I just wanted to let the whole song go out with something sad, to touch that nerve and maybe make you think, ‘Ohhh shit.’
Musician, November 1987
You spotted that? Three points for you! The whole ‘Save The World’ song blows up in the middle, where we all get nuked, with babies crying. That latter song is very serious, but at the same time is hysterical. The lyrics have got a lot of funny things about “dogfood salesmen” and “making your own H-bomb in the kitchen with your mom.” At the end, I just wanted to let the whole song go out with something sad, to touch that nerve and maybe make you think, ‘Ohhh shit.’ I thought of that instrument I used on Wonderwall Music called the thar-shanhai, which means ‘string’ shanhai. It’s like a one-string fiddle, a bowed instrument with the sympathetic strings resting over a stretched skin, so it has that hollow, echoey resonance, a wailing, crying sound.
George Harrison: Reconsidered, Timothy White
‘Save The World’ was written in Hana, Maui, on 24 February 1978, while Harrison was composing the songs for his self-titled 1979 album.
Although ostensibly a pro-ecology song, ‘Save The World’ was brought into the realm of comedic songs by the addition of jaunty production and sound effects. The latter included the sounds of a cash register, bombs being dropped, marching soldiers, gunfire, and a street demonstration.
The second single from Somewhere In England, ‘Teardrops’, was issued with ‘Save The World’ on the b-side. It came out on 15 July in the US and 31 July in the UK.
The single was not a commercial success. It failed to chart in the UK, and in the US peaked at 88 on the Cash Box Top 100. It got no further than number 102 on Billboard’s Bubbling Under the Hot 100 chart.
In 1985 Greenpeace UK asked Harrison to contribute to a fundraising album. He reworked ‘Save The World’, recording new lyrics with slightly amended vocals, and made the guitars more prominent in the mix.
The new version was released in June 1985 on Greenpeace – The Album.
‘Save The World’ is, I think, a very funny song.
It is, isn’t it? I mean, it’s serious and funny at the same time.
Well, with that line in there where you’ve gotta save the whales.
Yeah, Greenpeace got their due.
A remastered version of Somewhere In England was issued in 2004, as a standalone release and as part of the box set The Dark Horse Years 1976–1992. It included the bonus track ‘Save The World’ (Acoustic demo version), recorded in early 1980.
In the 1990s Harrison’s elder sister Louise used ‘Save the World’ as the soundtrack of Good Earthkeeping Tips, a series of environmental radio segments she produced.