In the Wilderness: George Harrison, 1973-1982

Beatles Month In the Wilderness

In the Wilderness is a feature in which a group of Strange Currencies contributors examine an overlooked or under-appreciated period of an artist’s career. In these “Slack chats,” we discuss highs, lows, and misconceptions, in order to shed new light on an era that we feel deserves a second look.

Approximately six months after the 1970 breakup of The Beatles, George Harrison delivered All Things Must Pass – an ambitious triple-LP that found “The Quiet One” with plenty to say. While technically Harrison’s third solo record – following the 1968 film soundtrack Wonderwall Music and 1969’s experimental Electronic SoundAll Things Must Pass was a stunning statement of purpose. It also seemed to promise a long and rewarding career for the ex-Beatle guitarist.

In actuality, despite his continued commercial success – and the critical goodwill generally reserved for an artist of such rarified stature – Harrison would never again reach the heights of All Things Must Pass. The decade that followed 1971’s triumphant – and hugely influential – Concert for Bangladesh would find Harrison’s already-legendary detachment reflected in a series of records that arguably felt more obligatory than inspired. By the early eighties, his frustration would reach new heights, as Harrison found himself increasingly removed from the music industry, at odds with current trends, and dissatisfied with his record label.

In this chat, Strange Currencies contributors George Budney, Trevor Kvaran, and I discussed the seven albums that Harrison released from 1973-1982. It wasn’t always pretty, but each of the records that he released during this decade contained at least some glimpses of the George Harrison that had once been the not-so-secret weapon behind the greatest pop act of all-time. Here are our thoughts:


MR: As usual, we should first define why this qualifies as a “wilderness.”

GB: That’s a hard question. In this case, I think it was a combination of drugs, pressure, and not really knowing what music he wanted to make.

TK: This entire thing was sort of like watching the half-life decay time of an artist. I actually think this set starts out okay, but holy moly some of these later albums…

GB: It starts out strong.

TK: Is this actually all wilderness? Were there hits from these albums? I didn’t even check to see how popular these were at the time.

MR: Most of these were reasonably successful, commercially speaking. Even Ringo was still selling a lot of albums, coasting on previous success. I would argue that some of this material almost sounds intentionally wilderness-y. Maybe not quite “Neil Young in the 80s,” but deliberately pushing against expectations.

GB: Good point. He’s not making music for us. I don’t think it’s a wilderness, I think it’s a fade. I like the half-life description.

TK: I was just surprised how little of this was well-known to me upon listening.

MR: Yeah, there is a lot of this stuff that just isn’t well-known today.

GB: I haven’t listened to some of these in 10-15 years. Forgot why, remember now. May be another ten years for a couple of them.

MR: The modern shorthand version of Harrison’s solo career is that All Things Must Pass is really the only worthwhile album.

GB: I disagree with that – but it’s certainly a trap a lot of people fall into. There is merit with most of these.

TK: The real reason this felt like a wilderness to me is because I remember growing up with The Traveling Wilburys and Cloud Nine (1987) cassettes.

MR: Yeah, those really brought him back into the spotlight at the end of the 80s.

TK: So, to me, that 80s period is sort of memorable, and definitely All Things Must Pass. This was apparently… what he did in between those.

MR: Yep. I felt like that could qualify it as a “wilderness.” Plus, it’s “Beatles Month” on Strange Currencies, so it’s convenient to define this as a wilderness.

Living in the Material World, LP (1973)

MR: Let’s dive into Living in the Material World, starting with overall impressions.

TK: It was actually the most surprising. I have been listening to it pretty repeatedly for the last two weeks.

GB: I had a really nice moment with this album this past weekend, driving the backcountry roads north of Phoenix. Nice desert road trip soundtrack. It’s a nice sonic continuation from All Things Must Pass – some crossovers, and some new ground.

MR: There is definitely a similarity in the songwriting, but a much more stripped-down sound. The Phil Spector production on All Things Must Pass remains pretty divisive among fans. This seems to be “correcting” for that.

TK: I think his songs are still pretty interesting on this album.

MR: Yeah, this is a pretty good batch of songs.

TK: …but boy does it signal – even more than All Things Must Pass – the sort of shlocky odes to the power of love that are to come.

MR: Yeah, you can see some of the cheesiness starting to seep into his writing. It’s kind of weird that there was such a long gap between this and All Things Must Pass. Three years was an eternity in the early-70s. Of course, he was doing things like Concert for Bangladesh, and a lot of production work, but that’s a lot of time between records.

TK: I think these albums also might suffer from being listened to back-to-back. He basically sets a template for a lot of samey stuff with this album.

GB: Yes! Found myself having to interject other artists, lest things start to really drag.

MR: Interesting. I’ve found with a lot of these wilderness dives, that I tend to appreciate the albums more when I consider them working together as part of a career arc. Maybe it’s because I’m more focused on the context in which they were written, recorded, etc.

TK: Oh weird. They all blended together, and I kept thinking that on their own everything isn’t too bad, but listening to the same thing over and over kind of magnified things I didn’t like about the albums.

GB: The concept of an album feels lost a bit, especially on the later records, where there is so much space between the essential tracks. They are much better in discrete doses, whether that be on random as a whole, or a side-A or just side-B listen.

TK: I found this to be a very homogenous set of songs.

MR: I agree. George tends to basically paint in just two colors throughout this era. There could stand to be more variance.

GB: It did get me thinking about the double All Things Must Pass album, and even that struggles a bit at times (blasphemy!). George’s problem is editing.

MR: A triple-LP, actually. Of course, the “jam” disc doesn’t get a lot of listens from me…

TK: Through this whole set of wilderness albums, each album feels a bit like a lesser copy of the previous.

GB: Gone Troppo is a terrible Xerox.

TK: Haha.

MR: Hey, we’ll get there. I will agree that there does seem to be a steady decline in quality throughout this era (though not entirely linear), which would make Living in the Material World the best of the bunch. The songwriting is pretty solid, and you get to hear a lot of his slide guitar work, which is never a bad thing.

GB: In anticipation of “Beatles Month,” I went back and watched the Scorsese documentary. They spend a bit of time on this period in his life and how ragged he was getting himself.

MR: Yeah, and you can literally hear it in his voice on stuff like Dark Horse.

GB: When you watch interviews, he doesn’t seem happy or to really want to be doing it, like it’s forced. I don’t think that reflects fully on Material World or Dark Horse, but more so on the later records. It’s frustrating, and I’m sure was more so for him.

TK: That’s entirely what these albums sound like. A great artist just not that into it anymore. The first two are not that bad though.

MR: I definitely feel like that as this era progresses. What are the standouts on this album?

TK: “Be Here Now.” That’s a standout on this set of albums for me. I like it both as a tribute to Ram Dass’ philosophy, and to him being tired of having to deal with The Beatles’ legacy.

GB: The opener is solid.

MR: I’ll agree on those two. I also really like the melody on “Don’t Let Me Wait Too Long.”

TK: I like “Don’t Let Me Wait Too Long.” I had a moment where I really thought it was Big Star.

GB: I had the same moment. The Big Star comparison is very true.

MR: Totally. I kept thinking about Big Star when I was listening to Living in the Material World. It came out between their first two records.

TK: “The Day the World Gets ‘Round” is also good.

GB: “Living in the Material World” is really good. I wish he could have stayed in that place. What would have been the contemporary John, Paul, and Ringo albums?

MR: Mind Games (Lennon), Red Rose Speedway and Band on the Run (McCartney), and Ringo’s self-titled album. Those were all from 1973. I’d say that this is comfortably the second best of the five.

TK: I’d probably agree.

GB: Yeah, same.

MR: I’m assuming that we all mean Ringo is tops, right?

TK: He’s a force.

MR: …I mean, it is his best album.

GB: Can we take a moment to address the sax? It’s okay here, but good lord does it get bad on the later albums. “Material World” (the song), towards the end. It’s just lurking.

MR: Yep. Listening now. I can live with it here.

TK: It’s so glaring. And all I can think of when it shows up is the end credits of SNL.

MR: Oh wait, here it goes…

GB: …and that’s how I ruin a song for everyone.

MR: I will say, the worst abuse of a sax in solo-era Beatles doesn’t come from George.

TK: What’s the worst?

MR:

GB: Yep, that’s the one. You can almost hear Don Pardo doing a voiceover.

TK: Oof. I mean Dark Horse starts off with some strong sax competition.

MR: Yeah, that seventies-era alto sax sound was awful. It doesn’t have to be a terrible instrument, but man, it was nearly ruined. Any more thoughts on this record?

TK: Not really. Just that it was a surprise. I’ll go back to this one.

GB: I think it gets overlooked. It’s really good. Like Trevor, I need to spend more time with it. I’m intrigued by it. I will give a shout out to the bonus track – “Miss O’Dell.” It’s nice to hear George having fun. There’s a little bit of a Basement Tapes sound to it.

MR: Haven’t heard that one. I did most of my listening to these on vinyl. I was able to track down all seven of them for less than $50. This album was better than I remembered it, and I already remembered it being pretty good.

Dark Horse, LP (1974)

MR: Alright. Let’s move on, shall we?

TK: Dark Horse! It’s still pretty okay.

MR: This is a weird record. Really weird.

GB: Speaking of SNL themes – I was really prepared to not like “Hari’s On Tour,” but it has steadily grown on me.

MR: I can’t say that I love it.

TK: Me either.

GB: I don’t either, but I kinda dig it.

MR: The sax is really bad here.

TK: Yeah.

GB: This is a hard one, because the distance between standouts and skip tracks is really short. They either connect or they don’t. Feels like it would be a time-of-day-type album, where it’s very moody. I could see this as a late-night background conversation album.

MR: If I remember correctly, the album was rushed out to coincide with a tour. As a result, there were some compromises made, particularly in that the vocals were recorded while George was dealing with laryngitis. It was mockingly referred to as “Dark Hoarse.”

TK: Ha!

GB: The voice works on “Dark Horse” (the song) particularly well, I think.

MR: There’s a vulnerability that works well on some tracks. Not on all of them though…

TK: Yeah, that’s maybe my favorite song here. I honestly don’t have a lot to say on this one. Nothing is bad, but I also don’t find much standing out to me. I was pretty interested to hear “Bye Bye Love” – The Everly Brothers are all-time favorites – but it was not interesting.

MR: I actually really dislike that version. In fact, it’s probably in my bottom 2-3 songs from this whole wilderness era. The aforementioned title track is pretty good. I like “So Sad” and “Simply Shady” enough too. The rest is pretty forgettable.

TK: The whole album is just sort of boring and forgettable, and I don’t hate anything. He’s good enough that I don’t really find anything here bad. It’s all just… there.

MR: Kind of, yeah. Can’t say that I care much for “Ding Dong” or “Far East Man.”

GB: I like “Ding Dong” for its attempt at a big sound. Despite my sax-hate earlier, he does make some cool instrumental choices. The flute on “Dark Horse” works particularly well. I feel like that was one of his big contributions to The Beatles – experimental sounds/instruments. It doesn’t always work – or often with the later albums – but does well on here and Material World.

MR: Oh man, the sax on “Far East Man” is bad. Really bad.

GB: One thing is clear to me listening to these albums; the 70s weren’t fun. So much malaise.

MR: Yep. They definitely play into the “70s were a drag” idea. Okay, one last thought on Dark Horse. The last song is fine, but it’s totally elevated by a particularly special musical element. The flutes are cool, but even better is what sounds an awful lot like the real estate sign that Jack stole in middle school, and which we subsequently turned into an instrument.

GB: I hear it! Plastic thunder!

MR: Yep. The “realty thunder sheet.” I’m pretty sure we referenced it in the Pavement chat last season, so I’ll have to link to it. That’s my vote for the highlight of the album. Let’s move on to the next one.

Extra Texture (Real All About It), LP (1975)

MR: Right off the bat, I want to know what y’all think of “You.”

GB: Honest opinion – it’s not great, man. How is this the opener? That’s a hard one to start with.

TK: Hot sax again.

MR: Yeah, the sax is pretty egregious here, but… I kind of love this song.

GB: Elaborate.

MR: It’s just really exuberant. It’s one of those “leaps from the speakers” songs.

TK: It does at least have some energy.

GB: Yeah, I can get behind that.

MR: Totally has energy. It’s not much of a “song,” per se, but there’s a really propulsive vibe to it.

TK: I wouldn’t choose to listen to it very often, I don’t think.

MR: It’s not a masterpiece, but I dig it. Easily my favorite song on a pretty lackluster album.

GB: That’s not saying a ton. He does lean into the ballads here, which usually isn’t a good thing for George.

MR: Yeah, the ballad-to-rock ratio is really high here.

TK: These are the top 10 Billboard hits of 1975. This album fits in that list pretty well.

GB: Neil Sedaka, nice. He’s playing to the crowd, in other words.

MR: Yeah, “You” is better than all of those. And I love David Bowie… just not “Fame,” necessarily.

GB: Listening to these albums on the whole – especially the last three – it’s pretty clear the world moved on from George. Punk rock and metal coming up, and he’s just not with it.

MR: Perhaps. This record just feels really tired.

TK: So tired. This run of albums after Dark Horse is some of the least engaged music I’ve listened to in a while.

MR: There is definitely a lack of engagement on a lot of these. I’d probably even throw Dark Horse in there too.

TK: He’s good enough that it is all 100% competent and passable, but… that’s it.

MR: We’ve never had a wilderness where the artist in question seemed to be fighting against their own boredom, but here we are…

GB: He’s mailing it in, and it really sucks, because despite the boredom, each song has a moment where he could turn it around if he wanted to. He just doesn’t seem to want to. And that damn sax…

MR: And that lack of engagement, as Trevor mentions, keeps everything “competent.” He’s not even into it enough to make anything that is outright bad. “Bad” is often a result of overreach. There’s no danger of that here…

GB: This album cover, and the next album title almost reflect it. Can you think of a less imaginative cover here, or title than Thirty Three & 1/ॐ?

MR: I guess he was just getting more into race cars and bankrolling Monty Python at this point.

GB: I’d hang out with Jackie Stewart and John Cleese too, if I could. Okay, standout track?

MR: George, I already answered that question. It’s “You.” Hands down.

TK: Agreed.

GB: Yeah, was hoping for a different view, but I think you’re right.

MR: It’s honestly the only thing I ever remember once this album is over, despite the fact that one of these is fashioned as a response to one of his signature Beatles songs. It’s just a forgettable record.

GB: Is “This Guitar (Can’t Keep from Crying)” a mail it in version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”?

MR: I think it’s more just, “Hey, remember that great song that I once wrote? Well, I don’t feel like putting in the time for another one, so you get this instead.”

GB: Ha!

MR: At least it doesn’t have Eric Clapton on it.

GB: Remember when The Beatles made us all love again?

Thirty Three & 1/ॐ, LP (1976)

MR: Okay, Thirty Three & 1/.

TK: Presumably the title is a comment on the ratio of energy he put into this one compared to even the last. We get pretty close to stuff that is a really tough listen for me at this point.

MR: I feel like there’s at least a little more going on rhythmically on this one. That doesn’t always equal good, but it’s a little less one-note than Extra Texture.

TK: I hate that there isn’t anything to point to for why I dislike it.

MR: Yeah, that is frustrating. I don’t hate this opening track. I normally don’t like that kind of bass sound, but it kind of works here. I actually think this album represents an improvement from the last couple.

TK: I’m surprised. What songs do you think are better on this one? I literally have no highlights.

MR: The opener is okay, plus “This Song” and “Crackerbox Palace” are acceptable.

GB: “True Love” isn’t bad. Not my top choices from him, but like Extra Texture, it’s just very mediocre. A few moments that sound like stuff off Cloud Nine, or maybe more Brainwashed (2002).

MR: He’s at least trying a few different things here. The effort seems higher than the last couple of records, but a lot of it doesn’t exactly land.

GB: Yes, for sure more effort. I think that pays on the next record.

MR: He’s dabbling with some funk on “Woman Don’t Cry for Me,” reggae on “Crackerbox Palace”… It’s not as ballad-heavy as Extra Texture. It’s a little less plodding, at least.

GB: More chill.

MR: And a bit less bitter.

GB: A cocaine after-party record.

MR: Yeah, it sounds pretty coke-y.

GB: The sax is thankfully a little more in-check. Still there, but tamed.

MR: Yeah, it’s got a few bad moments, but a little better.

GB: “Pure Smokey,” putting it to work; beach sunsets and some nice chardonnay.

MR: That track is a low point for me. Paying tribute to a great artist with a mediocre track is never a good look. Not a great record, but I’d say a slight improvement over the previous two. Only slight though. This one at least has a pulse. Extra Texture just flatlines after the OUTSTANDING “You.” Alright. We’ve lost Trevor to the blandness of this album…

GB: Can you blame him?

MR: Nope. Not really…

George Harrison, LP (1979)

MR: Let’s talk about George Harrison.

GB: I actually don’t mind it, mostly. It’s a nice breath of oxygen after the last three.

MR: Me either. It’s definitely a little “soft rock” for my liking, but there are some decent songs on it. Some tracks on the first half that could actually qualify as “highlights,” if not exactly “standouts.”

TK: I think I probably like it better than the last two, but it is still mediocre at best.

GB: Matt, care to guess my favorite song?

MR: George, you’re too predictable. It’s obviously “Faster.”

GB: You are correct, sir. Part of me really hopes that’s Jackie Stewart’s car.

MR: It’s not terrible. At least for a song about NASCAR, or some shit like that…

GB: Formula 1.

MR: I know. I just pretend to be totally ignorant to keep my cred intact… The opening track has some serious cheese factor, but I’m okay with it. “Not Guilty” is a “White Album”-era holdover. Works better here than it would have as a Beatles song.

TK: This whole thing sort of sounds like a boring version of George’s Beatles stuff.

GB: To be fair, most of his best solo stuff sounds like Beatles B-sides. I came to Harrison late – like last album late, (Brainwashed). George Harrison sounds closest to that record, and so I’m a little biased towards it.

TK: Man, thinking about this one now, I actually sort of hated it.

MR: Fair enough, but it’s still probably good enough to be my second favorite from this run of albums.

GB: Yeah, maybe mine too. It may be the most consistent that’s not completely average. Or low end of average.

TK: A six-way-tie-for-last is sort of impressive in its own way.

MR: It’s sad to admit that this is the best Beatle-related album from the year of my birth. Edges out “Back to the Egg.” Too bad Ringo didn’t release anything that year. This is very much a “going through the motions” kind of album. Especially when the best song is a decade-old castoff in a plodding, mid-tempo pacing. Nothing remarkable, but nothing outright bad.

GB: I can’t place this one; it’s not ballads and there really isn’t a lot of pop. It is adult soft rock. Which seems like the best possible outcome for all of The Beatles. Paul has been around long enough to be interesting again, but it feels like they all kind of evolved to this, or we’re headed to that point.

MR: Actually, I take that back. “Blow Away” is better than “Not Guilty.” That’s a decent song, right?

TK: I just hate the production on it. I’m starting to realize I disliked these more than I’d let myself remember. “Soft Touch” annoys me.

MR: Now I feel bad for making you listen to all of these albums. I owe you a couple of drinks next time we get together.

GB: I hate to think that everyone regresses to the mean, no matter how transcendent their peak. I will admit, by the end of this I was looking for reasons not to listen to George Harrison any longer, which breaks my heart a bit.

TK: The best thing on this is the demo version of “Here Comes the Moon,” if you listen on Spotify. I’d actually go for a full album that sounds like that demo.

MR: Yeah, I have that one on my digital version. It does show that there’s a decent song lurking underneath the production.

GB: Have you heard the Jim James tribute album to George?

TK: Nope.

GB: Pretty close to what you might be looking for.

MR: Is there an album, or just that EP?

GB: EP. Six tracks. All earlier solo stuff, though.

MR: Yeah. I haven’t heard it in forever, but I remember it being pretty good.

Somewhere in England, LP (1981)

MR: Ready for Somewhere in England? This one was infamously rejected by his label on the first try. This is the “improved” retooled version.

GB: I will give George credit for finding different ways to be boring with each album.

TK: The opening track felt like a lot of what I dislike in later Band records. “Blood from a Clone” is like a much worse version of “Shape I’m In.”

MR: I can hear that. It bugs me more with The Band though, since it takes away their strength as an actual group. If I listen to this one the same way that I approach something like McCartney II – released just a year before – I can kind of forgive the goofy synth stuff.

GB: For early-80s synth, it’s not terrible. It’s a lot to take in, but in context it probably worked.

MR: I’m actually inclined to agree. This is one of those “careful what you wish for” situations. He’s actually trying something different here. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it fails.

GB: This album feels more consistent, together than the others. More purpose. I think George’s problem is maybe that he’s just getting old… and not cool.

TK: George was pretty young still.

MR: Yeah, he always sounded older than he really was.

GB: Yeah, but musically it’s been 20+ years in the spotlight.

MR: Yep. Definitely old for a solo act trying to remain relevant in the fast-changing musical landscape of the early-80s.

GB: He had inspired a ton of people, and several had surpassed him as a result. There’s some amount of trying to keep up. He always creates a broad, complex sound. It doesn’t always work, but I respect it.

MR: I’ll just put it this way: there were 60s-70s legends that fared far worse in the 80s than George Harrison.

TK: That’s a good point. Looking at you Grace Slick…

MR: With that said, I don’t love this record, but to me, it’s more a problem with relatively weak material, rather than the production. I think some of the arrangement/production choices are kind of interesting, and work on some of the better songs.

TK: This is right after Lennon’s death, right?

MR: Yeah. “All Those Years Ago” was recorded before he died, but re-written as a tribute to John.

TK: I was reading some reviews of “All Those Years Ago” that were fairly complementary, but it didn’t do much for me.

MR: I actually like that one quite a bit; not just for the Lennon connection, but there’s some good melodic stuff happening.

TK: “That Which I’ve Lost” isn’t so bad.

GB: Agree. Even “Hong Kong Blues” works in its own way. Worst track? Baltimore Oriole”: just like the team; stuck in the basement, last place.

MR: Yeah, that one really drags. It’s the one that I was listening to when I made the “weak material” comment.

TK: Bad bad.

GB: Bad sax is bad.

TK: Again, the demo is probably my favorite thing on the digital version: “Save the World.”

MR: I can actually see this album growing on me with time. I mentioned McCartney II earlier, which is a record that I have really grown to love. This one is kind of similar in many ways. There’s a quirkiness that I find kind of endearing.

TK: It’s sort of goofy enough that I don’t hate it.

MR: I think I still prefer the previous two albums on the whole, but I will say that this one has some growth potential that those probably don’t.

Gone Troppo, LP (1982)

MR: Okay, let’s Go Troppo! Fire away, boys!

GB: Let’s not. It’s rare that I really don’t like a record. I just have not been able to connect with it. I think I can name on one hand records that I just want to give up on. This was a struggle, and I think I gave it three times through.

TK: It’s a rough listen. Best thing about this album is it reminded me that “Dream Away” was in the Time Bandits movie. That is maybe my favorite track on this for what it’s worth; low bar, but there it is.

GB: I just can’t get into it. I like Somewhere in England enough that I was really, really disappointed with Gone Troppo. It’s like he took all his misfires over those 20 years and made a record out of them. The hard criticism is that I can’t name just one thing that is wrong here. So much just doesn’t work.

TK: What’s the context with this one?

MR: It’s been seen by some as something of a piss-take. His ego took a bit of a beating with Somewhere in England being rejected, and so he made something deliberately upbeat and out-of-character.

GB: Was it better received in its time?

TK: I think it was really poorly received. I think I read that it didn’t even chart at all.

MR: It peaked at #108; his only album that didn’t make the U.S. top 20. He didn’t even make any attempt to promote it once it was released. Then, he took five years off before Cloud Nine.

GB: That feels fair. He needed time to think about what he did. Was hanging out with Jeff Lynne the missing element?

MR: Jeff Lynne is never the missing element.

TK: These albums (and Cloud Nine) also have some super lazy album covers, for whatever that matters.

MR: Yeah, Cloud Nine‘s cover is AWFUL. I’m not gonna lie, I like the first couple of tracks on this album and see some growth potential here like I do with Somewhere in England. I don’t hate it. Again though, I kind of have to view it through the “deliberately weird” McCartney II, Beach Boys Love You lens to appreciate it.

GB: I think it suffers on my end from being the last one in our rotation. I wonder if I had come to it earlier…

TK: Yeah. I was pretty down on Harrison by this point. I might actually give this one another try when I’m not suffering from “wilderness overdose.”

GB: Dosage and tolerance: will commit to come back to it to be more fair.

MR: There’s even more of that endearing goofiness on this one than Somewhere in England; it just skews a little too far toward the “goofy” in a few places.

TK: Agreed. It does at least have some life to it.

MR: “I Really Love You” is either terrible or brilliant. I suspect the former but haven’t totally ruled out the latter.

TK: It’s so weird, but sort of feels like it’s trying too hard to be light and fun.

MR: I just had to check something. I was wondering if it came out before or after Billy Joel’s “The Longest Time.” It was before, so it is – perhaps – important in kick-starting the “aging white dork does doo-wop” genre.

GB: Yes, that’s a good point. The way he kicked off bad sax.

MR: Perhaps. Either way, I don’t hate either of these last two albums that way that the general population seems to.

TK: I mostly do, but this is the one I feel like I might be most wrong about.

GB: I need to hear it in a vacuum… because there is no sound.

MR: Maybe it just needs more realty thunder sheet.


MR: Alright, before we do the playlist, a question: It seems like we’re all in agreement that Living in the Material World is the winner here.

TK: Without competition.

GB: Yes, I’ll agree to that.

MR: The question is, which other album – or pair of albums – is the nadir? I ask about pairs, because they all seem to work as duos: Dark Horse and Extra Texture = tired; Thirty Three & 1/ॐ and George Harrison = adult contemporary; Somewhere in England and Gone Troppo = weird electro-pop.

TK: Extra Texture and Thirty Three & 1/ॐ are the low points for me.

GB: I shit all over Troppo, but I’m going to say Extra Texture and Thirty Three & 1/ॐ. He gave up, and that isn’t excusable. Troppo, despite its flaws, isn’t boring.

MR: I’d say that the pairing of Dark Horse and Extra Texture is probably my least favorite. The last two may be objectively worse, but they’re at least interesting.

GB: Yeah; the drop from Dark Horse to Extra Texture is perhaps larger.

MR: Even right now, an hour after listening to Extra Texture, I can’t remember a single melody or lyric, outside of the monument of human achievement that is “You.”

TK: Honestly, Dark Horse through George Harrison are all in competition for my least favorite. It’s a tough listen to go through those.

MR: Well, perhaps that is the value in the playlist here. Let’s try to make something worthwhile out of this era.


TK: Let’s do it.

MR: Same rules as always: five picks each. Pick a number between 1-100.

GB: 33 1/3.

MR: Ah, you got it. Sorry, Trevor; first pick goes to George.

GB: First time I’ve ever won, I think.

MR: Now watch you screw it all up…

GB: “Dark Horse”

TK: “Be Here Now”

MR: “YOU”!!!!!! Round 2:

GB: “Living in the Material World”

TK: “Here Comes the Moon (Demo Version)”

MR: “Don’t Let Me Wait Too Long.” Round 3:

GB: “So Sad”

TK: “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)”

MR: “Not Guilty.” Round 4:

GB: “Faster”

TK: “Dream Away”

MR: “Woman Don’t Cry for Me.” Last round:

GB: “All Those Years Ago”

TK: Hmmm…”Gone Troppo.”

MR: “Blood from a Clone.” A lot of those add some weirdness to the mix, which I think will reflect well against the “boring” reputation.

TK: Still, for a Beatle, that’s a weak playlist for a decade of work.

GB: Would Ringo’s be stronger?

MR: Yeah, kind of weak. I think it’ll make for a decent listen though. We’ll see…

Authors

  • Matt Ryan founded Strange Currencies Music in January 2020, and remains the site's editor-in-chief. The creator of the "A Century of Song" project and co-host of the "Strange Currencies Podcast," Matt enjoys a wide variety of genres, but has a particular affinity for 60s pop, 90s indie rock, and post-bop jazz. He is an avid collector of vinyl, and a multi-instrumentalist who has played/recorded with several different bands and projects.

  • George Budney is a guest writer for Strange Currencies Music. Though he has no musical talent himself, he has the good fortune of friends that do. His interests include music, old cars, dogs, and other fringe pursuits.

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