George Harrison, “The Inner Light (alt. take)” from The Apple Years (2014): One Track Mind

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Certainly, we expected to gain new insights from George Harrison’s early solo work via The Apple Years 1968-75. But there’s also something to be learned about his time in the Beatles.

Because Harrison was at work on 1968’s utterly gorgeous “The Inner Light” during the sessions for his own Wonderwall Music album, there’s an early instrumental take to enjoy from his stand-alone b-side for the Beatles’ “Lady Madonna.” One of Harrison’s most successful marriages of raga and rock, “The Inner Light” was recorded in India with a group of local musicians. This fascinating, newly unearthed recording provides us with unique insight into the role Harrison played in constructing the drone-like backing track, as we hear him discussing the song before they commence playing.

The take was recorded in January of 1968 at EMI’s Bombay studio, featuring the sarod, pakhavaj, shehnai and harmonium — rather than the then-more-familiar Harrison favorites like tamboura and sitar. That gave “The Inner Light,” another ground-breaking moment in what we’d come to know as “world music,” this exciting new texture.

Harrison later added a lyric based on Tao Te Ching, overdubbing his voice back at Abbey Road in early February. Background vocals from John Lennon and Paul McCartney were flown in toward the end of the released track. This would be the first time a Harrison song appeared on a single by the Beatles — presaging a series of songwriting triumphs to come.

The 6CD/1DVD ‘The Apple Years 1968-75’ set is due September 23, 2014 via the Universal Music Group. Featured are every one of Harrison’s solo albums from ‘Wonderwall Music’ through 1975’s ‘Extra Texture,’ with lots of tasty extras like this one.

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