Monday, January 23, 2012

WONDERWALL MUSIC by George Harrison!

Myth….myth…..there’s a bug in my soup – and it looks like a BEATLE! It took me a long time to understand / appreciate the concept of myth. I’m not the biggest fan of Yoko Ono, but I have to give her credit for helping me understand this idea. Many years ago I read a quote attributed to Yoko in which she described the Beatles as a myth – quite an astute observation, in fact. As a young person that idea baffled me because I thought myths had to be imaginary and the Beatles were a real group of people, of course. What I understand better now, and what I think Yoko was getting at, is how popular figures – be they politicians, musicians, sports figures - can capture the imaginations of masses of people. Imaginations with the ability to conjure up stories sometimes based in truth, sometimes not, which can inspire others to action. Sometimes positive action, sometimes not. In terms of popular culture, the Beatles managed to enter into that MYTH territory. To illustrate the Beatles-effect from an unusual perspective, consider checking out this documentary “How the Beatles Rocked the Kremlin”:

The book I read that Yoko quote in is this one: Beatles Forever by Nicholas Schaffner.
A real classic tome for Beatles freaks. This could be found pretty easily into the mid-1980s. One of the best things about it was the extensive discography. I knew about the differences between American and English pressings, but I had no idea how many different countries released their own versions of albums. One of my favorites was the infamous “Beatles in Italy” – what looked like a “live” album, but ended up being merely a collection of studio cuts designed specifically for the Italian market! Well into the 1980s, one could find plenty of these import LPs in record stores. It was good to have a resource that could clue you in on what these things were – and I’m glad I nabbed a few back in those days.

What especially held my fascination with that discography was the inclusion of the letters “OOP” next to certain entries. The letters standing for “Out Of Print”, in other words NOT AVAILABLE. Beatles records? Not available? Sure enough – there were indeed some titles that you just couldn’t find easily – at least not in MY neck of the woods. Some of those were understandable – like the naked John and Yoko album “Two Virgins”. But those OOP records became a challenge for me to find. When I started getting my hands on them over time I could see why they’d gone out of print. Experimental stuff like the John and Yoko records……….but one of those OOP deals became a favorite: George Harrison’s Wonderwall Music.

This was George Harrison’s first solo album, but he barely plays any instruments on it himself and there’s not a lot of vocalizing on it because it was movie soundtrack music. I have never seen the film, but I hear it’s bad (I just wonder if it’s one of those “so bad it’s good” kinda deals…..). Just as well for me since I’ve found the music on this record to be so fun and interesting I’ve had years to imagine what kind of movie theses little compositions could possibly go with. Considering the diversity of motifs, styles and vibes to be experienced on this album – it must be a pretty wacky film indeed! There’s a good amount of Indian music here. Some really beautifully recorded stuff. Some western sounding business……generic cowboy music………some psychedelic sound-collage stuff……..and one genuine rockin’ track featuring Eric Clapton (kinda short and sweet though……) called SKI-ING. The whole record is just one crazy grab-bag of tracks.

I found an imported copy of this LP many years ago and I must have played it a lot since it’s got some extra pops and clicks here and there (and I usually take really good care of my stuff!). It was issued on CD around the early 90s with a lot of the Apple catalog (Wonderwall Music has the distinction of being the first long-playing Apple Records release – well prior to the White Album in fact!). I wish I’d grabbed a copy then, because would you believe – OOP! Buggers!! So, I’m sorry to say – the only way to get to hear this record is to either seek out an expensive used copy, borrow one from a friend or wait until the Harrison Estate gets in gear and re-releases it. Personally, I’d love a Deluxe Edition – with the original MONO mix (I haven’t seen or heard this yet!) and maybe a nice 5.1 surround edition for kicks!

So here’s my plea to Olivia and Dhani Harrison:  RE-RELEASE WONDERWALL PLEASE!!!! Cut and paste this message and send lots of emails to the George Harrison website. It’s a CRIME that this cool album is MIA. With any luck, we could see a new version of this – and when you get your copy, here’s my recommendation: go to the local convenience store and pick up a roll of these to munch on while you listen:

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