In the studioGeorge Harrison and Phil Spector. For the album version, Harrison merely added a new lead vocal part to the backing track.
Harrison chose a small cast list to work on Living In The Material World, in contrast to the huge Wall of Sound production on All Things Must Pass. His core musicians were keyboard players Nicky Hopkins and Gary Wright, bass guitarist Klaus Voormann, and Jim Keltner on drums.
He created an atmosphere in the studio. He put up joss sticks, made a nice smell, turned the lights down, a really nice surrounding. He would sit down, with a guitar most of the time, play the song and then slowly we would start picking up the feel of the song. We could take our time, do what we wanted, make suggestions.
George Harrison: Living In The Material World
Living In The Material World was recorded at the same time as Hopkins’ solo album Tin Man Was A Dreamer. The band worked on Harrison’s music during the week, and at weekends turned their attention to Hopkins’.
Although the sleeve notes state the album was “Recorded at APPLE STUDIO”, the majority of the music was taped at FPSHOT, Harrison’s home studio at Friar Park, Henley-on-Thames. The mention of Apple may have been to bolster its reputation as an independent studio for hire.
Harrison produced the album alone, although Phil Spector was nominally involved in the recording. Harrison later indicated that Spector’s alcoholism prevented him from having a greater role.
Phil worked on the second solo album, Living in the Material World, but by that I mean he was around. Again, he kept falling over and breaking his ankles, wrists. The guy who was his helper was having heart attacks.
Phil was never there. I literally used to have to go and break into the hotel to get him. I’d go along the roof at the Inn On The Park in London and climb in his window yelling, “Come on! We’re supposed to be making a record!” He’d say, “Oh. Okay.” And then he used to have 18 cherry brandies before he could get himself down to the studio. I got so tired of that because I needed somebody to help. I was ending up with more work than if I’d just been doing it on my own.
George Harrison: Reconsidered, Timothy White
Spector did co-produce the album’s oldest song. ‘Try Some Buy Some’ was originally recorded in February 1971 with Ronnie Spector on vocals. Two years later Harrison dusted down the backing track, recording new lead vocals and issuing it as his own.
Phil couldn’t last in the studio for more than a few hours. We did about four very rough backing tracks [for a Ronnie Spector album]. A couple of the songs Phil had written. One of them was very good in his pop vein.
He liked my ‘Try Some Buy Some’ so we orchestrated it and knocked off a B-side for a Ronnie single on Apple in ’71. The B-side’s a killer, ‘Tandoori Chicken’. It’s a 12-bar thing done on the spot with Mal, our roadie and Joe the chauffeur – “I told Mal/My old pal/To go with Joe/And they should go/And get some tandoori chicken.” And a great big bottle of wine! [laughter] We did it one-take, with a lot of improvised scat singing in the middle. It’s hysterical.
George Harrison: Reconsidered, Timothy White
The main sessions for Living In The Material World took place between October 1972 and March 1973.
Harrison played acoustic guitar on most of the backing tracks; only ‘Living In The Material World’, ‘Who Can See It’, and ‘That Is All’ featured electric rhythm guitar. He also performed all the lead and rhythm guitar parts, no longer needing to lean on friends such as Eric Clapton.
Badfinger’s Pete Ham and Tom Evans joined the sessions on 4 and 11 October, although their contributions were not used on the final mixes.
The initial sessions ran until the end of November 1972, when Nicky Hopkins left to work on The Rolling Stones’ Goats Head Soup in Jamaica. In the meantime Harrison switched to producing the live album In Concert 1972 by Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan.
Harrison resumed work on Living In The Material World in January 1973, with numerous overdubs added to the backing tracks. These included Harrison’s vocals and slide guitar parts, and the addition of Indian instruments to the title track and ‘Be Here Now’.
John Barham’s orchestra and choir parts were the final additions to the album, recorded in early March 1973. They appeared on ‘The Day the World Gets ’Round’, ‘Who Can See It’, and ‘That Is All’.
With the album complete, Harrison flew to Los Angeles to attend Beatles business meetings, and to work on Ravi Shankar’s Shankar Family & Friends and Ringo Starr’s Ringo.