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In 1991, George Harrison gave a 12-concert tour for Japanese audiences with his long-time friend Eric Clapton. George had trepidation about touring again after so many years, especially since his disastrous 1974 solo tour of America. However, the tour turned out to be enjoyable for him and Clapton.

One of the best things about the tour was the audience. Playing for the Japanese was unlike playing for other countries.

George Harrison performing at Bob Dylan's 30th anniversary celebration in 1992.
George Harrison | KMazur/WireImage

George Harrison performed for Japanese audiences with The Beatles in 1965

In 1992, George told the Chicago Tribune that Clapton asked him to do a Japanese tour after many questioned the Cream guitarist where George was. When George heard that and acknowledged he was in a rut, he agreed to join the 12-concert tour. It would be short, just long enough for George to enjoy it, he wouldn’t be alone, and it was also an excuse for him to stop smoking.

Plus, George remembered how enjoyable it was performing for Japanese audiences. He’d toured the country with The Beatles in 1965.

When Clapton was organizing the setlist for the 1991 Japanese tour, he started each show with The Beatles’ “I Want to Tell You” because The Beatles had played the song during their performance in Tokyo.

George liked Japanese audiences better than Americans

When George played the 12-concert tour, he found that the Japanese audiences hadn’t changed much. They were still an enjoyable crowd and contributed to how much George enjoyed performing during the tour.

In an interview, George said, “I like them very much. I like the Japanese people-are very polite. Now, some people don’t like to play to them because they think they’re very quiet after American audiences.

“But I like them, they’re very nice people, they listen, and they applaud and once you get used to the fact that they’re not all drunk and screaming like they are in America maybe, then it’s OK.

“It was better for me to test the atmosphere here, it was Eric’s idea actually because the audiences are known to be appreciative, whereas you just don’t know what’s going to happen if you go to Europe or America.”

The Japanese audiences were a welcome site after George’s 1974 American tour. The press and fans shredded George to bits. He had laryngitis, so his voice was shot for most of it, and no one liked that there were long Indian music sessions. Plus, George didn’t play many Beatles songs like most were expecting.

When he came back, George was exhausted and essentially swore off touring. He played a couple of gigs throughout the years but never toured. So, George was right when he said the Japanese tour was a good place to start if he wanted to jump back into performing.


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There was one challenging moment on the tour, but it was satisfying for the former Beatle

George told the Chicago Tribune that the tour had a rough start. The first unofficial concert on the final day of rehearsals was for VIPs. It was the worst.

“It was a very cold concert,” George said. “They were clapping, but it was more difficult than we thought. That warmed us up, though. The first real show I had some nerves, but it was just the right balance of nerves and adrenaline, and it proved to be one of the best performances.”

After that performance, the rest of the tour ran smoothly.

“After three or four nights of doing the concerts, my ego was satisfied,” George said. “I’m the kind of person who would love to play whenever I felt like, with a band, and it might as well be the Holiday Inn in Nebraska — somewhere where no one knows you and you’re in a band situation just playing music.”

George’s Japanese tour was just long enough for him to enjoy it. If it had been longer, he would have started hating it. It got him out of his rut and helped him stop smoking. It wasn’t like the tours he’d been on in the rest of the world, and most of that was thanks to the Japanese people.