George Harrison’s tenth solo studio album was largely recorded between early May and the end of August 1982, a little over a year since he had released Somewhere in England. It was the last album to be recorded under his contract to Warner Bros, and it has the feel of a record that was delivered with that in mind, but that would be too simplistic a summing up of what is an album that’s got its fair share of surprises.
Released on Dark Horse Records in November 1982, George did not undertake any promotional activities for Gone Troppo, his mind was elsewhere on other projects. George’s opinions of the music industry at this time are probably best summed up by the album’s title, which is Australian slang for “gone crazy,” a feeling that’s reflected in the great cover art from Legs Larry Smith, formerly of the Bonzo Dog Band.
George’s musical mates
The record includes many of George’s musical mates – Britain’s go-to percussionist Ray Cooper who also plays, marimba, glockenspiel, electric piano, drummer, Henry Spinetti, Herbie Flowers on bass, Billy Preston on organ, piano, keyboards, synthesizer, and backing vocals, Jim Keltner plays drums and percussion, keyboard player, Mike Moran, Joe Brown on Mandolin and backing vocals, and Joe’s wife Vicki, is also on backing vocals. Their collective talents add so much to the record, creating a well-crafted record that has some real gems that were recorded at Friar Park studio.
“Circles,” the album’s closing track, is one of those songs, having been written in 1968 while The Beatles were studying Transcendental Meditation with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It is about reincarnation and its title is about the cyclical nature of human existence. George recorded a demo of “Circles” at home in May 1968; he revisited it during the sessions for his 1979 album George Harrison before finally recording it for Gone Troppo. In the USA, it was issued as the B-side of the album’s second single, “I Really Love You,” in February 1983.
“Dream Away” is another fan and critical favorite from this album that featured over the end credits of George’s 1981 HandMade Films production Time Bandits – Terry Gilliam’s first successful solo movie – it was the only song used in the film, the soundtrack is orchestral, and was written specifically for it. According to Gilliam, the lyrics are George’s notes concerning Gilliam’s behavior during the making of the film and the tension that arose when he would not use George’s songs on the soundtrack.
“Wake Up My Love” was the A-side of the first single from the album and it reached No. 53 on the Hot 100. “That’s the Way It Goes” was written in Hawaii and Australia and is George’s take on the world’s preoccupation with money and status, one that he had come to accept as irreversible. It was one of George’s favorite songs from the record and popular with many critics too, it was included on his compilation album Best of Dark Horse 1976–1989. In November 2002, a year after George’s passing, Joe Brown performed the song at the Concert for George in London. There’s one cover on the album, “I Really Love You” which was written by Leroy Swearingen and originally recorded by his vocal group, The Stereos in 1961, it reached No. 29 on the Hot 100.
Harrison’s most underrated album
While singularly unsuccessful at the time, it made No. 108 on the US album chart, it’s an album that has fared better as the years have gone by. In 2004, Rolling Stone‘s reviewer said, “Gone Troppo might just be Harrison’s most underrated album … [It] captures Harrison at his most relaxed and playful.”
As with several of George’s albums, Gone Troppo is one that has improved with age; dig it out, put it on, and cast your mind back over 30 years to a time when the world was a very different place.
Check out the full tracklisting, production credits, and album artwork for Gone Troppo on George Harrison’s official website.