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Why George Harrison Was Nervous Making ‘Wonderwall Music,’ His First Solo Album

Showbiz CheatSheet logo: MainLogo Showbiz CheatSheet 9/25/2022 Hannah Wigandt

George Harrison was initially nervous about making his first solo album, Wonderwall Music, the soundtrack to the 1968 film Wonderwall. He didn’t exactly know what he was doing. However, after he finished the project, it felt good being the first Beatle to release a solo album.

George Harrison | Mark and Colleen Hayward/Redferns © Provided by Showbiz CheatSheet George Harrison | Mark and Colleen Hayward/Redferns

Why George Harrison was nervous making ‘Wonderwall Music’

In 1987, George spoke with Timothy White at Musician Magazine about Wonderwall Music. He said it was “history” that he got the album out four weeks before John Lennon released Two Virgins. George became the first Beatle to release a solo album and didn’t initially want to do it.

George explained that he made most of the music on the album in London at the end of 1967. Then, he recorded everything in Bombay and caught the attention of director Joe Massot.

George explained, “I don’t know where I met him, but he said he wanted me to do the music to this movie–which didn’t come out until 1969. I said, ‘I don’t know; I haven’t got a guess of how to write music for a movie.’ He said, ‘Aw, we’ve got no budget for the music anyway, so whatever you give me, I’ll have it!’

“I was real nervous with the idea, because he wanted music running through the whole film, but he kept on with me. What I’d do was go into the film studio with a stopwatch–it was really high-tech stuff, eh?–and I’d just be what they call ‘spotting’ the scene to see where the music was going to go, doing click-click with the watch. I’d go back into my studio and make 35 seconds, say, of something, mix it and line it up with the scene.”

All of George’s hard work paid off.

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George said making ‘Wonderwall Music’ gave him a ‘great opportunity’

Ever since George started writing songs in 1963, he couldn’t stop. However, getting them on Beatles albums was the hard part. Paul McCartney and John Lennon were reluctant to add George’s songs because they felt they were the band’s only songwriters.

So, George had to stockpile most of his songs over the years. Wonderwall Music allowed George to release some of his music. It might’ve been nerve-wracking making an album for a film, but it helped in the long run.

George also got to experiment and blend Western and Eastern sounds, which, in turn, showed each culture the other’s music.

“It gave me a great opportunity,” George said. “I was getting so into Indian music then that I decided to use the assignment partly as an excuse for a musical anthology to help spread it.”

George continued, “I used all these instruments that at that time weren’t as familiar to Western people as they are now, like shanhais, santoor, sarod, surbahars, tablatarangs. I also used tambura drones and had Eric Clapton playing blues guitar backwards over them. And loads of horrible mellotron stuff also.”

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George Harrison’s son, Dhani, said ‘Wonderwall Music’ is a ‘full-on freakout record’

In 2014, George’s son, Dhani, remastered Wonderwall Music for The Apple Years 1968-1975. Dhani told Rolling Stone that the soundtrack is his favorite album throughout those years in his father’s career.

He also admitted he is still surprised by his father’s music. “I was trying to work out some chords for one of those songs,” Dhani said. “And I realized that you can’t hear the chords in there – because there are 50 horns going on over the top.

“I remember getting a CD of it in the early Nineties and thinking, ‘What is this?’ You’re sitting there, almost meditating to the music, literally drooling in your lap. Then a shenai [an Indian oboe] will come in and practically take the top of your head off.

“It’s such a deep, psychedelic record. It had Eric Clapton in it, all this backwards guitar, horns – it’s a full-on freakout record. And it was instrumental. Any singing on it was deep Hindu chants.”

Dhani added, “It was a cross of spaghetti-western music, the Chants of India things my Dad with Ravi [Shankar] and the Beatles’ best freakouts. For people who haven’t heard that record, that’s the first thing you should listen to in the box.” 

Dhani knows that Wonderwall Music was important to his father. “Wonderwall, for my generation, is a title associated with Oasis. It’s not. It’s one of the first things my dad did on his own, away from the Beatles.

“For someone who hasn’t heard Wonderwall before but who knows ‘The Inner Light,’ this gives them a better idea of where that album fits into my father’s history. That album is a missing link to the end of the Beatles.”

What would’ve happened if George hadn’t gotten a taste of recording solo on Wonderwall Music?

RELATED: George Harrison Said Eric Clapton Never Forgave Him for Not Taking Him to Meet Bob Marley

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