The song is a pastiche of 1930s jazz. Containing few lyrics and some extended saxophone and cornet solos, it also features Harrison on banjo.
‘Zig Zag’ was recorded for the soundtrack of the 1986 film Shanghai Surprise, which was produced by Harrison’s company HandMade Films.
I was busy all the year of 1986, like probably April through to August. And, in fact, we did a track on that.
There was a song which was just in a nightclub – it was supposed to be the 1920s or early ’30s – and I wrote two songs for that club scene: one which was a vocal on it, and I based it on like a Cab Calloway idea, and the other one was just to make this same period, but it was an instrumental, which was called ‘Zig Zag’ – and that was the name of the club in the movie. So Jeff [Lynne] actually played – we sort of co-wrote that together one night, so, you know, that was a little prelude to the songs that we wrote later for this album [Cloud Nine].
George Harrison On George Harrison, Ashley Kahn
‘When We Was Fab’ was released as a single on 25 January 1988, with the non-album track ‘Zig Zag’ on the b-side.
A 12″ picture disc and CD single were also released, which contained the additional tracks ‘That’s The Way It Goes’ (Remix) and ‘When We Was Fab’ (Reverse End).
In the UK it peaked at number 25 on the singles chart, and in the US it reached 23 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming Harrison’s final US top 40 hit.