George Harrison, “Dark Horse [early take]” from The Apple Years (2014): One Track Mind

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The sad truth is that “Dark Horse” was always much better than its execution. Recorded during the runup to George Harrison’s first (and sadly, only) U.S. tour in 1974, the song found the ex-Beatle beset with problems — from the very public dissolution of his marriage and of Apple Corps, to notable issues with his voice.

And yet “Dark Horse” itself seemed to hold a kind of talismanic power over Harrison. He named an album after it, a tour, a record label. It summed up every lowered expectation he’d ever fought against in the Beatles, and as a solo artist. As such, it probably should have been a radio favorite, too.

But it just didn’t come off as a recording, slowed by the then-in-vogue decision to include nearly a dozen sidemen and then stalled for good by a tattered rendition of the lyrics. “Dark Horse” strugged into the Billboard Top 20, and failed to chart at all in Harrison’s native UK — a devastating blow.

Harrison clearly overthought things, as illustrated by this earlier take on “Dark Horse,” part of the forthcoming George Harrison: The Apple Years 1968-75. Free of the single’s almost orchestral gauze, and powered by a Harrison vocal that’s both witty and clear, “Dark Horse” is completely reborn. This sounds like the hit it was meant to be.

WHAT IF THE BEATLES NEVER BROKE UP?

This early take on “Dark Horse” is part of an exciting group of previously unheard moments featured in the ‘George Harrison: The Apple Years 1968-75’ box, which arrives on September 23, 2014 with remastered versions of Harrison’s first six solo albums, a DVD of music videos, a short biographical film directed by his wife Olivia, and a book with additional content including unpublished photographs.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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