If you listen to the track “Sour Milk Sea” by Jackie Lomax, written by Harrison, there is no doubt that the title of this interview is as correct as they come. The track is a really good early rocker, harder than most of those who haven`t heard it would believe.
George is a rocker again!
He confesses to Alan Smith
THROUGH rain, tempest and flood, George (` Hey Jude ‘ is at No. 1) Harrison drove up to London this week to join his mate Jackie Lomax for a cuppa tea and a chat. I sat with them in the new Apple offices in Savile Row, in comfort and style beneath the white angels and the cherubs frolicking on the ceiling in Georgian splendour. And as we talked, our chairs sank deep into the green Wilton that stretched miles towards the vast white walls of the beautiful room.
It was all very posh and awe-inspiring and – had I not been in the company of such normal people – I suspect, I might easily have succumbed to illusions of grandeur complaining about the terrible servant problem one gets in London these days.
We talked mainly around the theme of “Sour Milk Sea,” that boom-boom kick-in-the-stomach rocker which George wrote and produced and which Jackie sings on his Apple single released two or three weeks ago.
The idea of them getting together emerged somewhere around 1963, but the Beatles suddenly had a few other matters to attend to. Jackie left the Undertakers, kicked around, went to America and came back again, and, only now are he and George getting the time to work out ideas.
I told George it had been a bit of a surprise to find him writing and producing this big rocking number, considering the aura of Indian influence he’d built up over the last couple of years. Was it a deliberate attempt to smash his image?
George: “This is the problem. You see, I’ve got my `Wonderwall` album coming out in a couple of weeks, and that’s very Indian-influenced.
It’s not me
“But the thing with that is, I recorded it in December of last year and January 1968. I still like it. I still think it’s very good. But it’s not me.
“I`m back to being a rocker now… for a bit, at least! You go through so many changes and realisations, and so often you come right back where you started.
“I’ve realised another thing, that you can write a melody and it can be absolutely anything you like. It can become a jazz song, a folk song, a rock ‘n’ roll song — it can be anything. It just depends how you treat it.
“For instance, you could sing `Long Tall Sally’ very sweet, or you could even do it as an Indian song if you wanted to. It’s really a matter of concept.
“I’ll tell you one of the things that influenced me in music in the last few months… around June I went to America because I’d promised to do a little part in this film of Ravi Shankar’s. And around that time I had my sitar, and something happened whereby we never got the flight back from Los Angeles, and we ended up going to New York for two nights.
“Well, the general influence of the music… just to go to America… it has an effect. If I was to go to the States now, this week, I’d pick up something of the vibration of what’s going on.
“What I got over there last time was like the thing of Electric Flag and all that. That’s what’s going on over there.”
I said some people might feel what was a Beatle doing saying he was still greatly influenced by the pop music of others, when it was generally felt that the Beatles were themselves the Leaders of Influence.
George didn’t see it that way. Said he: “We are only a collection of all the things we’ve ever been influenced by. We don’t copy, of course. But the feel of the music in the States was heavy, and I happen to like that, and it just happened that when I got to New York there were people there like Jimi Hendrix and all of them and I really like what they’re doing.
“After that I felt: Well, to go into one thing, you’ve got to neglect something else. For me to go into rock ‘n’ roll and become, a rock ‘n’ roll guitarist as I want to, I’ve got to neglect Indian music.
“As for me working on the rock scene with Jackie, our general idea is just to do a lot of tracks to see what comes out next. We’re mainly doing Jackie’s compositions at the moment, not mine.
“It’s a funny thing, but I wrote ‘Sour Milk Sea` in Rikishesh in ten minutes. I didn’t have a guitar in India, and John had a guitar, but was always playing it and there was only about ten minutes or half an hour, say, of an evening when I borrowed his guitar and wrote that song.
“Even though I was in India, I always imagined the song as rock ‘n’ roll. That was the intention.”
And with sales of “Sour Milk Sea” gathering momentum and Jackie’s record looking as if it could do very well for itself if it doesn’t watch out, how does George rate its chances?
Answer: “I don’t think it’s an obvious hit, but I think it’s a very good record. The whole thing of it is very good, although I think that, in a way, it goes above the heads of some people. It’s not the type of record your mums and dads and all those type of people would buy – like a Mary Hopkin record.
“The thing is, you either have the choice of trying to make a hit, or trying to do what you want to do. And we made that choice… Jackie’s whole thing is rock ‘n` roll, and we both like that heavy, tight sound.
“We’re now thinking of all those people who like rock `n` roll music — and there’s a hell of a lot of people who just want to hear that boom-boom sort of thing.”
Now he’s on his rock kick, however, how does George feel about some of his earlier, Indian-influenced work — “Inner Light,” for example?
He gives a grin. “That was one of my precocious things.
“Very precocious, I am, when I get going.”