From Beatle to Believer
George Harrison's embrace of Indian spirituality riled critics and Beatles fans, bringing him to a low point in his career.
George Harrison's third solo album, "Dark Horse," was released in October 1974. Reporters at a Los Angeles press conference asked about his involvement with Indian spirituality and the reluctance he had been professing to delve into his past as a Beatle.
"I realize that The Beatles did fill a space in the Sixties," he said. "All the people that the Beatles meant something to have grown up and want to hold on to something. People are afraid of change-but you can't live in the past."
Did he think, the reporter asked, that it was possible to be spiritual in the material world? "Our consciousness has been so polluted with material energy," George said, "that it is hard to see our way towards anything spiritual. But everyone has within him the same qualities as God, just as a drop of the ocean has the same qualities as the ocean. Everybody's looking for something outside, but it's all right there within ourselves." That conviction was about to be severely tested.
The "Dark Horse" album earned George the worst reviews of his career. Writers complained that the tracks seemed unrehearsed, that vocals were out of tune, that the melodies were unremarkable and the lyrics weak. "Dismal," one reviewer groused, "an album which should never have happened." Another reviewer declared George a failure as a singer, songwriter, and guitarist. Two singles spun off from the album failed to reach the U.K. top 30, the first solo Beatle records to perform so poorly. Compared with his previous grand successes, reviewers deemed this album a complete disaster.
A seven-week promotional Dark Horse Tour began on November 2, 1974, and things went from bad to worse. George opened each show with Ravi Shankar and a troupe of Indian musicians playing a lengthy program of Indian classical music that had fans yawning and restless. When he came on to perform the second half, George's constant exhortations to "Chant Krishna! Christ! Krishna! Christ! Allah! Buddha!" added to their unease. He came across as zealous, alienating much of his audience. At one concert someone yelled out a request for his hit single "Bangladesh."
"You can chant 'Krishna, Krishna, Krishna,' and maybe you'll feel better," George said into the microphone. "But if you just shout 'Bangladesh, Bangladesh, Bangladesh,' it's not going to help anybody."