Re-issue Package by Phil Smee
at Waldo's Design
Published by Northern Songs
Written, Arranged and Produced by
George Harrison for Apple Records
Special thanks to friends loops and
all the staff at EMI Bombay
Re-issue digitally remastered by Ron Furmanek
at Capitol Recording Studios, Hollywood,
December 1991, Engineered by Kevin Reeves
This album was mastered from the original two-track stereo master mix tapes
This album represents George Harrison's first venture into solo work in conjunction with movies and is,
like the film for which it was the score, a creature of its time: late sixties,
full of colour, whim, daring and fantasy. As an item on new-fangled CD,
it is a little gem.
George remembers, "Joe massot, the director, asked me would I do the music for his film and I said,
'I don't know how to do musics for films,' and he said, 'Anything you do I will have in the film,'
and those were the terms on which I agreed to do the work."
"I decided to do it as a mini-anthology of Indian music because I wanted to help turn the public on to Indian music". Joe Massot showed him a rough uncut version of the film at Twickenham Film Studios and on that George composed an overall soundtrack.
After visiting Bombay for the Indian sequences he remarked, "It was fantastic really. The studio is on top of the offices but there's no sound-proofing. So if you listen closely to some of the Indian tracks on the LP you can hear taxis goung by."
"Every time the office knocked off at 5.30 we had to stop recording because you could just hear everybody stomping down the steps. They only had a big EMI mono machine. I mixed everything as we did it there, and that was nice enough because you get spoiled working on eight and sixteen tracks."
Back at EMI in Abbey Road, George recorded the British contingent, including Eric Clapton, Tony Ashton and others in The Remo Four, plus Ringo Starr, John Barham and Tommy Reilly.
George reported to Twickenham studio before going to Abbey Road, on a regular basis. There were hundreds of music cues in the film and he recalls, "I had a regular wind-up stopwatch and I watched the film to "spot-in" the music with the watch. I wrote the timings down in my book, then I'd go to Abbey Road, make up a piece, record it and when we'd synch it up at Twickenham it always worked. it was always right."
The film itself is a late "Swinging London" era tale of Oscar, a professor (played by Jack MacGowran), who works for the water board. Late one night he sees an image of a girl projected in his room. He discovers that it is emanating from a small hole in the wall, and looking through it he sees Jane Birkin, a beautiful model. To see more of her he makes more holes - and becomes besotted with her. She is being treated badly by the leading man played by Iain Quarrier and there are psychedelic fantasies. That's more or less it. Featured players included the estimable Irene Handl & Richard Wattis. The film was not commercially successful but not a disaster and it was premiered in Cannes with George Harrison and Ringo Starr and Jane Birkin along for the event.
After its London premiere on January 20, 1969, Gordon Gow wrote in the March issue of Films and Filming, "Unlesss you are jaded by too prolonged an exposure to the swinging half-myth, you might quite enjoy the blending of bright colours and Harrison music in Wonderwall . . . the Harrison music replaces dialogue, waxing almost vocal like a cinema organist from the silent days."
I remember the "Wonderwall" project well, insofar that it involved me, back in Apple HQ in Savile Row. We had a lofty American designer Bob Gill do a post- Magritte painting of a brick wall with an archetypal member of the mid 20th Century British bourgeoisie, isolated, loitering, separated by the wall from the Indian maidens at play on the other side in, as you can see, a state and place of ideal happiness. It was a nice painting but missed the essence of hope.
George remembers, "I suggested we take a brick out of the wall to give the fellow on the other side a chance, just as the Jack MacGowran character had a chance. Bob Gill didn't want to do it, but he did it." Well I remember that wall, that brick.
With what difference one suggests to an artist that he changes the form and essence of his work, however slightly. Bob Gill and I never quite recoverd our compatibility but the brick did have to go so it went. Were we right? Yes.
The other wall was brought in by George, who got an agency ten-by-eight of the Berlin barrier. It was then reversed and here you now have a nice bright little graphic, innovative in those days, proud and sharp as the prow of a liner.
All these years later, "Wonderwall" is as charming, fascinating and original a soundtrack as you could wish to have re-released all these years later. Put on the player, put on the light-show, brighten up and let go.