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.