Credit: Steve Mathieson

Rare footage of George Harrison singing ‘Isn’t It A Pity’ in Japan 1991

We’re dipping into the Far Out Magazine vault to look back at rare footage of George Harrison performing one of his most iconic songs, ‘Isn’t It A Pity’ for his short and sweet tour of Japan.

One of Harrison’s finest songs, a track that typifies how he felt in the midst of being overshadowed in The Beatles, is the perfect song to revisit. It not only offers a vision of Harrison’s past but a stark reminder that while he was doing a small run of shows, he was painfully absent from the live touring circuit.

Following 1987s commercial and critical success Cloud Nine, mostly buoyed by his mega-watt pop hit ‘I’ve Got My Mind Set On You’, Harrison was a household name again for the first time since the 1970s double-album bonanza All Things Must Pass. With songs like the title track, ‘Isn’t It A Pity’ and ‘My Sweet Lord’, Harrison became a bonafide songwriting legend. Finally, Harrison was stepping out of the shadow of the Fab Four.

His first record had ascertained the guitarist his legendary status on his solo work alone but, despite all his experience, Harrison was never a big fan of touring after his 1974 dates. The pain of that tour with Ravi Shankar had clearly landed quite heavily on the former Beatles guitarist and for many years, despite commercial success, the ‘Quiet Beatle’ was, for the main part, remaining quiet.

After sharing the stage in Los Angeles in 1990, Harrison was seemingly dipping his toe into the touring water when he joined the legendary Eric Clapton for a joint tour of Japan the following year. It seemed to many at the time that the Beatle was gearing up for a tour of his own. Yet after Harrison and Clapton performed at 12 shows across the land of the rising sun the guitarist would again retreat to his life off the road.

Luckily though, someone has captured one of those tours on some home camcorder footage that not only reeks of ’90s fun but also offers a brief insight into the stage presence of George Harrison. It may not be the clearest performance from Harrison but it remains a shining beacon of his talent and a reminder that his songwriting is timeless.

Harrison may have been a bit shy on stage, a little less brash than his counterparts—but what he delivered was well constructed and utterly captivating songs. Songs like ‘Isn’t A PIty’. Harrison splits the song into two halves, one focusing on the pain and heartache people cause one another and the other on the guitarist’s spiritual endeavours.

Speaking with Billboard, Harrison said of the song: “It’s just an observation of how society and myself were or are. We take each other for granted – and forget to give back. That was really all it was about.”

“It’s like ‘love lost and love gained between 16- and 20-year-olds.’ But I must explain: Once, at the time I was at Warner Bros. and I wrote that song ‘Blood From A Clone’, that was when they were having all these surveys out on the street to find out what was a hit record. And apparently, as I was told, a hit record is something that is about ‘love gained or lost between 14- and 19-year-olds,’ or something really dumb like that.

“So that’s why I wrote ‘Isn’t It A Pity’ [laughs]; I thought, ‘Oh, I’ll get in on that!’”

Whether you believe Harrison’s tongue-in-cheek explanation for the track or think it came from somewhere more authentic, it’s an undeniably beautiful moment of any set. Especially one of George Harrison’s rarely seen ones.

Watch rare footage of George Harrison performing ‘Isn’t It A Pity’ in Japan back in 1991.

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