May 25 – George Prayed For Peace, Apple For #1 Hits

They weren’t quite John, Paul and Ringo… but drummer Jim Keltner, pianist Nicky Hopkins, organ & synth player Gary Wright as well as bassist Klaus Voortman made for a pretty stellar backing band to George Harrison…as Britain was reminded on this day in 1973.

That was when they got to hear the lead track off his third post-Beatles album (that is after All Things Must Pass and the live Concert for Bangladesh), Living in the Material World. That was the great “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)”, which those of us on this side of the Atlantic got to get the single a couple of weeks before, although oddly it was just a tiny bit different than the original. Capitol, who put it out in North America, decided to speed it up just a tiny bit to make it sound a little perkier than the album cut or British single issued by Apple.

Around that time, Harrison was deeply involved in the Eastern spiritualism movement and believed in a universality of God and faith, which he clearly tried to demonstrate on the single. “I want to be God-conscious. That’s my only real ambition, everything else is secondary,” he said. He also added “sometimes you open up your mouth and you don’t know what you are going to say, and whatever comes out is a starting point. If that happens and you get lucky, it can usually be turned into a song. This song is a prayer and a personal statement between me and the Lord and whoever likes it.”

A lot of people did like it. It’s hard not to like his mix of outward (“give me peace on earth”) and inward (“My Lord, please take hold out my hand that I might understand”) looking prayers or wishes, coupled with a melody Pop Matters call “effervescent”. The incredible slide guitar playing of his, two tracks overdubbed, doesn’t hurt at all either! Little wonder Eric Clapton ranks it as one of his two favorite Harrison songs.

An indication of the control record companies have, or at least had, was that since Apple still controlled pretty much all things Beatle in the UK at least, they chose the exact release dates and picked a time for George after the record was ready, but sufficiently long enough to not possibly cannibalize sales of Paul McCartney’s Red Rose Speedway, and early enough as to not deter mass sales of the two Beatles “greatest hits” albums (the “red” and “blue” ones) to come out that summer.

That strategy worked, as the song went to #1 in the U.S. – his second, after “My Sweet Lord” . Curiously, it knocked McCartney and Wings “My Love” out of the #1 spot, making a Beatle deposing another Beatle at the top. Then to top that off, Billy Preston, Beatles’ friend and late in their career, keyboard player, knocked Harrison off the top with his “Will it Go Round in Circles?”. At the end of June that year, the three songs held down the three top spots on the charts.

Elsewhere, for some reason the reception wasn’t as warm, though it was a big hit in most Western places. It peaked at #10 in his homeland, and #9 in both Canada and Australia.

May 15 – Fab Three Remembered John

Tragedy can put things in perspective. Not exactly a consolation, but a fact and an explanation for a great song that came out this day in 1981. George Harrison gave us his first single off the Somewhere in England album, “All Those Years Ago” , not only a tribute to John Lennon, but the closest thing we’d get to a Beatles reunion.

Harrison had remained friends with Ringo Starr, and was in 1980, both working, slowly, on his own album, and helping Ringo put together his Stop & Smell the Roses album. Harrison added some guitar work to the record and wrote a song for it, “Wrack My Brain.” He also wrote a version of “All Those Years Ago”, and they did the preliminaries, with Ringo doing the drumming of course. However, Starr didn’t really love the song, and turned it down.

Meanwhile, through rather good fortune that seemed anything but to Harrison originally, Warner Bros. – who distributed his own Dark Horse Records – refused to put out the version of Somewhere in England he turned in late in ’80. They noticed that George had only had one minor hit (the under-rated “Blow Away”) in years and thought the album he finished was rather bland and totally lacking commercial appeal. They even rejected the cover photo.

Harrison was upset, but grudgingly agreed to go back, rework a track or two and add a couple of new songs. Then, of course, John Lennon was murdered. Harrison remembered the old song he’d written for Ringo, and quickly rewrote the lyrics as a love song to John, with lyrics like “we’re living in a bad dream” and “you point to the truth when you say ‘All You Need Is Love’.” He kept the recording of Ringo doing the drums – session superstar Herbie Flowers did the bass by the way – and then, in an act of generosity, called up Paul McCartney. McCartney, along with his Wings bandmates (at that point just his wife Linda and Denny Laine) came by and recorded backing vocals, making it the first time the three had been together on a record since they finished Let It Be some 11 years earlier. Harrison finished it off with a touching video, a slideshow of pictures highlighting John.

It was a good song, and a timely one, and it helped put George back on the musical map, briefly at least. In his UK, it only got to #13 surprisingly, but elsewhere it was very well-received. In Canada it got to #3, in Ireland, #4; it also made the top 10 in Australia and several European lands. In the all-important U.S. market, it was a chart-topper on Adult Contemporary stations (an indication of the aging of the Beatles fans perhaps) and got to #2 on the singles chart, only kept from the top by Kim Carnes mega-selling “Bette Davis Eyes.”

It didn’t help the album out that much though; Somewhere in England peaked in the teens (#11-19) almost worldwide and quickly disappeared, it became George’s first post-Beatles album to not get a gold record (or better) in the U.S. Harrison would be almost invisible in the music world until his big comeback in 1987, Cloud Nine, which had another look back at the Beatles, “When We Were Fab.”

February 25 – The Bright Light That Was The Dark Horse

The “Quiet Beatle” was born 79 years ago today, so in honor of that, we look at some thoughts about George Harrison…and from George himself.

Ringo Starr, after George’s death in 2001: “George was a best friend of mine. I loved him very much and will miss him very greatly.”

Paul McCartney, at same time: “He was a lovely guy and a very brave man, and had a wonderful sense of humor. He (was) really just my baby brother.”

Peter Asher, friend of the Beatles and record producer : “(he was) an extraordinary composer and wildly skilled, inventive guitarist; a brilliant and remarkable man. He combined some of the virtues of an English country gentleman – civility, good humor and a certain traditionalism – with a profound fascination with other cultures.”

Tom Petty, bandmate of George’s in the Traveling Wilbury’s : “He just had a way of getting right to the business of finding the right thing to play. That was part of the Beatle magic.”

Jeff Lynne of E.L.O and the Traveling Wilburys, upon their first real meeting: “He invited me over and we got on great. One of the first things he asked was ‘do you want to go on holiday?’..So, we went on a holiday to Australia, and then we came back and…made Cloud 9.

Eric Clapton : “A lot of times during our relationship, I found it very difficult to communicate my feelings towards George – my love for him as a musician, as a friend and a brother…because we skated around stuff” (presumably like how Eric pursued George’s wife Pattie for years.)

Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones: “George was an artist, but he was also a…craftsman. When you listen to his songs, you’re aware of how much went into it. George crafted his stuff very, very carefully.”

New York Times after his death: “Some of his best compositions, like ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ and ‘Something’ stand alone in the Beatles canon for their introspective beauty” and he “created the concept of the all-star charity rock concert.”

The Guardian: “the most handsome but under-rated Beatle…seemed stranded on the far side of the stage, even if he was the best musician and the motor of the band.”

Olivia Harrison, his widow: “He often said ‘everything else can wait but the search for God cannot’ and ‘love one another.'”

And a few words from the man himself:

In 1980 – “I’m a gardener. I plant flowers and watch them grow. I don’t want to go out to the clubs partying.”

We’re now the results of our past actions. In the future, we’ll be the result of the actions we’re performing now.”

Quiet words of wisdom from the quiet Beatle.

January 16 – Did Three Dozen Beatles Number Ones Put George On ‘Cloud Nine’?

It was the end of an era, though we didn’t know it yet. On this day in 1988, George Harrison had the #1 single in the U.S., with the great “Got My Mind Set On You” from his comeback album Cloud Nine. It had just knocked a Whitney Houston song off the top spot. It was George’s third American chart-topper on his own, but first since “Give Me Love” back in 1973. However, as it turns out it would also end up being the last #1 single by a Beatle.

As we know, the Beatles pretty much owned the charts in the mid-to-late ’60s, racking up no less than 20 #1 singles. After they split up around the end of 1969, each of the four had a good measure of success on their own, although as the years wore on it became clear Paul McCartney was the most successful. In all, the four solo Beatles (including McCartney’s Wings and his duets with Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson) tallied 16 more #1s, eleven in the ’70s and five in the ’80s. Of those, nine were McC’s, three George’s and two each were by John and Ringo. Put together, it’s a rather mind-blowing 36 #1 hits, spanning 24 years, and the first in five years since McCartney (and Jackson’s) “Say Say Say.”. The 24 year span between chart-toppers was matched by Elton John and the Beach Boys, but neither have come close to the total number by the Fab Four (and the Beach Boys went some 20 years in that span without a big hit before getting back there with “Kokomo”).

Curiously, the timing meant that Harrison had the top song the day he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Beatles. Rather a testimony to a stellar career when you can be being put into the Hall of Fame while still having the top new record! However, when Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel” deposed “Got My Mind Set On You” the next week, it apparently ended the era of the Beatles dominating the charts. It was their last #1, and given that John was already dead by then and George has passed away since, with neither Paul nor Ringo really being major players on hit radio (or hit Spotify if you will) of late, it would appear that the record is written.

Of course, their popularity endures, as the recent documentary Get Back has shown. The Beatles have gone to #1 on the American album chart four times since 1988… each time with a compilation of their old music. Seems we probably still have our minds set on you, Beatles.

November 29 – George Sure Was Something

Something” of a monumental day in The Beatles calendar, and in particular, George Harrison’s.

52 years back, on this day in 1969, the Fab Four hit #1 in the U.S. for the last time in the ’60s (they’d score two final ones, “Let It Be” and “The Long & Winding Road”, in the early-’70s) with the rather awesome single consisting of “Something” and “Come Together.” Unlike most singles, it was billed as a “double A-side” with both songs off Abbey Road having lasting radio appeal. It also went to #1 in Canada and Australia; oddly it “only” hit #4 in their UK.

While “Come Together” was a good rock song and as allmusic would note, a “boogie” tune which “contains a sensuality previously unheard in the Beatles”, it was the other side that was the standout. While pretty much all the real substantial “hits” of the Beatles had been written by Lennon & McCartney, “Something” was Harrison’s baby. While he’d written other tunes for them together (among the most notable, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “Within You, Without You”) popular opinion at the time held that he was a far lesser talent. That idea started to change with this song… as well as perhaps when he briefly quit the band for a few days earlier in the year, as documented well in Get Back.

Harrison in all likelihood wrote the love song for his wife at the time, the famous model Pattie Boyd (who also inspired Eric Clapton to write “Layla”). She says so, stating “He told me matter-of-factly that he had written it for me. I thought it was beautiful.” So did the fans! In some later interviews, Harrison suggested the inspiration was more oblique and included Krishna (the Indian God) and women in general. Whatever was going through his mind when he came up with it, it was one powerful muse.

Although recorded in the final sessions that The Beatles would take part in, all four appeared on the record and Billy Preston added some Hammond organ and electric piano parts while producer George Martin put together the string section.

The song was an instant, and enduring hit. Elton John would say years later it “is one of the best love songs ever – ever – written. It’s like the song I’ve been chasing for the last 35 years.” Ringo suggested that it and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” were “two of the finest love songs ever written, on a par with John and Paul and anyone else.” The BBC declared that “Something” shows “more clearly than any other song that there were three great songwriters in the band, rather than just two.”

Not only did the record sell, it also was copied. Over 150 artists have recorded cover versions of it, ranging from Tanya Tucker to Frank Sinatra to James Brown. Harrison once said “at the time I wasn’t too thrilled that Sinatra did ‘Something’…but I’m very pleased now. I realize that the sign of a good song is when it has lots of cover versions.”

Sadly as many remember, 32 years later, which is to say this day in 2001, Harrison passed away from cancer. He was 58 at the time. Upon his passing away, his former bandmates remembered him fondly. Paul McCartney said “he was a lovely guy and a very brave man and had a wonderful sense of humor. He is really just my baby brother,” while Ringo added “George was a best friend of mine. We will miss George for his sense of love, his sense of music and his sense of laughter.” Even Yoko Ono noted “his life was magical and we felt we had shared a little bit of it by knowing him. Thank you, George.” Possibly Bob Geldof, Boomtown Rat and Live Aid organizer summed it up best : “as he himself said, ‘How do you compare to the genius of John and Paul?’ But he did very well.” .

November 2 – Fab Four Fans Felt Sunny On Cloud Nine

The title may have described his mindset! George Harrison released his 11th solo studio album, Cloud Nine this day in 1987, and it was quite a remarkable comeback. After spending much of the decade to that point more interested in making movies than music, Harrison felt inspired and brought together quite an all-star set of his friends to record it in his home studio. Chief among them were Eric Clapton, Elton John, Gary Wright and even, yes, Ringo Starr. Plus ELO frontman Jeff Lynne, who co-wrote much of the album as well as produced it.

The results were positive. It hit the top 10 in the UK, U.S. and Canada, gave him his first platinum album in the U.S. since 1970’s All Things Must Pass , in Britain it was his first top 10 since that one. As well, it delivered two solid hit singles: “Got My Mind Set On You” and “When We Was Fab.” The former, a cover of an obscure tune by Rudy Clark topped the U.S. charts (his first #1 in 15 years) and the latter was a top 30 hit in most markets. It was a homage to the Beatles and Harrison said a deliberate attempt to create something that sounded like it was from that era. To add authenticity, Ringo even drummed on the track and showed up in the video.

Most reviews were positive as well. The New York Times called it “pleasantly tuneful…evokes the Beatles more romantic, psychedelic music” and Rolling Stone graded it 4-stars. They said of it, “If Cloud Nine was simply a decent record, it would still mark a major comeback,” but felt that rather it was “in fact an expertly-crafted, endlessly infectious record that constitutes Harrison’s best work since 1970’s inspired All things Must Pass.” Later, Uncut and Mojo would each also give it 4-stars.

The album had additional significance as he brought in Tom Petty, Roy Orbison and Bob Dylan to record a b-side for a single. That song was “Handle With Care.” They all liked working together so much that it they decided to carry on and do more…which ended up being the Traveling Wilburys.

October 19 – Picture This : Ringo Was A Big Star

Picture this : at one time it seemed like Ringo Starr might have had a decent shot at having as good a, if not better than, post-Beatles career than the other three. In both 1971 and ’72 he’d had a sizable hit single (“It Don’t Come Easy” and “Back off Boogaloo”) and on this day in 1973 he bolstered his resume with a single that Billboard magazine raved about, declaring it “has to be a #1 single this month. Right?” that single was “Photograph”, the first single off his third album, simply called Ringo. The single was released in Britain and Europe 48 years ago today, a week or two after it had come out in the U.S.

If Ringo was seen as not having the voice of Paul or the writing chops of any of the other three, he could still hold his own against many of his pop contemporaries in those areas and was a very good, under-rated drummer. But perhaps his greatest skill is in being a nice guy everyone seems to like. That was reflected in the fact that each of the other three Beatles helped out on this album, albeit not all together. “Photograph” was written by George and Ringo together, and in fact they’d recorded a demo of it while George was recording an album two years earlier. Ringo decided to revisit it and record a new version, with none other than Harrison coming back to play the 12-string guitar on it and sing backing vocals. Among the other talents who played on the song were saxaphonist Bobby Keys and Nicky Hopkins on piano. They recorded it in L.A., opting for a full sound reminiscent of Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound, something not coincidentally helped along by using some studio engineers who oft worked with Spector. Ringo – well ahead of his time – later made a video (or “promotional film” as he would call it then) for the song back in England, at Tittenhurst Park, the famous estate that he’d just bought from John Lennon. Strangely, that video currently seems to be one of the rare ones not found on Youtube.

The song managed to sound fairly upbeat despite having forlorn lyrics about the guy who couldn’t forget a love from the past who was gone, leaving him with only a photograph. And it sounded good, something that would have sounded right at home on a number of Beatles albums. Record Mirror upon its release also predicted it would be a “giant smash,” admiring how it sounded big but “nothing’s overdone so as to take away from the song.”

Photograph” hit #1 in New Zealand and Australia (where it would be his only #1) and Canada, where it was his second, and proving Billboard right, also in the U.S., where it got him a gold record. His native land was a bit of an exception though, with it only getting to #8 in the UK.

October 17 – The B-side Throwaway That Launched A Supergroup…And Became A Smash Hit

Rarely has a throwaway musical side-project started almost as a joke been as good. But rarely has such a project included five certified musical superstars working together. Such was the arrival of The Traveling Wilburys in the 1980s. Their Volume 1 came out this day in 1988.

The Wilburys were a super-group formed by George Harrison, who was experiencing a career rebirth with his Cloud Nine album. He’d become good friends with Jeff Lynne of E.L.O. who helped him produce that record, and some point in early-’88, he was set to put out a new single from it but wanted a new song for a b-side. At the same time, he’d already told some interviewers that his follow-up album was formed in his mind : “what I’d really like to do next is…an album with me and some of my mates.” The song he came up with was “Handle With Care”, and his “mates” were Lynne, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and Tom Petty. All five of them got along well and loved both early rock and roll and Monty Python (no coincidence that troupe’s Michael Palin ended up writing the liner notes for the album).

When “Handle with Care” was coming together, they decided it was really too good to be buried on a b-side few would hear, and that they were having a lot of fun. So they decided to carry on and make a whole album together. The took on the name Traveling Wilbury’s after a few musical mistakes were made,George apparently remarked it was OK, “we’ll bury (ie- Wilbury) them in the mix” Similar to the Ramones, they took on alter-egos using the same family name – Nelson Wilbury (Harrison), Otis (Lynne), Charlie (Tom), Lucky (Bob) and Lefty (Roy.) What they had was five superstar writers, singers and guitar players; Lynne was also very proficient with keyboards. What they didn’t have was a good drummer, so they called in highly-regarded session player Jim Keltner, who’d worked on George’s recent album. He wasn’t an official member, but was given his own new identity – Buster Sidebody.

Recording the album in California wasn’t a very stressful situation. “We would arrive about 12 or 1 o’clock and have some coffee. Somebody would start on a riff…we’d finish around midnight and just sit around for a bit while Roy would tell us fabulous stories of Sun Records or hanging out with Elvis.” They shared writing credits as a group, but most of the songs were almost entirely written by one person. For example, Lynne wrote “Not Alone Anymore,” Dylan “Dirty World” and “Tweeter and the Monkey Man”, which was inspired by early Bruce Springsteen songs, although it’s not too certain if it was an homage or a spoof. They shared the mic too, but Petty noted there was no doubt who was in charge. “It was George’s band. It was always George’s band and it was a dream he had for a long time.” Not surprisingly, the hits off the album were written by George and in the mid-’90s the recordings went back to Harrison’s Dark Horse Records. The album first came out on their own Wilbury label, which was put out by Warner Bros.

The album didn’t sound like much of what was on radio at the time, with a definite retro sound that somehow didn’t sound at all stale. As Rolling Stone put it, it managed to have “a wonderfully warm sound that is both high-tech and rootsy.” They liked the record, calling it a “low-key masterpiece” and giving it 4-stars, the same rating allmusic would give it years later.

The public liked it almost as much as the five aging stars did. “Handle With Care” indeed was too good to be an obscure b-side; it was a top 5 hit in Canada and Australia and a #21 in the UK. In the U.S. it only reached #45 but was a hit on Mainstream Rock radio, where it got to #2. “End of the Line” missed the top 50 in both the States and Britain but made it to #8 in Canada and #11 in New Zealand, and like the first single, got major airplay on American rock stations. The album itself topped the charts in Canada and Australia, got to #3 in the U.S. and #16 in the UK, where it was platinum. It was 3X that in the States and 6X it in Canada. In fact, with sales quickly running to over four million, it was the best-selling record Dylan had ever worked on to that point. Fittingly, given the pedigree of the players and commercial appeal, it won a Grammy as the Best Rock Performance by a Group or Duo.

Sadly, it would be the one and only release from the fivesome; Roy Orbison died unexpectedly less than two months after it came out. The remaining four put out a follow-up (quirkily called Volume 3) in 1990 to less acclaim.

August 20 – Bonus Bit: Beatles

Well, second band out of Liverpool’s ’60s to look at today! As you regulars know, I’ve been fortunate to take part in a multi-writer feature over at Hanspostcard’s website, dealing with great songs. This is my fourth selection, and somewhere around the 40th to 50th song written about in total there. The “Song Draft” has been great, dished up some deserved classics and some cool surprises. But maybe the biggest surprise is in what hasn’t been here … The Beatles. Rather a surprise for a group of music fans like us whom, collectively if we had to borrow a cliched radio catchphrase, seem to be all about “the hits of the 60s, 70s and 80s!” So, I figure it’s time to rectify that shortcoming… my pick today is “Something” by The Beatles.

I should point out though that this isn’t because I’m trying to “fix” an omission from the list so far. It’s here because it’s a flat out great song. The Beatles created a ton of them of course, but in a crunch this one has become my top choice among their discography.

Abbey Road must have taken the diehard Beatles fans back then (1969) by surprise. Not because the band name didn’t show up on the front cover, nor the fact that rumors were swirling around that they might be close to breaking up. But because when they put it on, nothing stood out as much as “Here Comes the Sun”...and this one. Two songs written and sung by George Harrison. This must have been a shock, because let’s face it, until then The Beatles had really been The Lennon & McCartney Show. People knew Ringo was a fun guy and could drum, and George was a better-than-adequate guitarist and sort of cool-ish, mystical guy. However, few thought he was a real talent as a writer or singer in his own right. This was the LP that changed that. As producer George Martin put it, “I first recognized that he had a really great talent when we did ‘Here Comes the Sun’. But when he brought in ‘Something’, it was something else!” Others saw it that way too. John would say it was his favorite song on the album, his own notwithstanding. Years later Frank Sinatra would call it the “greatest love song ever written” and sing it himself.

The song must’ve been largely inspired by that rock’n’roll muse, Pattie Boyd, George’s wife at that point (and the subject of Eric Clapton’s love epic, “Layla” a couple of years later on.) He’s said so at times, and Boyd herself says “he told me as a matter of fact that he had written it for me. I thought it was beautiful, and it turned out to be the most successful song he ever wrote.” At times, George would change it up a bit and say he wrote it mainly as a “devotion to the Lord Krishna,” and he summed it up by noting “when you love a woman, it’s the God in them you see.”

Whatever the inspiration, it was successful indeed. It was issued as a “double A-side” single with “Come Together”, the first George-one released as an actual Beatles “single.” It went to #1 in the U.S., Canada and Australia. It would win them an Ivor Novello prize for Song of the Year, and be covered over 150 times by different artists, more than any song of theirs except “Yesterday.”

To me, I grew up just a little too late to be part of Beatlemania. But I had a Mom and an older brother who liked them, and seeing that Sgt. Pepper LP and hear some of its songs are one of my early childhood memories. I was never one to dislike or slag them, but as a kid, wasn’t a huge fan either. They were just there. As I’ve gotten older though, I come to appreciate them more and more and see how incredible their productivity and talent was. No wonder much of the best ’80s and ’90s pop, from Squeeze to XTC to the Smithereens, is termed “Beatle-esque.” If it’s got smart lyrics, is played well and features a fantastic melody, it probably owes something to the Fab Four.

It’s a song I never get tired of, a song worthy of being turned up and admired from every angle. From the lovely, relatable lyrics to the subtle but attractive organ notes of the band’s friend Billy Preston, to Ringo’s building and under-stated drums to George’s perfect, passionate voice and sexy little guitar solos, “Something” is indeed…”something else.”

August 1 – George Made Rock Charitable 50 Years Ago

His biographer Gary Tillery says on this day in 1971, George Harrison “changed the perception of recording artists, making it clear they could be good world citizens too!” He did that by organizing and starring in The Concert for Bangladesh, the first real effort to merge rock music and charity.

The area now known as Bangladesh had been undergoing a terrible two-fold crisis. A civil war and attempt to declare independence had left thousands dead and as many as seven million refugees, many crowding into India. And a massive cyclone had caused devastation the previous winter, killing tens of thousands more and washing away towns. Harrison had been briefed about the calamity by his friend, sitar-player Ravi Shankar, and decided to do something. (When asked why he got involved, he simply answered “because I was asked by a friend if I’d help.”)

His answer was a star-studded concert (or two) to raise funds for the refugees and popular awareness of the problem. After only six weeks of planning, Harrison staged a pair of concerts at New York’s Madison Square Garden on this Sunday, at 2:30 and again at 8 pm. Although little-publicized, they sold out and the 40 000 fans raised about $250 000 for Unicef through initial ticket sales. The resulting album raised millions more, with Unicef apparently receiving about $12 million by the mid-’80s. Harrison got Leon Russell, Billy Preston, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan and more to perform. John Lennon had initially agreed to perform but backed out when it was clear Yoko Ono was unwelcome; Paul McCartney apparently refused outright, saying “blimey! What’s the point? We’d just broken up!” But fans weren’t short on great performers or performances, starting with Ravi Shankar followed by a long set featuring Harrison with his friends behind him, performing songs like a medley of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and “Young Blood” led by Russell, “Here Comes the Sun” and Dylan doing a five song set including “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall”.

McCartney and Lennon missing notwithstanding, the set was a success, Phil Spector would say “it was magical…nobody had ever seen anything like that before” Spector produced the album for Harrison, which ended up hitting #1 in the UK and #2 in North America and winning the Grammy for Best Album. And with George’s help, the stage was set for future charity events, such as Live Aid 14 years down the road.