George Harrison played slide guitar on a song I wrote called Punchdrunk. Sometimes it slips my mind and then I remember and I think,”Holy shit, I played with a Beatle!”
But let me set the scene. We had arrived in Boston some 18 months previous and had been homeless and penniless for most of that time. We were surviving on $5 each a day which we used to spend in a place called Mikes Diner in Davis square in Somerville. We could get a fried pepper burger and fries for that and it was pretty good. It was written in chalk on a huge menu board as fr. pepper burger and for weeks we were ordering the father pepper burger to sniggers from the staff until someone clued us in. That was our life back then. Trying to find places to sleep, trying to scrounge up some gigs and mostly trying to stay warm.
18 months later we were lying on the sand in South Beach , Miami, on the record labels dime, looking liked undercooked chickens, debating the pros and cons of having Beatle, George Harrison play guitar on our new record. We were a bunch of knuckle heads back then but even by our standards this was a picture.
We had just finished recording a song called Punchdrunk, a mid tempo ballad and a mutual friend was picking George and his wife Olivia up from the airport on his stopover from London to Hawaii. This mutual friend happened to be playing a rough mix of the song in the car and George remarked that he liked it. And that was the end of it.
Apparently several days later, he was in his kitchen in Hawaii whistling a tune and asked his wife what it was because he couldn’t get it out of his head. “I think that’s the song by those Irish boys” Olivia remarked. And so , ever the musician, he called us up and offered to play some guitar on the track. We said we had to think about it!
Of course we came to our senses and he played his parts in London on Christmas Day 1998. I remember getting the tapes back from him and sitting in A&M studios in Hollywood listening. What I loved most about it was listening to the performance by itself and the space between the parts when you can hear him breathing and you can hear the ambience of the room. It is a great guitar part and so George.
He sent a note back with the tapes that said “I don’t know if it’s suitable and now I’m going back to my Christmas Pudding”. I suppose all musicians are insecure no matter how successful. George was always my favourite Beatle and a hugely underrated guitar player and song writer and I am humbled that he heard something in my song that moved him.
The funny thing about this particular song was I had borrowed some chords from a song called “I ME MINE”, written by guess who? George Harrison. I always wondered if he gravitated to the song because he heard something of himself in it. Who knows.
And so twenty years later , George is gone but never forgotten and a little piece of him lives on in a song called Punchdrunk.
You can listen to my latest musical offering-“The sky on my Birthday here .No Beatle in the flesh but definitely in spirit.
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