As most hardcore Beatles fans have discovered since watching Peter Jackson’s absorbing and deeply revealing documentary The Beatles: Get Back, the group split for an amalgam of reasons. One of the key factors, of course, was George Harrison’s increasing disillusionment with the creative constraints of battling with the songwriting might of the Lennon/McCartney partnership. In the late 1960s, Harrison became increasingly proficient as a songwriter. With only one or two of his ideas making it onto The Beatles albums, he decided to make efforts as a solo artist.
Harrison released his first two albums, Wonderwall Music (1968) and Electronic Sound (1969), while still with the Beatles. The albums weren’t hugely successful and mainly consisted of avant-garde ideas. Following the split of The Beatles, Harrison released his most famous solo album, All Things Must Pass, in 1970. The double LP collates some of his ideas from the late 1960s that didn’t make it onto Beatles records as well as the fruit of various collaborations with the likes of Billy Preston, Bob Dylan and Delaney and Bonnie.
Dhani Harrison has long been an admirer of his father’s work, and while tasked with remastering some of his father’s solo work for the 2014 box set The Apple Years 1968-1975, he revealed his favourite of his father’s solo albums. While most people would likely choose one of Harrison’s more accessible records like All Things Must Pass or Living In The Material World as their favourites, Dhani revealed a particular passion for Wonderwall Music, Harrison’s first solo effort.
Wonderwall Music was a project Harrison worked on to provide a soundtrack for Joe Massot’s debut feature-length film, Wonderwall. But the late Beatle was also motivated to make a body of work to help bring Indian music to the western world, as he had done with some of the Beatles tracks over the mid-’60s. In 1992, George explained, “I decided to do it as a mini-anthology of Indian music because I wanted to help turn the public on to Indian music.”
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Dhani explained why Wonderwall Music was his favourite of George’s early solo work. “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,” Dhani said. “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.”
He continued, addressing the obscurity of the record in the modern-day. “Wonderwall, for my generation, is a title associated with Oasis,” Dhani said. “It’s not. It’s one of the first things my dad did on his own, away from The Beatles.” He continued, “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.”
Listen to the electrifying ‘Ski-ing’ from George Harrison’s debut solo album, ‘Wonderwall Music’, below.