There was a time, long ago, when the all important single release had two sides, and the B-side, while probably deemed less important by record company executives, was important both to the artist, and to the album from which they were very often taken. During George Harrison’s solo career there were some very fine B-sides, along with some little gems – the ‘non-album, available on a single only songs’. We’ve picked fifteen of George’s finest, and in some cases rarest, B-sides and compiled them on a playlist for your enjoyment.
‘What Is Life’
As just about everyone knows, when George’s debut single, ‘My Sweet Lord’ was released around the world, it was issued as a double A side with ‘Isn’t It A Pity’, although not in the UK. Public demand in Britain led to a belated UK release for ‘My Sweet Lord’, on 15 January 1971, where the single was backed by ‘What Is Life’, a song that Apple soon released almost everywhere else as the follow-up to ‘My Sweet Lord.’ As the B-side of ‘What Is Life’, another track from All Things Must Pass was used, this being George’s tribute to those loyalist of loyal Beatle fans, the ‘Apple Scruffs’.
In 1971 releases settled into a more universal pattern and for the B-side of ‘Bangla Desh’, George used a non-album track, the deeply affecting, ‘Deep Blue’ a song inspired by George’s visits to his mother in hospital when she was suffering from terminal cancer. The follow up to ‘Bangla Desh’ was ‘Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)’ and this also had a non-album B-side, the witty, ‘Miss O’Dell’. The lady in question was a former Apple employee, who later become linked with a number of bands including Derek & The Dominoes and The Rolling Stones, as a ‘fixer’ and ‘facilitator’.
In 1974, George’s single ‘Dark Horse’, which was also the title track of his new album, had as its US B-side ‘I Don’t Care Anymore’, another non-album B-side; in the UK however the B-side was ‘Hari’s On Tour’, the opening track of the album. On the next single from Dark Horse, ‘Ding Dong, Ding Dong’, the B-sides were reversed.
For the B-side of the beautiful, ‘You’ from Extra Texture, ‘World Of Stone’ from the same album was chosen. Unusually, ‘Maya Love’ from Dark Horse was picked as the B-side of ‘This Guitar (Can’t Keep from Crying)’, the next single taken from Extra Texture.
The lead single from Thirty Three & 1/3 in 1976 was ‘This Song’ and another track off the album, the gorgeous, ‘Learning How To Love You’, was chosen as the B-side. George’s UK single, ‘It’s What You Value’ features the opening track ‘Woman Don’t You Cry For Me’ from Thirty Three & 1/3 as its B-side.
‘Blow Away’ was a single from George’s eponymous 1979 album and in the UK ‘Soft Touch’ became the B-side, while in the US ‘Soft-Hearted Hana’ was chosen; both tracks taken from the same album.
‘Writing’s On The Wall’
The phenomenally successful, ‘All Those Years Ago’, from Somewhere In England, features another of George’s finest B-sides, the evocative, ‘Writings On The Wall’. George’s second single from his Gone Troppo album was his cover of ‘I Really Love You’, a song originally by the Stereos dating from 1961. The B-side was another track from the album, ‘Circles’, a song George wrote in India in 1968 while he and The Beatles were studying Transcendental Meditation with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
From 1987’s Cloud Nine came ‘When We Was Fab’, and on the B-side is ‘Zig Zag’, a song written by George and Jeff Lynne that was written for the film Shanghai Surprise, but not included on the original album
In January 2002, two months after George’s passing, came the posthumous re-release of the ‘My Sweet Lord’ single – a three-song charity CD that included the original 1970–71 hit, along with the sensitive and beautiful acoustic run-through of ‘Let It Down’ It is a beautiful way to end this look back at George’s B-sides.
Explore Harrison’s discography on the 16LP The George Harrison Vinyl Collection that can be ordered here.