Back it Up A Little

Image result for harrison my sweet lordThis week the podcast visited a chunk of George Harrison’s life, specifically the aftermath of the copyright infringement lawsuit surrounding “My Sweet Lord” and the tune inspired by the suit, titled “This Song”.

With regard to “My Sweet Lord,” someone commented, “I always did like the black gospel singers singing “Hare Krishna”. Most of them probably had no idea what they were saying.” And he’s at least partially right. If listeners weren’t listening too closely, they may not have realized that the backup singers were singing “Hare Krishna”, in part because for the first couple of verses, they sing “Hallelujah”. It’s certainly possible that they stopped listening too closely after that point.

After the song’s bridge, the backups stop singing “Hallelujah” as a response to each line, instead moving on to the first part of the Hare Krishna mantra:

Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare
Hare Rama, Hare Rama

According to his autobiography I Me Mine, it was always George’s intention to have the voices singing “Hare Krishna” in alternation with “Hallelujah,” largely to demonstrate that they mean more or less the same thing. They do, in fact, return to “Hallelujah” a couple of times before switching to a Vedic prayer (I’ve replaced a few letters containing diacritical marks with typical Roman letters, to make it a little easier to read here):

Gurur Brahmā, gurur Visnur,
gurur devo Maheśvarah,
gurus sāksāt, param Brahma
tasmai śrī gurave namah.

Which, according to Joshua Greene, translates as:

I offer homage to my guru, who is as great as the creator Brahma, the maintainer Vishnu, the destroyer Shiva, and who is the very energy of God.

It’s one of fourteen verses of a hymn praising Hindu teachers.

But there’s another element to the backup singers that you may find surprising: it’s not a Gospel group singing. Now, on the Billy Preston version, it’s absolutely a Gospel group. As I noted on the podcast, those are the Edwin Hawkins Singers, who had a hit of their own with “Oh Happy Day”, and had also just been noted for singing backup for Melanie on her breakout hit “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain).” So who’s providing the backup voices for “My Sweet Lord”?

They’re all George Harrison, hence the credit on the album sleeve to “the George O’Hara-Smith Singers”!

Episode 6: This Song by George Harrison

This is the original sleeve that the record came in. I still have mine, though not quite in this condition.

In the mid 1970s, George Harrison was having a rough time of it. He was still embroiled in the lawsuit over “My Sweet Lord”, he was tangled up in other legal issues caused by his breakup with his business manager, his album Extra Texture had taken a beating by the critics, and to top it all off, while recording Thirty Three and 1/3 he was struck with hepatitis and couldn’t work for most of the summer of 1976.

 

A still from the promotional film (they weren’t calling them “videos” yet) for This Song, from near the end. If you look closely you can see that George’s playing hand is cuffed to the cop, played by Harry Nilsson.

But he managed to turn it around with the release of this, the first single off the album. It didn’t exactly tear up the charts (it peaked at #25 on the Hot 100), but it did remind us all that George was still around and could still bring it when he wanted to.

This episode was inspired by a suggestion by a friend of mine, who originally asked me to write about a different song that appears on the same album. It turns out that the story behind that song is quite short, not long enough for a full podcast, so I’m saving it for a post you’ll see in a couple of days.

As usual, if you haven’t subscribed via iTunes or your favorite podcast catcher, you can download it or you can listen right here:

And of course, if you’re so inclined, please leave a review on your favorite podcast software. Thanks so much for your support!

As promised, here’s the video. So tell me: who can you identify? And is that vampiric-looking prosecutor really Michael Richards?

And just for the giggles, here’s Billy Preston’s version, which was recorded first. You can still hear the “He’s So Fine” echoes in it, but I think that, compared to Harrison, Preston might have gotten away with it:

 

Update to Episode 1

Hey, gang!

It’s been great to get the positive feedback and such from you folks in the few short weeks since How Good It Is first launched. I made those first few before the official launch date, so I was working in a bit of a vacuum. And when it comes to stuff like this, I’m my own harshest critic. Back in my Radio Days I was known for doing dozens of takes before finally going back and deciding that Take 17 was “eh, good enough”.

One of my brothers has been listening regularly and is probably my second-toughest critic. But he invariably raises good points so I can’t fault him for it. He told me that he’s actively looking for a song (by a specific artist) for me to do a show about. My other brother, I don’t know if he’s been listening, but that’s OK. I’m pretty sure my wife doesn’t listen, either. Or my father, or my sisters, or my daughters, or…you get the picture.

Anyway, this post is actually in response to some feedback I’d received.

During Episode 1 I noted that the song “I’m Not In Love” by 10cc peaked at Number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart, and that in each of the three weeks it spent in that position, there was a different #1 song. Someone in the Land of Social Media asked me, “So what are those three songs?” You took the time to listen, so I took the time to look it up.

Image result for van mccoy the hustleWhen it first reached #2 the week of July 26, 1975, the #1 song was “The Hustle” by Van McCoy.

 

Image result for eagles one of these nights

For the week of August 2, 1975, The Eagles’ “One of These Nights” was at #1.

 

Image result for jive talkinFinally, on my oldest daughter’s (negative seventeenth) birthday, it was “Jive Talkin'” by the Bee Gees.

 

As a 12-year-old, I was pretty immersed in pop music and I’d look at the Top 20 chart that was published in Long Island’s Newsday every week. I kind of remember that summer being one in which the charts churned a lot of change from week to week. So remaining in one position, even if it was #2, for several weeks, was still a bit of an event.

Next week we dive into a solo single by one of the Beatles.

Episode 1: I’m Not In Love by 10cc

Click here for a transcript of this episode.

In our premiere episode, we take a look at 10cc’s biggest hit, “I’m Not In Love”. We’ll talk about:

  • What does that title mean, anyway?
  • Where did that ethereal sound come from?
  • What’s the story behind the band’s name?

Your RSS feed should have the post by now, but you can always listen to it right here:

I think we can all tell that it’s been several years since I’ve been behind a microphone. It gets better, I swear.


Some of the sources behind this week’s show:

An interview with Graham Gouldman, songwriter and 10cc band member.

George Tremlett (1976). The 10cc Story. Futura. ISBN 978-0-86007-378-9.

Band name origin:

Snopes.com, “10cc””. Snopes.com. Retrieved 10 August 2010.

“Interview with Kevin Godley, Rock N Roll Universe online interview, April 2007”. Rocknrolluniverse.com. Retrieved 10 August 2010.

“Godley & Creme interviewed in Pulse magazine, April 1988”. Minestrone.org. Archived from the original on 20 November 2008. Retrieved 10 August 2010.

Bossa Nova version, Kathy Redfern’s contribution:

Buskin, Richard (June 2005). “Classic Tracks: 10cc – ‘I’m Not in Love'”. Sound on Sound. Cambridge, England: SOS Publications: 62–69. Retrieved 21 September 2015.

Chromatic Scale recordings:

Presenters: Richard Allinson and Steve Levine (9 May 2009). “The Record Producers – 10cc”. The Record Producers. Season 3. Episode 4. BBC. BBC Radio 2.

Jump to Mercury Records:
“I Write The Songs”. The10ccfanclub.com. Retrieved 27 March 2014.