George Harrison had a strange solo career after The Beatles broke up. He was the first one to have a number one single, he had two hugely popular albums, he produced or played on several hits for other people (Ringo Starr, Badfinger, America, John Lennon), he invented the rock benefit concert and he launched a record label and successful film production company.
He also did albums whenever he felt like it, with increasingly sporadic output after Lennon’s murder, and would sometimes refuse to do any serious promotion of his albums. He never bowed to current trends which makes his music accessible now but “out of touch” within the context of the times and despite having a number of top 40 hits, he is rarely played on classic rock radio beyond My Sweet Lord and What Is Life.
To make up for his lack of radio airplay, we’re looking at five songs that you probably don’t know but definitely should. When you get to the end be sure to let us know if we forgot any. Enjoy!
5. Don’t Let Me Wait Too Long
Among George Harrison fans this song is often regarded as the #1 hit single that never was. Off of his album Living in the Material World, which spawned the mega hit Give Me Love, this tune should have been a huge hit for George. It’s catchy, it’s up tempo, it’s short, it has a great bumper intro, it’s happy and it’s one of the least “preachy” songs on the album despite, probably, still being a song about God.
This is one of those songs that cannot possibly be improved upon. It’s perfect pop craftsmanship.
4. Unconsciousness Rules
Off of Harrison’s Somewhere in England album, this track may very well be the highlight on an otherwise less than stellar album (it’s my least favorite album of his). Aside from the catchiness, though, is a scathing lyric that many, myself included, are convinced includes the line “all you little dick heads” sung in a 60’s girl group manner.
This is also a great example of Harrison’s ability to write hooks. The chord progression is a hook, the guitar riff is a hook, the background vocals are a hook. Again, perfect pop craftsmanship. See the trend we’ve got going here?
3. Can’t Stop Thinking About You
This song has always appealed to me. It is simple lyrically but there’s a lot going on musically between the stellar background vocals, the understated electric guitar fills, the complex time changes, and one of the best bass lines on any George Harrison song.
This tune is off the Extra Texture album which may be his least popular, although I quite enjoy this album when I’m in the right mood. Enough talk, though, you should really listen to this one.
2. Woman Don’t You Cry For Me
I was probably 14 or 15 years old when I purchased 33 & 1/3, the album that this track opens, and usually skipped this song simply because my young, stupid, brain couldn’t wrap itself around this funky track. Now that I’m older and smarter and my musical pallet has expanded, it has become a song that I crank as loud as I can handle when I hear it.
Backed by an incredible group of musicians, this track is by far the funkiest track George Harrison ever released and his vocal sounds great throughout. What I also find cool is that he continues to put his signature slide guitar on it instead of doing a more funk-appropriate traditional guitar part. Sometimes this type of thing can come off a bit square but, in this case, it’s a great compliment to the chaotic backing track that supports the song.
1. Marwa Blues
Released on his final album (although I hope there’s more music in the archives for us to enjoy) Brainwashed, this instrumental track is a beautiful, haunting, meditative masterwork and ranks among George Harrison’s most heart felt and emotional guitar solos.
I’m not going to put a lot of commentary on this one. Just close your eyes and let the melody take you in. This song is best on headphones, by the way, and won a Grammy for instrumental performance.