George Harrison’s 1974 tour came at a strange time in his career. Arriving after he publically chastised The Beatles, Harrison was not in the perfect position to propel his solo star into the stratosphere. Naturally, during the run of the dates, he largely stuck to his solo material and only threw in a few numbers from his former band. But when he did, it was special, as this version of ‘In My Life’ proves.
The run of tour dates turned out to be the final tour of his career, and his time on the road wasn’t exactly a pleasurable experience. Fans wanted him to play a set full of Beatles classics and weren’t too pleased with Harrison spreading the wings of his creativity. Not only was he refusing the Fab Four but he ended up sharing his stage time with Ravi Shankar. It’s a selfless attitude that served him well throughout his career but rattled the fans in attendance at his shows.
Opinions on the tour have changed as the decades have passed, with Harrison’s adoption of world music now seen as a move that was way ahead of its time and a progressive step in the right direction of inclusivity. However, at the time, people wanted him to stay in his lane and sing some ditties for the masses. “It’s a pity that a lot of people missed out on something that went above their heads,” Harrison said about the tour in an interview with the BBC three years later.
Around the halfway stage of each set on the tour, Harrison finally gave in, It was at this time that he would treat the audience to something special as he delivered a rapturous rendition of ‘In My Life’. It’s a John Lennon number from Rubber Soul that evidently was one of the guitarist’s favourite tracks that ‘The Fab Four’ ever produced, and his reimagining does it justice.
Talking to David Sheff in 1980 about creating the track, Lennon said, “There was a period when I thought I didn’t write melodies, that Paul wrote those and I just wrote straight, shouting rock ‘n’ roll. But of course, when I think of some of my own songs – ‘In My Life’, or some of the early stuff, ‘This Boy’ – I was writing melody with the best of them.
“For ‘In My Life’, I had a complete set of lyrics after struggling with a journalistic vision of a trip from home to downtown on a bus naming every sight. It became ‘In My Life’, which is a remembrance of friends and lovers of the past.”
He added, “Paul helped with the middle eight musically. But all lyrics written, signed, sealed, and delivered. And it was, I think, my first real major piece of work. Up till then it had all been sort of glib and throwaway. And that was the first time I consciously put my literary part of myself into the lyric. Inspired by Kenneth Allsop, the British journalist, and Bob Dylan.”
While there’s no video footage of Harrison performing the track during the tour, the audio is enough to get the senses tingling and get lost within the delicate magic that he had the capacity to produce from his fingertips with a guitar.