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