine and Brainwashed.

Eric Clapton performed the guitar introduction to ‘Love Comes to Everyone’, the album’s opening song.

He came up to Friar Park with Pattie. He was still drinking then, he was hitting it pretty hard. He came in and we were sitting in the kitchen drinking tea, Eric was having a cognac, but it was all perfectly fine. No tension.
Russ Titelman
Behind The Locked Door, Graeme Thomson

A new sound on the album was Harrison’s Roland chorus pedal, which he deployed on several songs, most notably ‘Your Love Is Forever’.

It’s slightly different to phasing or to the Leslie speaker which is a revolving speaker in a cabinet. It gives a little added atmosphere to the sound, so when you play even one chord on electric guitar it sounds pretty. That’s the guitar sound that can be heard on the recording.
George Harrison
I Me Mine

The release

George Harrison was released in the US on 20 February 1979, and three days later in the UK.

The album had originally been slated for release at the end of 1978, but delays with the artwork meant it was held over to the new year. The cover featured a photograph of Harrison taken by Mike Salisbury.

I started working on it midway through April 1978 and finished it at the beginning of October. It’s been a bit late coming out because the artwork wasn’t ready; then it was a bit late to get it in for Christmas. And then everybody and their aunties had one coming out at Christmas, so we decided to take our time over getting everything ready.
George Harrison
Rolling Stone, 19 April 1979

George Harrison peaked at number 14 on the US Billboard Top LPs & Tape chart, reaching the same position in Canada. In the UK it went no higher than number 39.

I hope it does as well as All Things Must Pass. I think this album is very pleasant. It’s like I was saying earlier, when I went and asked the guys at Warner Bros. “You’re so smart, tell me what’s happening,” because I really don’t follow the charts and all that anymore. When it came down to it they don’t know any more than I do. But I think even without following trends, paying no real attention to what’s going on and just writing your own songs, you still have as much chance as if you follow things closely. In fact, you probably have a better chance, because you’re less affected by superficial change. It’s more likely to be original.
George Harrison
Rolling Stone, 19 April 1979

Harrison considered touring to promote the album, although it never came to pass.

At the moment I don’t have any sort of band. I don’t really have the plan to do that [play live], although there’s a part of me which would like to do some concerts. I don’t know, maybe I will do that later. But the only problem being, though, that the time it takes to get a band together and rehearse, it’s pointless just going and doing a couple of dates. You might as well do a world tour and at this point in my life I don’t really feel like touring the world, you know…

I like to stay home, watch the baby grow, and plant flowers in the garden and have a peaceful life, and that is sort of like going back to the craziness. Also because I don’t trust myself, because at the drop of a hat, I’ll party, like I did on the last tour. I’d come off the stage so wired up I’d want to boogie all night long, and then I’m wiped out, like, by the end of the first week and ready to drop. Maybe I’ll do it and bring a straitjacket and a doctor with me!

George Harrison, 9 February 1979
Roundtable, BBC Radio 1

George Harrison was remastered and reissued in 2004, as a standalone release and as part of the box set The Dark Horse Years 1976–1992.

The reissue changed the lettering on the front cover. The title was removed, and Harrison’s signature was added in which to the top left corner.

The 2004 version also added a bonus track, a demo of ‘Here Comes The Moon’. When George Harrison was made available on the iTunes Store it came with a second bonus demo, of ‘Blow Away’.

I like them all really, but the two I least like are ‘If You Believe’ – I like the sentiment of that, but it’s a bit obvious as a tune – and ‘Soft Touch’, which is just pleasant but there’s nothing special about it, I feel. All the others I like for various reasons. ‘Blow Away’ I like because it’s so catchy; in fact, I was a bit embarrassed about it at first, but it turned our good and people seem to like it. That was the first new tune I wrote. I was in the garden and it was pouring down with rain, and I suddenly became aware that I was feeling depressed, being affected by the weather. And it’s important to remember that while everything else around you changes, the soul within remains the same; you have to constantly remember that and fight for the right to be happy.

And I like ‘Faster’ because I fulfilled the thing the Formula One motor-racing people kept asking me – to write a song about racing – and I did it in a way I’m happy about because it wasn’t just corny. It’s easy to write about V-8 engines and vroom vroom – that would have been bullshit. But I’m happy with the lyrics because it can be seen to be about one driver specifically or any of them, and if it didn’t have the motor-racing noises, it could be about the Fab Four really – the jealousies and things like that.

George Harrison
Rolling Stone, 19 April 1979