[Review] George Harrison: Somewhere In England (1980)

The album that contains George’s homage to Hoagy Carmichael. And John Lennon. But mostly Hoagy Carmichael.

Kronomyth 10.0: Nowhere, man.

I wouldn’t give out my address either after releasing this stinker. Somewhere first appeared in England in 1980, but Warner Bros. declined to release the album in the US. That is, until John Lennon died, at which point they engaged Harrison in a conversation that I can only imagine went something like this:

Warner Bros. A&R Flunkie (WBARF): George, we can’t release this album in the US.

George: Is it the Hoagy Carmichael songs? Because I can get rid of those.

WBARF: NO, NO, don’t touch the Hoagy Carmichael songs. We LOVE those!

Assistant to the WBARF: Yeah, Hoagy Carmichael songs are really hot right now.

WBARF: It’s just that the record is so depressing. It could use something more upbeat.

Assistant WBARF: Like a Beatles song, or a song featuring the Beatles, or a song about a Beatle who may have died recently.

WBARF: Or a song about how much you hate making music.

George Harrison: Seriously, if it’s the Hoagy Carmichael stuff, I can take out “Hong Kong Blues.” I don’t even know why I picked that. I mean, I sing the words “colored man” on that song for crying out loud.

Assistant WBARF: Colored people love Hoagy Carmichael!

WBARF: His music lifts people’s spirits.

George Harrison: Seriously? “Baltimore Oriole” is about a woman who cheated on her man. “Hong Kong Blues” is about an opium addict who doesn’t have the money to buy a ticket home.

WBARF: See? I feel better about my life already.

George Harrison: Okay, so I’ll keep the Hoagy Carmichael songs and write some new, really depressing songs with happy melodies?

WBARF: Perfect. We’ll have your percussion player produce them. Now, he has some ideas about the cover art…

This is me again. You don’t need to buy this album. You don’t need to hear any of the songs on it other than “All Those Years Ago.” And you certainly don’t need to spend $18 on a remastered version that includes only a demo version of “Save The World” that totally wasn’t worth saving.

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Original LP Version (1980)

A1. Hong Kong Blues (Hoagy Carmichael) (2:54)
A2. Writing’s On The Wall (3:57)
A3. Flying Hour (George Harrison/Mick Ralphs) (4:07)
A4. Lay His Head (3:44)
A5. Unconsciousness Rules (3:04)
B1. Sat Singing (4:31)
B2. Life Itself (4:24)
B3. Tears of the World (4:05)
B4. Baltimore Oriole (Paul Francis Webster/Hoagy Carmichael) (3:57)
B5. Save The World (4:56)

Original LP Version (1981)
A1. Blood From A Clone (3:58)
A2. Unconsciousness Rules (3:04)
A3. Life Itself (4:24)
A4. All Those Years Ago (3:43)
A5. Baltimore Oriole (Paul Francis Webster/Hoagy Carmichael) (3:57)
B1. Teardrops (4:04)
B2. That Which I Have Lost (3:42)
B3. Writing’s On The Wall (3:57)
B4. Hong Kong Blues (Hoagy Carmichael) (2:54)
B5. Save The World (4:56)

CD reissue bonus track
11. Save The World (demo version) (4:27)

All songs written by George Harrison unless noted.

The Players

George Harrison (guitars, vocals, keyboards, synthesizers), Ray Cooper (drums, percussion, keyboards, synthesizers) with Gary Brooker (keyboards & synthesizers), Herbie Flowers (bass, tuba), Jim Keltner (drums), Al Kooper (keyboards & synthesizers), Denny Lane (Laine) (guitar), Neil Larsen (keyboards & synthesizers), Dave Mattacks (drums), Paul McCartney (backing vocals on “All Those Years Ago”), Mike Moran (keyboards & synthesizers), Alla Rakha (table), Tom Scott (lyricon & horns), Ringo Starr (drums), Willie Weeks (bass). Produced by George Harrison, Ray Cooper; engineered by Phil McDonald.

The Pictures

UK cover concept by Basil Pao. US cover concept by Ray Cooper. Photography by Caroline Irwin. Typography by Anthony Cohen.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and cassette in 1980 in the UK and Australia (Dark Horse, K56870) and on June 1, 1981 in the US (Dark Horse, DHK/DAH 3492), Brasil (WEA, 36190), Canada (Dark Horse, XDH 3492), Columbia (Warner Bros., 23(1031)00262), Germany (Dark Horse, WB-56870), Japan (Dark Horse, P-10944D) and Mexico (Dark Horse, LWB-6024) with lyrics innersleeve; reached #13 on the UK charts and #11 on the US charts. UK and US versions have different covers.

  1. Re-released on expanded, remastered compact disc in 2004 in the UK (EMI, 594088), on February 24, 2004 in the US (Capitol, 94088) and in 2004 in Japan (Dark Horse, TOCP-6737) with 1 bonus track.

The Last Word

“…That was all this stuff (Warner’s) was telling me. ‘Well, we like it, but we don’t really hear a single.’ And the other people were saying, ‘Now, look, radio stations are having all these polls done in the street to find out what constitutes a hit single and they’ve decided a hit single is a song of love gained or lost directed at 14- to 20-year-olds.’ And I said, “Shit, what chance does that give me?” So, anyway I went in and wrote (Blood from a Clone) just to shed some of the frustrations.” — George Harrison, in a 1988 Creem interview posted on Beatlesnumber9.

1 thought on “[Review] George Harrison: Somewhere In England (1980)

  1. Say, did I ever tell you that I’m a big George Harrison fan? He’s not my favorite IN The Beatles, but I’ll be damned if I don’t listen to his solo albums a lot more than those of Mssrs. J.W. Lennon and J.P. McCartneyandwings. Having said that, his solo discography is rather messy. Wonderwall Music and Electronic Sound are, well, failed experiments, even though Electronic Sound is an avant-garde curio. There’s no debating that All Things Must Pass is a tour de force, even if Phil Spector had a bit too much control and nobody listened to the Apple Jam record. But the subsequent Apple albums were uninspired at best, especially Dark Bore. Although he did find his feet again when he switched to Warner Bros., and 33 1/3 is often considered a lost masterpiece…yeah…the subsequent albums were frustratingly inconsistent. I happen to like this album if I’m in the right mood, and not just because of “All Those Years Ago”. It is clever the way you imagined Warner Bros. berating him for the first draft of the album (so much for having your own record company), and the digital remaster was a wasted opportunity not bringing back the rejected songs. I personally don’t think they’re bad, but I look upon George Harrison, this album and Gone Troppo as the Mind Games to All Things Must Pass’s Plastic Ono Band. Though, yes, I agree that Cloud Nine is (quibbles about Mr. Lynne’s production aside) one of the most unexpected career renaissances ever.

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