Harrison took a year off following the release of 1976’s Thirty Three & ⅓. He holidayed in Hawaii, lived a quiet life at his Friar Park home, and attended many of the 1977 Formula 1 world championship races. His passion for motor racing inspired the song ‘Faster’.
Harrison befriended racing drivers including Niki Lauda, Emerson Fittipaldi, Jody Scheckter and Mario Andretti. He became particularly close to British driver Jackie Stewart.
‘Are you going to write a song about motor racing, George?’ was a question I was asked a lot by various people from the Grand Prix teams
during visits I made to the races. So I did ‘Faster’ to write about something specific, as a challenge.
I got the title first – I took it from Jackie Stewart’s book! I then wrote the chorus ‘faster than a bullet from a gun, etc.’ and later worked out the rest of the song in a way that doesn’t limit it only to motor cars. Once I put the sound effects on then obviously it is about racing but, if you took that away the only thing in the song which is anything to do with cars is the word ‘machinery’.
The story can relate to me or you or anybody in any occupation who becomes successful and has pressure upon them caused by the usual jealousies, fears, hopes, etc. I have a lot of fun with many of the Formula One drivers and their crews – and they have enabled me to see things from a very different angle than the music business I am normally involved with. (Brrm-Brrm – do you think I’ll ever get over it mother?)
I Me Mine
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.
Rolling Stone, 19 April 1979
The lyrics for ‘Faster’, and a photograph of Harrison with Jackie Stewart, filled up one side of the inner sleeve of the George Harrison album. Underneath the lyrics was the dedication: “‘Faster’ is inspired by Jackie Stewart & Niki Lauda. Dedicated to the Entire Formula One Circus. Special thanks to Jody Scheckter. In memory of Ronnie Peterson.” Peterson was a Swedish racing driver who had died following a crash at the 1978 Italian Grand Prix.
‘Faster’ was released as a single in the UK on 13 July 1979, with ‘Your Love Is Forever’ on the b-side. It failed to chart.
The sleeve bore a sticker stating: “All royalties due to George Harrison from the sale of this record are being donated to the Gunnar Nilsson Cancer Fund.” The fund was started by Swedish driver Gunnar Nilsson in 1978 shortly before his death from cancer, to raise money for a treatment unit at London’s Charing Cross Hospital.
The single was also issued as a limited edition 7″ picture disc, the first time a record by a former Beatle was issued on the format. The a-side featured portraits of Stirling Moss, Fangio, Jackie Stewart, Niki Lauda, Jochen Rindt, Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Jody Scheckter, and Emerson Fittipaldi. The flipside showed a photograph of Gunnar Nilsson along with his name and the years 1948-1978.
The video for the song included footage shot by Harrison in February 1979 at the Brazilian Grand Prix in São Paulo. It also contained scenes of Harrison miming to the song while being driven by a chauffeur played by Jackie Stewart.
When people keep asking, ‘Why don’t the Beatles keep on going?’ they don’t realize that you can kill yourself. Or maybe they do realize that; maybe they want you to. There’s a lot of that in motor racing. I’ve seen people say they want somebody they don’t like to crash, which is crazy.
Rolling Stone, 19 April 1979