History: In November 1968 while in Los Angeles, George Harrison was given a demonstration of a Moog synthesizer by Bernie Krause, a musician and salesman for the company. Without Bernie’s knowledge, George recorded the demo, and it became side 2 of this album. Side 1 was recorded by George himself once he had his own Moog purchased and set up in his home. He also painted the cover art for the album.
My own history and initial prediction: This is an album I had no idea existed. I was definitely intrigued by it and was very curious to see what it would sound like. I grew a bit weary of electronica in the 90s, seeing as how most of it was designed for dance clubs and therefore featured a lot of repetition. But I was very curious to see if this very early version of electronic music could have hints of that within it.
What I worked on while I listened:
Review: Well, this is definitely not electronica or anything like it, which I suppose I should have known from the start. Knowing now that this was the only other Zapple release besides Life with the Lions makes a lot of sense. Zapple was a short lived experiment by the Beatles to have an outlet for more experimental music and this definitely has a degree of similarity with those albums John and Yoko were doing. However while this is still not music in the traditional sense, it’s not nearly as much of a strain of your patience. There are melodies here, and being as how it is recorded with the synth instrument, most of the sounds are either musical in nature or at least fit right along side it as sound effects. The closest modern equivalent I can compare it to is drone music.
Side 1 is titled “Under the Mersey Wall.” The sounds used here reminded me of airplane engines and vacuums at different places, along with various bleeps and bloops and other similar electronic sounds. There’s very little repetition here, as George seems to be very much feeling his way around the synthesizer and making whatever sounds feel right to him at the time. I definitely got some similar feelings to Wonderwall Music at times, and in this case there’s a very creepy somber atmosphere that he’s building over the course of the entire track.
Side 2 is titled “No Time or Space” and as I said before isn’t really Harrison’s composition. Bernie Krause was not aware he was being recorded and was very upset once he found out about it, as he said it contained ideas he wanted to use for his own musical compositions. Apparently this was before copyright law was changed, leaving Bernie no real recourse for what happened. As I listened to this I wasn’t aware of the history, and my main thought while listening was that it sounded like a variety of very typical sounds you could hear on any sci-fi show of the time period. There’s lots of howling wind and static and sounds that you would think were created by a Theremin. While it does change itself throughout, it’s not as melodic in nature and so I found myself not enjoying it as much. Its feeling is far more tense than the other track with lots of crashing and banging noises, and therefore not as pleasing on the ears.
Much like Two Virgins, I think this is worth checking out for the curious. I’m not sure I’ll ever be returning to this one myself, though I am glad I checked it out. If I do listen again, it will probably only be to “Under the Mersey Wall.”
Next time: We get our first taste of Ringo’s solo work with Sentimental Journey.