George Harrison Said His Old Songs Felt New When He Performed Them for the First Time During His 1991 Japanese Tour

George Harrison said his old songs felt new when he performed them for the first time during his 1991 Japanese tour.

The former Beatle set out on the 12-show tour after his long-time friend, Eric Clapton, convinced him. George had mostly sworn off touring after his disastrous first solo American tour in 1974. However, in the early 1990s, George was in a rut. Clapton told George people had been asking about him and suggested he come on the road with his band. George jumped on the opportunity.

Touring with Clapton and his band was easier than organizing something himself, and it got him out of his rut. Still, that wasn’t all the benefits of George and Clapton’s Japanese tour. He got to perform some of his oldest songs for the first time.

George Harrison at the 1992 Billboard Music Awards.
George Harrison | Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

How George Harrison chose his setlist for his Japanese tour

In 1992, George told Scott Muni at WNEW-FM (per George Harrison on George Harrison: Interviews and Encounters) that he couldn’t avoid performing his older Beatles songs during his 1991 Japanese tour. He didn’t like playing his Beatles hits too much. However, he knew fans would be upset if he didn’t play them.

“Yeah, well you got to get a set together, obviously, but it was not that difficult,” George explained. “What I did was I chose songs that had been singles or hits or ones that had been meaningful during like the Beatle period, or just songs of my own compositions from Beatle periods.

“I put together a cassette of maybe thirty songs, gave it to all the musicians, and then they kind of went through it. When we met for rehearsals there were the obvious ones that we were going to do, like I couldn’t really avoid doing them, things like ‘Something,’ ‘Here Comes the Sun,’ ‘Guitar Gently Weeps.’ And I wanted to add some songs.”

Most of George’s setlist included songs he’d never performed live; some of his later Beatles songs and tunes from his solo career, including his newer songs he’d recorded for 1987’s Cloud Nine.

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George said his old songs felt new when he performed them for the first time during his 1991 Japanese tour

Before his Japanese tour, the last time George played the songs on his setlist was when he recorded them. Since that was the first time George performed them, they felt like new songs.

“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,” George explained.

“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.”

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The former Beatle was impressed with how the live album turned out

George and Clapton first worked together on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” in the late 1960s. They finally got to perform the song together during their Japanese tour. George explained that the song’s live version sounded better than the original recording.

“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.”

George was pleased with how the entire live album sounded.

“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.

“The engineer, John Harris, was excellent, and I thought, because I was being precautious, I think it turned out even better than what I was expecting. And it was a great band to work with, and I just hope I can do it again sometime.”

George’s Japanese tour allowed him to finally perform all of the songs he hadn’t before, whether they were older or newer. Unfortunately, it was his last tour, but it gave fans so much.

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