George Harrison Had to Get Permission to Sample 1 of His Beatles Songs on ‘Live in Japan’
In 1992, George Harrison released Live in Japan, a selection of live songs he performed over his 1991 12-show tour with Eric Clapton. The former Beatle was initially reluctant to go on the road, but Clapton said it’d be easier since he and his band were coming. George used the tour as an excuse to stop smoking and get out of his rut.
After his first show, George realized the Japanese tour would be unlike any other. Ultimately, he thanked Clapton for giving him the push he needed to do it. Plus, George got a live album out of it. Although, he ran into some trouble with one of his Beatles songs.
George Harrison performed some of the songs on ‘Live in Japan’ for the first time
Live in Japan is special for one reason. George had never performed many of the album’s tracks live before. He told Scott Muni at WNEW-FM (per George Harrison on George Harrison: Interviews and Encounters), “A lot of the songs that I had done, I had wrote them and then I recorded them, I sang it that one time on the record, and never, ever done them since.
“So to me they’re like new songs—like ‘I Want to Tell You’ and ‘Old Brown Shoe,’ even ‘Taxman,’ I’ve only ever sang it the one time.
“‘Piggies,’ you see, I’ve never really done that one before, and all my new songs like ‘Cloud Nine’ and ‘Cheer Down,’ ‘Devil’s Radio,’ even something like ‘Isn’t It a Pity’ has been around since 1970, that song from ‘All Things Must Pass.’ But the first time I ever performed it. It’s really good for me to … see, it’s like singing new songs.”
However, George thought recording the songs on Live in Japan would be tough. He thought there was too much power on stage.
“I’m happy about it anyway,” George said. “I thought it turned out good; it’s got a really good sound considering live isn’t the easiest thing to record and mix and hold onto the kind of—you know, because you’ve got so much power on the stage with all the amplification, but to put it back into a CD and try to have it sound as powerful, it’s not that easy. But I think it came out pretty good.
“I’m very happy. You know, all the time I was mixing the record, as I said earlier, it’s not that easy mixing trying to get the feel of the show onto disc, but I’m very happy how it turned out.”
George told Timothy White during a 1992 interview for Goldmine that he was “knocked” out by how great Live in Japan sounded. Still, George ran into a problem sampling one of his Beatles songs.
George had to get permission to sample one Beatles song on ‘Live in Japan’
During an interview, Rockline pointed out to George that there’s some sampling on Live in Japan here and there. He replied, “Yeah, well you can’t bring cello players and hundreds of saxophone players with you, really.”
Then, Rockline mentioned George’s live version of “Taxman.” There’s some sampling at the beginning from the Revolver version.
George explained, “Yeah, the keyboard player, Chuck Leavell, he went out and bought ‘Revolver’ for the rehearsal and sampled it onto it. It actually delayed the release of the record because I had to get permission to use it.”
Rockline asked, “Did you? Oh, that’s right, you don’t have the rights anymore, do you?” George replied, “Well, I don’t think we had them in the first place.”
George likely had to go to the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, for permission to sample “Taxman” since he owned The Beatles’ catalog at the time. At least he was granted permission. It is his song, after all.
The former Beatle said the live version of ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ is better than the original recording
George thought recording Live in Japan would be challenging, but it came out great, even if Jackson delayed it. One of the things George loved most was the live version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
George and Clapton first worked on the song together in 1968. It became the first Beatles song to have someone from outside the band play on it. During their Japanese tour, they finally got to perform it. George thought the live version sounded better than the original recording.
He told Muni, “Well, the obvious one when Eric and I get together, which is the first song that we ever did together, which was ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps,’ and I’m particularly happy about the way it came out on the live version.
“It’s far superior, I think, to the original studio recording, and Eric just plays his butt off. It’s really good.”
Unfortunately, Live in Japan was George’s last live album. However, it goes down in music history as one of the best.