George Harrison Wrote This Album as a ‘Mini-Anthology of Indian Music’

The first solo George Harrison album was supposed to highlight a contradiction in the way George reacted to Indian music. George explained why Indian music meant so much to him.

The first solo George Harrison album came out years before The Beatles split. George revealed he wanted the record to serve as a “mini-anthology of Indian music.” He also explained why Indian music meant so much to him. The record in question was a much bigger hit in the United States than it was in the United Kingdom.

The 1st solo George Harrison album was the soundtrack of a hippie movie

George released his first solo album, Wonderwall Music, in 1968, two years before The Beatles’ breakup. The album was the soundtrack to the hippie-themed movie Wonderwall. During a 1993 interview from the book George Harrison on George Harrison: Interviews and Encounters, George was asked to discuss the record. “Well, in talking about this world music, because of my fascination with Indian music — and by that time, I’d been to India a couple of times — when I did that music, what I was trying to do was a mini-anthology of Indian music,” he said.

“I was trying to show within the score of that film as many different aspects of what had turned me on in Indian music,” he added. “And so I used all different instruments: shehnais, which are these incredible wind instruments, and surbahar, which is like a deep version of the sitar, and all the tablas, various drums.”

George Harrison said there was an interesting contradiction within ‘Wonderwall Music’

George had a lot to say about one of the Indian instruments he used on Wonderwall Music. “And there’s a fantastic instrument called the santoor which has got 116 strings or something, and it’s played with little wooden … it’s the equivalent to the cimbalom, which is the Western instrument,” he explained. “It’s a bunch of strings strung over a box, and you play it with little hammers that you hold between your first and second finger and your thumb.”

George said Indian classical music was exciting to him at the time. He liked that it sounded new to him, but simultaneously ancient. The “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)” singer hoped he could highlight that contrast through Wonderwall Music.

The album was a hit in the United States and a non-entity in the United Kingdom

In 1969, Wonderwall Music became a minor hit in the United States. The soundtrack reached No. 49 on the Billboard 200, staying on the chart for 16 weeks. It didn’t produce any singles, so the fact that it reached the top 50 is a testament to The Beatles’ popularity in the late 1960s. To this day, Wonderwall Music is far more famous than the associated movie.

According to The Official Charts Company, Wonderwall Music never charted in the United Kingdom. It’s interesting that the record was more popular in the U.S. than it was in the U.K., even though George was English. Regardless of Wonderwall Music‘s poor performance in the U.K., it still helped create raga rock, a fusion genre combining rock with Indian classical music.

Wonderwall Music didn’t become a massive hit, but it highlighted one of George’s major passions.

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