George Harrison – Wreck Of The Hesperus

I bought George Harrison’s Cloud Nine when it was released in 1987. I took it and recorded it on cassette to play in my car (sorry George). I always liked this breezy song.

I played it constantly. I started to notice a change was happening…classic rock was coming back old and new.  In the 2 years that followed a great string of albums was released. The Traveling Wilburys, Keith Richards Talk Is Cheap, Tom Petty’s Full Moon Fever, Jeff Lynne’s Armchair Theatre, Roy Orbison’s Mystery Girl,  and then another Traveling Wilburys. The older guys were back in the game again.

There is not a bad song on Cloud Nine. The one I played the less was ironically the biggest hit on the album…Got My Mind Set On You. Personally, I thought this album was his best since All Things Must Pass. The reviews at the time agree with that.

This song is about what I talked about in the first paragraph. George was poking fun at himself as a dinosaur rocker although he was only 45…that’s young in today’s world. The first verse says it all…

I’m not the wreck of the HesperusFeel more like the Wall of ChinaGetting old as MethuselahFeel tall as the Eiffel TowerI’m not a power of attorneyBut I can rock as good as GibraltarAin’t no more no spring chickenBeen plucked but I’m still kickingBut it’s alright, it’s alright

The title came from an 1842 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem of the same name that combined fact with fiction. Procol Harum also had a song on their 1969 Salty Dog album called The Wreck of the Hesperus but no relation to this one.

The Cloud Nine album peaked at #8 on the Billboard Album Charts, #6 in Canada, and #10 in the UK in 1987. This song was not released as a single. The best-known songs off of the album were Got My Mind Set On You and When We Was Fab. The album was produced by Jeff Lynne with guest appearances by Eric Clapton and Ringo Starr to name a few.

When I would buy albums I would explore every song good or bad. Many times I found songs I liked more than the singles that were pulled from it. This song did make me hunt down Bill Big Broonzy in the 80s…which wasn’t that easy but I did get my hands on some of his music and liked it…great blues player.

It’s funny how when you first hear something and what you think the lyrics are. I’ve been hearing them wrong since 1987.

What I thought I heard…

I slipped on the pavement “with no ice there” and Met a snake “carrying lanterns”

No on both accounts…

I slipped on a pavement oysterMet a snake climbing ladders

George Harrison: The song, it just came to me with this lyric. I don’t know. Maybe I was thinking from the point of view that people tend to think of you as somebody who’s passe, been and done. And it was just a sort of tongue-in-cheek kind of thing that… This was an old poem, but I was brought up [in] that period they sang, you know, the little catch thing they always said, you know, ‘you look like the wreck of the Hesperus.’ I never really knew what it was, I suppose, but it sounded good, kinda like some awful wreck. It was a shipwreck and a poem, an old Victorian poem. Anyway, that line just came to me and I just continued the lyric from there. [It’s] sort of [a] strange lyric. [Eiffel Tower] and rock as good as Gibralter, you know, it just gets silly. By end of it, I’m saying I’m not the wreck of the Hesperus, more like Big Bill Broonzy. You know, I don’t know. That to me is… I mean, as far back as I can remember [there was] Big Bill Broonzy with this big ol’ guitar playing. It was pretty groovy. I suppose now, it’s like that really. All of us are turning into– like Eric Clapton and such– I keep telling my boy, when you get older, he’s gonna be like, ‘that was Big Bill Broonzy, man, hanging around at our house!’ We’re all getting old as my mother.

George Harrison: “I’ve been friends with Eric for years. And I think I always will be. He’s a lovely fella and I love him very dearly. And he, [sic] and I called him up again and you know I’m doing an album, Eric could you come and play. Sure, he came over and played great stuff. Devil’s Radio, Cloud Nine [sic], he does a nice little solo on the end of That’s What It Takes and also the other one the second side The Wreck Of The Hesperus

The Wreck of the Hesperus

I’m not the wreck of the HesperusFeel more like the Wall of ChinaGetting old as MethuselahFeel tall as the Eiffel TowerI’m not a power of attorneyBut I can rock as good as GibraltarAin’t no more no spring chickenBeen plucked but I’m still kickingBut it’s alright, it’s alright

Poison penmen sneak, have no nerve to speakMake up lies then they leak ‘m outBehind a pseudonym, the rottenness in themReaching out trying to touch me

Met some Oscars and TonysI slipped on a pavement oysterMet a snake climbing laddersGot out of the line of fire(But it’s alright)

Brainless writers gossip nonsensesTo others heads as dense as they isIt’s the same old maladyWhat they see is faulty

I’m not the wreck of the HesperusFeel more like Big Bill BroonzyGetting old as my motherBut I tell you I got some company(But it’s alright)

But it’s alright, it’s alrightBut it’s alright, it’s alrightIt’s alright, alrightIt’s alright

George Harrison – Cloud 9

This song was the title track of Georges 1987’s superb album. Song starts off with Harrison and Clapton trading licks and George matches him with his slide guitar. George was not a virtuoso type of guitar player but he was one of the best slide guitarists in the business. Guitar players are still trying to get his tone.

George wasn’t a self-indulgent guitar player…he always played for the song and always gave the song what it needed.

I love the blues-tone that Jeff Lynne got out of this production. He emphasized the bass drum and the bass to make it sound grounded.

Although the album was titled Cloud Nine, Harrison decided to use the numeric “9” in the song’s title to avoid confusion with the Temptations’ 1968 hit song “Cloud Nine.”

The song wasn’t released as a single but it’s a great-sounding song. This album marked a huge comeback for George. This album peaked at #8 in the Billboard 100, #5 in Canada, and #10 in the UK in 1988.

After this album, George formed the Travelin Wilburys.

Cloud 9

Have my love
It fits you like a glove
Join my dream, tell me yes
Bail out should there be a mess
The pieces you don’t need are mine

Take my time
I’ll show you cloud nine
Take my smile and my heart
They were yours from the start
The pieces to omit are mine

Have my love
Use it while it does you good
Share my highs but the times
That it hurts pay no mind
The pieces you don’t need are mine

I’ll see you there on cloud nine

Take my hope
Maybe even share a joke
If there’s good to be shown
You may make it all your own
And if you want to quit that’s fine
While you’re out looking for cloud nine

George Harrison – When We Was Fab

I loved this song when I heard it. To hear George sing about his time with The Beatles surprised me. Of all the Beatles George seemed to have the most resentment and some of it was understandable. A few years after this he would join the remaining Beatles and start on The Beatles Anthology.

George co-wrote the song with Jeff Lynne, who also co-produced the album that shortly pre-dates the two of them forming The Traveling Wilburys. ‘When We Was Fab’ is a musical nod to the psychedelic sound that the Beatles had made their own. George used a sitar, string quartet, and backward tape effects.

This one peaked at #23 in the Billboard 100, #20 in Canada, and #25 in the UK.

He also got some help from Ringo. Starr played drums on this track and a few others on the album. Harrison says that when he started writing the song, he had Ringo’s drumming in mind for the intro and the overall tempo.

The album was Cloud Nine…it peaked at #8 in the Billboard Album Charts, #5 in Canada, #10 in the UK, and #27 in New Zealand.

 

From Songfacts

Harrison wrote this after the Beatles had split up. It’s about the days of Beatlemania, when the group was known as “The Fab 4.” It sounds very much like a Beatles song. 

Jeff Lynne, George’s bandmate from the superstar band The Traveling Wilburys and leader of The Electric Light Orchestra, produced this song and as well as the rest of this album. A huge Beatles fan, Jeff also appears briefly in the video for this song (look for the big afro). 

Harrison states in this song: “income tax was all we had.” Excessive taxation was a scourge for him – he wrote the Beatles song “Taxman” on the subject.

Gary Wright, who had a big hit with “Dream Weaver,” played piano on this track.

 

When We Was Fab

One! Two!
Back then long time ago when grass was green
Woke up in a daze
Arrived like strangers in the night
(Fab! Doot, doot, doot doo)
Long time ago when we was fab (Fab!)
Back when income tax was all we had
Caressers fleeced you in the morning light
Casualties at dawn
And we did it all
(Fab! Doot, doot, doot doo)
Long time ago when we was fab (Fab)
In my world you are my only love

And while you’re in this world
The fuzz gonna come and claim you
But you mo better wise
When the buzz gonna come and take you away
Take you away. Take you away

The microscopes that magnified the tears
Studied warts and all
Still the life flowed on and on
(Fab! Doot, doot, doot, Gear!)
Long time ago when we was fab (Fab)

But it’s all over now, baby blue
(Oo! doot, doot doot. Fab!)
Long time ago when we was fab
(Fab!) Like this pullover you sent me
(Fab! Doot, doot, doot. Gear!)
And you really got a hold on me
(Fab! Doot, doot, doot, Gear!)

Temptations – Cloud Nine

This was written by Motown writers Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, who had written earlier Temptations hits “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” and “Just My Imagination.” Love the bass in this song.

This was a new sound for The Temptations. It was psychedelic soul-funk similar to Sly & the Family Stone, rather than the earlier smooth Soul they were known for. The song peaked at #6 in the Billboard 100 in 1969.

The Temptations all together had 4 number 1 hits, 15 Top Ten hits, and 53 songs in the Billboard 100.

This was the first Motown song to win a Grammy. It won for Best Rhythm & Blues Performance By A Duo Or Group, Vocal Or Instrumental in 1968.

From Songfacts

 

This was the first Temptations song recorded with new lead singer Dennis Edwards. David Ruffin, their original leader, was fired after he missed a gig. Ruffin became very difficult to work with when Motown refused to bill the group as “David Ruffin and The Temptations,” as they had done with “Diana Ross and The Supremes.”

The lyrics could be interpreted to be about drugs, which would go against The Temptations clean-cut image. They knew Whitfield and Strong didn’t do drugs, however, so they didn’t have a problem with the lyrics.

This was the first Motown song to use a wah-wah pedal. A white guitarist named Dennis Coffey brought it to a Motown workshop and played it for Whitfield while he was arranging this song. Whitfield loved the way it worked and had Coffey join the Motown house band when they recorded the track.

Whitfield used Coffey on many more sessions, including the seminal track “War.” Coffey, who had a hit on his own with “Scorpio,” considers his work on “Cloud Nine” some of his best. “It’s kicking major ass,” he told Songfacts. “That groove was so funky it’s amazing.”

Whitfield and Strong wrote this shortly after the songwriting team of Holland/Dozier/Holland left Motown. Holland/Dozier/Holland wrote many of the hits for the label, so it was a big boost for Motown when Whitfield and Strong stepped up and wrote another hit.

The week after this was released, Motown head Berry Gordy released Marvin Gaye’s version of “Heard It Through The Grapevine,” which until then he refused to release because he did not think it was a hit.

Cloud Nine

Oh ho, ho ho ho, ooh, hoo
Childhood part of my life, it wasn’t very pretty
You see, I was born and raised in the slums of the city
It was a one room shack that slept ten other children besides me
We hardly had enough food or room to sleep
It was hard times
Needed something to ease my troubled mind
Listen, my father didn’t know the meaning of work
He disrespected mama, and treated us like dirt
I left home, seekin’ a job that I never did find
Depressed and downhearted I took to cloud nine
I’m doin’ fine, up here on cloud nine
Listen one more time I’m doin’ fine, up here on cloud nine
Folks down there tell me
They say, give yourself a chance son, don’t let life pass you by
But the world of reality is a rat race where only the strongest survive
It’s a dog eat dog world, and that ain’t no lie
Listen, it ain’t even safe no more to walk the streets at night
I’m doin’ fine, on cloud nine
Let me tell you about cloud nine

Cloud nine, you can be what you wanna be
(Cloud nine) you ain’t got no responsibility
And ev’ry man, ev’ry man is free
(Cloud nine) and you’re a million miles from reality
I wanna say I love the life I live
And I’m gonna live the life I love up here on cloud nine
I, I, I, I, I, I I’m riding high
On cloud nine, you’re as free as a bird in flight
(Cloud nine) there’s no diff’rence between day and night
(Cloud nine) it’s a world of love and harmony
(Cloud nine) you’re a million miles from reality

Cloud nine, you can be what you wanna be
Cloud nine you ain’t got no responsibility
Cloud nine, and ev’ry man in this world is free
(Cloud nine) and you’re a million miles from reality
(Cloud nine) you can be what you wanna be