The album was recorded at his Friar Park home in the summer of 1982, and co-produced by Harrison, percussionist Ray Cooper, and The Beatles’ former recording engineer Phil McDonald.
Harrison was thoroughly tired of celebrity life by the 1980s, and his desire for solitude and privacy took on greater urgency after the murder of John Lennon. Barbed wire was erected around the perimeter of Friar Park, the gates remained locked, he was rarely seen in public, and interviews were few and far between.
His other boltholes were a clifftop house on a remote 63-acre site in Nāhiku on Maui, Hawaii, and a six-acre tropical sanctuary on Hamilton Island off the coast of Queensland, Australia.
George was always on a quest to get as far away as he could. We found Hawaii and built a house there. But he wanted to keep going. We went to Tasmania, New Zealand, Australia. I had the feeling that he maxed the planet out, looking for solitude. It was about ‘How far away can I get?’
Architectural Digest, August 2007
Harrison had a house and three guest huts built on Hamilton Island, where he wrote the song ‘Gone Troppo’. Its opening lines summed up his contentment in being removed from civilisation.
There he, sitting in the moonlight
Not found, living no city
He smile, mucho in a sunshine
Nightlife, counting de fruit bat
Following the poor commercial returns and critical reception for the George Harrison and Somewhere In England albums, Harrison had little inclination to score hit singles or gold records. It wouldn’t be until 1987’s Cloud Nine that he returned once again to mainstream popularity.
Gone Troppo, from the title onwards – an Australian phrase for going mad due to tropical heat – is the sound of Harrison on vacation. The playful spirit was epitomised by ‘I Really Love You’, a doo-wop recording with layered harmony vocals by Harrison, Willie Greene, Bobby King, and Pico Pena, with not a guitar in earshot.
‘I Really Love You’ was originally recorded in 1961 by The Stereos. According to Harrison, it was the basis of The Beatles’ ‘Do You Want To Know A Secret’.
If you remember that song then I’ll tell you that the Beatles wrote a song that I think was actually a nick, a bit of a pitch off that one. It was a song that John wrote and I sang on the very first Beatle album called ‘Do You Want To Know A Secret’. If you check that against the song you’re referring to on Troppo, that’s round two of where ‘Secret’ came from [laughter]. It’s a fun track.
George Harrison: Reconsidered, Timothy White
The playful spirit extended to ‘Greece’, which found Harrison – often dour on record – setting sail on a litany of puns:
You may Athena
Handed on Plato
Hole in my Socrates
I came Acropolis
On Monty Pythagoras
‘Dream Away’ was written by Harrison for Time Bandits, the first hit film by his HandMade Films company. It originally played out over the credits of the 1981 movie, and a single release was mooted; it was, instead, remixed and held back for Gone Troppo.
The closing track, ‘Circles’, was the album’s oldest composition, and was originally demoed prior to The Beatles’ White Album in 1968. Harrison attempted to record it for his eponymous 1979 album, but was evidently dissatisfied with the results and remade it in 1982.
The song is a ponderous anomaly on the otherwise buoyant Gone Troppo, dealing with several weighty themes: reincarnation, friendships, love, and loyalty. It casts a curiously dark shadow across the end of the album.