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The Dark Horse is Out in Front

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Dark Horse

This was George’s first full solo tour following the breakup of The Beatles, indeed the first tour of North America by any of the four Beatles. The Beatles stopped touring in 1966 and George did not tour again until December 1969 when he joined Delaney & Bonnie and Friends. The ‘Friends’ included Eric Clapton, Bobby Whitlock, Jim Gordon and Carl Radle who would go on to become Derek and The Dominos (with Duane Allman), and who would play on George’s All Things Must Pass album. It was on the Delaney and Bonnie tour that George began to learn to play slide guitar and compose ‘My Sweet Lord’.

In August 1971 George staged his Concert for Bangladesh in New York’s Madison Square Garden. Among the musicians were Clapton and Carl Radle, Bob Dylan, Leon Russell, Ringo Starr and Badfinger. George’s charity concert opened with Ravi Shankar; for his 1974 tour that began in Canada on 2 November 1974, the Indian master-musician again joined Harrison on stage.

Other musicians from the Bangladesh concert that also appeared on the 1974 tour included Billy Preston who had a couple of solo numbers and was prominently featured on keyboards, drummers Jim Keltner and Andy Newmark, and trumpeter Chuck Findlay. The rest of the band for the ’74 tour was made up of saxophonists, Tom Scott and Jim Horn, guitarist, Robben Ford (he played with Scott in the LA Express who featured on George’s Dark Horse album), Willie Weeks on bass and Emil Richards on percussion. The tour was very much a joint affair between George and Ravi; there were fifteen Indian musicians in Shankar’s band. It became known as the ‘Dark Horse’ tour, because George had signed Ravi to his new label of the same name, and because he played several songs from the album, Dark Horse that was released towards the end of the 26-date tour.

Besides the new songs George performed some more familiar numbers like ‘Something’, ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’, ‘Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)’, ‘In My Life’, ‘For You Blue’, ‘What is Life’ and ‘My Sweet Lord’. George struggled throughout the tour with laryngitis and gargled nightly with a mixture of honey, vinegar and warm water to try and relieve the symptoms; it was a situation not helped by the fact that he played two shows on many of the dates. But whatever the limitations caused by his throat infection, which lead to the cancellation of the shows in Portland, George and the band’s playing sounded magnificent throughout.

George was not the only one whose health was suffering, Ravi Shankar missed a number of shows with illness and that of course put pressure on George to perform, and sing, more than he had planned to do. By all accounts, George was upset by some of the criticism of the shows, but certainly some of that could be put down to incredibly high prior expectations, and people wanting something they simply were not going to get?

It all helped to sour George’s idea of touring and it would be close to 20 years before he went on the road again and even then, it was a comparatively short tour of Japan. Reminiscences that can be found online tend to concentrate on the sheer joy of seeing George perform, especially for many who had been too young to see the Beatles live.

When George returned home to Friar Park in January 1975 he told Derek Taylor “When I got off the plane and back home, I went into the garden and I was so relieved. That was the nearest I got to a nervous breakdown. I couldn’t even go into the house”. Three months later he was back in Los Angeles to start work on his next album, Extra Texture (Read All About It)

Dark Horse has been newly remastered for The Apple Years 1968-75 box set, now available.

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20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. david clark

    November 2, 2014 at 11:31 pm

    I saw this concert and I remember the throat issues he had. It was in Long Beach at Auditorium I do believe…. I enjoyed every minute. Ravi was new to me yet I had heard of him and was saddened by his recent passing…. George was a musician of heart and soul.. thanx for the Excellent Article.

    • Diann

      November 3, 2014 at 12:02 am

      I was at the same concert and still have the brochure. It was great. The feeling in the room was one of such serenity and peace. Great, great night in Long Beach.

  2. Chris

    November 3, 2014 at 1:45 am

    I saw him at the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island. I loved every minute. I sat at the side and I remember seeing him behind the amps, taping his socks to his legs! (they were loose and falling down) 🙂 I still have the concert program!

  3. uDiscover

    November 3, 2014 at 10:27 am

    Lovely memories, thanks for sharing…

  4. Angelo Ruiz

    November 3, 2014 at 3:36 pm

    Can anyone tell me if and when George Harrison ever met Duane Allman ?

    • Julie

      November 4, 2014 at 6:18 pm

      I don’t know if they ever met, but I just said the other day that I’d love to see Duane and George jam together in the afterlife!

  5. Kalyan Kamal Roy

    November 3, 2014 at 5:05 pm

    I was too young and being from India had virtually no chance to attending Harrison’s Dark Horse. What I learnt from some of the Indian great musicians who were a part of that tour, that George’s voice was as good as gone the moment the tour started and the tour itself was disaster from the word go. The problem with George’s voice continued throughout 1974 and 1975 (which, upon close hearing hearing ‘Living in the Material World’ one can find started from this album, but he somehow managed). Things were back to normal in 1976 and George was again his own self during 33 1/3 album. Can anyone share a portion of the show he/she had attended then?

    • Milt0n

      November 5, 2014 at 3:20 pm

      Yes, I think that he sounded very good in 1976. He should have played live during that time!

  6. Clayton Williams

    November 4, 2014 at 8:47 pm

    Saw the Dark Horse Tour in Atlanta. I feel blessed to have seen it.

  7. chris

    November 4, 2014 at 8:48 pm

    I was at MSG and was happy, at 16, to be able to see GH live. I definitely remember the throat issues – as was the case with DH album – and the long Indian music set but I was just thrilled to be there, period.

  8. Milt0n

    November 4, 2014 at 10:23 pm

    I have many bootlegs of this tour and I like it… Yes, the George’s voice was shot but, as this article mentions, the band sounds great.

    An interesting fact is that the George’s voice was in better shape at the very beggining of the tour (the first show in Vancouver, for example). I have listened songs from that show and he voice wasn’t so hoarse and it just sounds pretty nice.

    I think it would be a good idea to release a collection with the best of 1974 tour (songs plus footages from different shows) since we all (his fans) have been waiting that for years.

  9. Scott Linker

    November 4, 2014 at 10:37 pm

    Does anyone know anything about the movie of the tour George mentioned in an interview back in 76,or 77. I believe it was the Canadian concerts, could be wrong about that. I know there was filming throughout. Thanks, was really hoping for a dvd of the tour on the fortieth anniversary. Very grateful for the wonderfully remastered Dark Horse & Apple Years.

  10. Luciana Arevalo

    November 4, 2014 at 11:29 pm

    George es mi Beatle preferido ,lo amo. 🙂

  11. Billy Dechand

    November 5, 2014 at 2:27 pm

    Still waiting for that 1974 tour DVD.

  12. Chuck Burke

    November 5, 2014 at 3:45 pm

    At 20 years old I was the youngest crew member on the 74 Harrison Tour. I turned sixty this year and will always look back at one of the great years of my life working for George Harrison/Ravi Shankar and Bill Graham. Harrison gave all of us a commemorative medal of the tour. I still have it today along with many other great memories! What at great band he put together for his tour!! God bless you George!

    • Milt0n

      November 8, 2014 at 1:08 am

      What a great memories, Chuck! Do you know if the concert was professionally filmed? I’ve seen a couple footage from that tour with a really good quality in the Scorsese’s “Living In The Material World”

      Thanks.

  13. Michael Collins Morton

    November 5, 2014 at 8:01 pm

    Photos and memories from two of George Harrison’s 1974 shows in the Bay Area: http://britrockbythebay.blogspot.com/2012/05/george-harrison-november-1974-part-1.html

  14. gordon campbell

    November 3, 2015 at 4:52 pm

    Sounds like George had what I just finished being surgically treated for..cancer of the vocal cords from smoking and breathing a lot of second hand smoke playing the venues in the 70’s..thankfully there is laser surgery now. Very interesting read. Peace and Love. gc

  15. Randy

    November 2, 2016 at 8:35 pm

    Saw the Tulsa show. Add Leon Russell to the lineup. Brilliant show top to bottom, no warm up, just great music.

  16. Robert Alefield

    November 2, 2016 at 9:37 pm

    The Beatles stopped at 1066? This must be a wish or a mistake….

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