George Harrison said Jeff Lynne’s singing voice made him want to try harder on his vocals for his 1987 album, Cloud Nine. However, Lynne might have formed his singing voice on George’s.
George Harrison’s worst singing ever
For the most part, George’s singing voice was always in top form. Except during his first solo American tour in 1974.
Before his Dark Horse Tour, George did a lot of recording. It exhausted him and wore out his voice.
“That was the problem in 1974, when I toured America,” George explained to Rolling Stone in 1979. “I’d done three albums before I went on the road, and I was still trying to finish my own album as we were rehearsing, and also we’d done this other tour in Europe with these classical Indian musicians. By the time it came to going on the road I was already exhausted.
“With the Beatles we used to do thirty minutes onstage, and we could get it down to twenty-five minutes if we did it fast. We were on and off and ‘thank you,’ and back to the hotel. Suddenly to have to be playing two and one-half hours for forty-seven gigs, flying all round, I was wasted.”
George got laryngitis by the tour’s first show in Vancouver, Canada. His voice sounded so bad that many critics dubbed it “The Dark Hoarse Tour.”
It was so chaotic that Rolling Stone wrote that George had to resort to “snorting mountains of cocaine” to keep up. It didn’t help George’s singing. George tried to help his throat by constantly gargling with a mixture of honey, vinegar, and warm water. The substance helped minimally.
Critics and fans didn’t have the best things to say about the tour.
George said Lynne’s singing voice made him want to try harder on his vocals on ‘Cloud Nine’
In the late-1980s, George asked Lynne to be his producer on Cloud Nine. They got on well as friends and songwriting partners.
“It’s a bit tiring doing everything yourself, you know, and I think the input, which is what I’ve been missing over the last few albums, I got it with Jeff Lynne,” George told Ray Martin in 1988 (per George Harrison on George Harrison: Interviews and Encounters).
Lynne inspired George, including in the vocal department. The producer made George want to try harder on his singing.
“As to the performing and singing, being in better voice, I’ll tell ya, Jeff Lynne, who coproduced the album with me, has got such a good voice that it made me really want to try hard, you know, to do some decent vocals, and I think they’re sort of quite good,” George said. “Not bad, anyway. I think it’s the reason of Jeff being there, you know, during the production that helped me try harder.”
However, Lynne might have formed his singing voice around The Beatles since he was such a huge fan. Ironically, George once said Lynne was a Beatles copycat, but he grew to love Lynne and his music.
The former Beatle tried to sound like Bob Dylan
While Lynne imitated George’s singing, George tried to do better on his vocals because of Lynne’s singing. However, there was always someone else George was modeling his vocals on; Bob Dylan.
In 1989, George told Mark Rowland (per George Harrison on George Harrison) that his singing voice came from Dylan. Rowland pointed out that in certain parts of George’s singing, there was “a little Dylan-esque kind of inflection.”
George replied, “Oh, yeah…. It’s probably just ’cause my voice is so bad. [Chuckles.] You know, out of all the contemporaries of ours, you know, I mean, it goes with the same list of favorites that I’ve had for years, going from Little Richard and Larry Williams and all that kind of stuff, to the rock ‘n’ roll Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran, Carl Perkins, you know, that stuff. And in 1963, Bob Dylan.
“And Bob, you know, as a songwriter … and as a singer, I happen to think his voice is great. I love all that sort of madness… So consequently, over the years I’ve always listened to his music, and I’ve never tried to imitate. I have just as a joke sometimes. I think, basically, being born in Liverpool, you have this nasal sort of kind of thing.”
George’s voice was unique. He never had to try to sound good; he already did.