In the studio

Thirty Three & ⅓ was recorded at FPSHOT, Harrison’s home studio at Friar Park, Henley-on-Thames.

Sessions began on 24 May 1976. Harrison’s core band was Willie Weeks on bass guitar, Alvin Taylor on drums, and Tom Scott on woodwind. Scott also played a Lyricon, an electronic wind instrument.

It was like no other experience. We lived at the house and he was a perfect host, really concerned about your well-being, very considerate and extremely kind. He knew how to treat people and make them feel special, he did that with all the players. Most of the tracks were done in one, two or at most three takes. We worked from about 11 in the morning until four or five, recording the basic keyboards, guitar and bass parts.
Alvin Taylor
Behind The Locked Door, Graeme Thomson

Scott was offered a co-producer role on the album, but was unable to accept due to other commitments. His vital work as Harrison’s foil was acknowledged with an associate producer credit.

Harrison had wanted Billy Preston to play a greater role on Thirty Three & ⅓, but he was unavailable due to touring commitments with The Rolling Stones. Preston did, however, perform on three tracks. Other keyboard players on the album were Harrison’s longtime collaborator Gary Wright, David Foster, and session musician Richard Tee.

Harrison contracted hepatitis B shortly after the backing tracks had been recorded, leaving him unable to continue work for much of the long, hot summer of 1976. He regained his health after seeking natural remedies such as acupuncture, later saying that “I needed the hepatitis to quit drinking”.

Overdubs resumed towards the end of the summer, with sessions wrapping up on 13 September 1976.

This was, however, too late for A&M. The record label was Dark Horse’s distributor, and had imposed a July deadline for delivery. When this passed, Harrison was sued for breach of contract.

The litigation was likely to have been motivated by A&M’s desire to break ties with the unprofitable Dark Horse; if so, it succeeded, and Harrison negotiated a new deal with Warner Bros. From then on Harrison was his label’s only artist.

The release

The first single from Thirty Three & ⅓ was ‘This Song’, released on 15 November 1976. It reached number 25 on the US Billboard Hot 100, yet failed to chart in the UK. The single was an edited version with 20 seconds missing.

Thirty Three & ⅓ was released in the UK on 19 November 1976, and five days later in the US.

Its highest international chart placing was number 10 on the Canadian RPM Top Albums chart. In America it peaked at number 11 on the Billboard 200, while in the UK it went no higher than number 35. It was Harrison’s first album since All Things Must Pass not to reach the US Top Ten.

Despite its lowly chart placings, Thirty Three & ⅓ outsold Dark Horse and Extra Texture (Read All About It) in the US.

A second single, ‘Crackerbox Palace’, followed on 24 January 1977, with ‘Learning How To Love You’ on the b-side. It peaked at number 19 in America.

‘True Love’ was issued on 18 February, coupled with ‘Pure Smokey’. The fourth and final single from Thirty Three & ⅓ was ‘It’s What You Value’. It was issued in the UK on 31 May 1977, with ‘Woman Don’t You Cry For Me’ on the b-side.

None of the three UK singles taken from the album – ‘This Song’, ‘True Love’, and ‘It’s What You Value’ – placed on the official singles chart.

Harrison promoted Thirty Three & ⅓ extensively, making US media appearances in Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Washington, DC, and New York in November 1976. There was also talk of a tour in Japan and the US at the end of the year, but it never materialised.

ON 18 November he appeared on the Thanksgiving edition of Saturday Night Live in New York, which included a duet with Paul Simon. They performed ‘Here Comes The Sun’, ‘Homeward Bound’, ‘Bye Bye Love’, ‘Don’t Let Me Wait Too Long’, ‘Yesterday’, ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’, ‘Rock Island Line’, ‘Ride Of The Valkyries’, and a second ‘Here Comes The Sun’.

The appearance was broadcast on 20 November, and included the first performance of ‘Here Comes The Sun’ and ‘Homeward Bound’.

In February 1977 Harrison mimed to ‘This Song’ on the German TV show Disco ’77. He filmed appearances on the BBC’s Old Grey Whistle Test, and for the Veronica network in the Netherlands.

Harrison made three promotional films, for the singles ‘This Song’, ‘Crackerbox Palace’, and ‘True Love’. The clip for ‘This Song’ was directed by Harrison and filmed at a Los Angeles courthouse, with guest appearances from Jim Keltner and Ronnie Wood.

Monty Python’s Eric Idle directed the films for ‘Crackerbox Palace’ and ‘True Love’, both at Harrison’s Friar Park home.

Thirty Three & ⅓ 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 included the bonus track ‘Tears Of The World’, an outtake from Harrison’s 1981 album Somewhere In England.

When it was made available as a digital download on the iTunes Store, Thirty Three & ⅓ had an extra bonus track, ‘Learning How To Love You (Early Mix)’.

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