|Song by George Harrison from the album Dark Horse|
|Released||9 December 1974 (US)
20 December 1974 (UK)
|Dark Horse track listing|
"So Sad" is a song by English musician George Harrison, released on his 1974 album Dark Horse. Harrison originally gave the song to Alvin Lee, guitarist and singer with Ten Years After, who recorded it, as "So Sad (No Love of His Own)", with singer Mylon LeFevre for their 1973 album On the Road to Freedom. Harrison wrote "So Sad" in New York in 1972 and it is the only song known to have been written by him about the failure of his first marriage, to Pattie Boyd.
Harrison recorded his version of the song at the couple's home, Friar Park, in November 1973, eight months before Boyd left him for his friend Eric Clapton. Besides Harrison's extensive contributions, the other musicians on the recording include Nicky Hopkins and Ringo Starr.
Background and composition
In interview with Derek Taylor for his 1980 autobiography, I, Me, Mine, George Harrison recalled starting "So Sad" in New York in 1972 – at the Park Lane Hotel, judging by his handwritten lyrics – and identified this as "the time I was splitting up with Pattie". The marriage "muddled on" until midway through 1974, author Alan Clayson writes, by which time Eric Clapton had returned to their social circle following a three-year period of hibernation away from friends and the music business, partly as a result of Boyd's rejection of his advances in November 1970. Clapton's self-imposed exile had briefly been interrupted by a return to the concert stage, on 13 January 1973, with two Pete Townshend-organised charity shows at the Rainbow Theatre in north London, attended by the Harrisons, Ringo Starr, Elton John, Jimmy Page and others. During a visit to the Harrison's home, Friar Park, Little Malcolm star John Hurt later revealed, Harrison challenged Clapton to a guitar duel, the winning prize for which was Boyd herself. Clapton was judged the victor that night, Harrison – "full of brandy, as usual", his ex-wife remembers – having let himself become "riled", by resorting to uncharacteristic "instrumental gymnastics". With Harrison already pursuing an affair with Starr's wife, Maureen Starkey, the couple finally parted on 4 July 1974, when Boyd joined Clapton on tour in support of his comeback album, 461 Ocean Boulevard.
The Harrison–Boyd–Clapton entanglement soon became an infamous footnote in rock 'n' roll, and just as remarkable was the fact that Harrison appeared to approve of the situation. Although his next album would include a version of the Everly Brothers' hit "Bye Bye, Love" with lyrics altered to sarcastically address "old Clapper" and "our lady", "So Sad" is the only song that Harrison ever acknowledged as dealing with his and Boyd's marital problems; this is in contrast to contemporaries Bob Dylan and John Lennon, each of whom dedicated a significant portion of his album to reflecting the breakdown in his marriage around this time.
Despite Harrison's apparent "take her" attitude and what Boyd has described as her husband's "cold and indifferent" behaviour, the song's lyrics refer to a hidden "great despair". Returning to the weather imagery of earlier compositions such as "All Things Must Pass", biographer Simon Leng observes, Harrison's opening verse sets the scene for a man who "feels so alone / With no love of his own":
Now the winter has come
Eclipsing the sun
That has lighted my love for some time
And a cold wind now blows
Not much tenderness flows
From the heart of someone feeling so tired.
The singer's viewpoint changes to the third person from this point in the song, as the chorus repeatedly states: "So sad, so bad / So sad, so bad ..." In the third and final verse, Harrison returns to the unambiguous, first-person perspective, the lyrics appearing to wish his former lover well:
Take the dawn of the day
And give it away
To someone who can build a part
Of the dream we once held
Now it's got to be shelved
It's too late for to make a new start.
Pre-Dark Horse recording history
Living in the Material World sessions
Authors Chip Madinger and Mark Easter suggest that Harrison may have initially recorded "So Sad" for his 1973 album Living in the Material World. These sessions took place between October 1972 and February 1973, at the Beatles' Apple Studio and at Harrison's home studio, FPSHOT. The personnel – Harrison, keyboard player Nicky Hopkins, Starr and bass player Klaus Voormann – were the same musicians as those attending the session for Harrison's official version of the song. Among other unreleased recordings made during the Material World sessions, Harrison and Starr taped a version of their joint composition "Photograph" in December 1972. They subsequently remade "Photograph" in Los Angeles with producer Richard Perry in March 1973, and the song became Starr's third RIAA-certified gold single when issued later that year in advance of its parent album, Ringo.
Alvin Lee and Mylon LeFevre's version
|"So Sad (No Love of His Own)"|
|Single by Alvin Lee and Mylon LeFevre|
|from the album On the Road to Freedom|
|B-side||"On the Road to Freedom"|
|Released||17 December 1973 (US)
19 April 1974 (UK)
Harrison became friends with Ten Years After frontman Alvin Lee after the two met in Henley's Row Barge pub. Along with the likes of Joe Brown, Mick Ralphs and Jon Lord, Lee would become a member of Harrison's so-called "Henley Music Mafia" of semi-retired local rock stars in the late 1970s. Hearing that Lee was recording a country-folk album with American gospel singer Mylon LeFevre, Harrison offered him the recently completed "So Sad", which they recorded at FPSHOT in August 1973. Also playing on the session was Faces guitarist Ron Wood – who subsequently embarked on a brief affair with Pattie Harrison, while her husband holidayed in Portugal with Wood's wife Krissy.
In gratitude for the song, Lee repaid the favour by making a guest appearance on the Harrison-produced debut album by Splinter. Lee also played on Harrison's Dark Horse track "Ding Dong, Ding Dong".
As well as including the parenthetical "No Love of His Own" in the song title, the Lee–LeFevre version of "So Sad" differs from Harrison's in mood, being more of a wistful "country tearjerker", according to Leng. Released on their On the Road to Freedom album in November 1973, and later as a single, "So Sad (No Love of His Own)" was critically well-received.
- Mylon LeFevre – vocals, backing vocals
- Alvin Lee – acoustic guitars, backing vocals
- George Harrison – acoustic guitar, dobro, bass, backing vocals
- Ron Wood – 12-string acoustic guitar
- Mick Fleetwood – drums
Dark Horse recording
Harrison began work on his own version of "So Sad" around the time that his and Boyd's extramarital affairs finally unravelled. Shortly before Christmas 1973, a visiting Chris O'Dell was met at Heathrow Airport by the telltale welcome committee of Harrison and Maureen Starkey, and Boyd and Ron Wood. The following night, with Boyd and Starkey both present, Harrison informed Starr: "You know, Ringo, I'm in love with your wife."
The basic track for "So Sad" was made that November with Nicky Hopkins on piano and the "old firm" of Starr, Voormann and Jim Keltner providing the rhythm section. Voormann's bass part was subsequently redone by Willie Weeks, and Harrison similarly overdubbed a wide range of instruments onto the backing track, including dual acoustic-guitar, electric-piano and slide-guitar parts. The effect of this guitar collage made for "delectable listening", in the opinion of Beatles Forever author Nicholas Schaffner; writing in their Solo Beatles Compendium, Madinger and Easter similarly view the recording as "one of the more impressive tunes" on its parent album, adding that Harrison's "12-string guitar work is particularly striking". The song's key modulates from C major in the verses to D in the choruses, which feature a tension-building augmented chord sequence – a "beautiful" rising sequence in Leng's estimation, and a device much favoured by Harrison, and John Lennon also.
Release and reception
Apple Records issued Dark Horse in December 1974, with "So Sad" sequenced as track 3 on side one of the original LP format. Leng describes the album as "a musical soap opera, cataloguing rock-life antics, marital strife, lost friendships and self-doubt", of which "So Sad" is the centrepiece in a trio of "remarkably revealing" instalments. The song is preceded by "Simply Shady", a tale of decadence in the music industry, and followed by the gossip-laden "Bye Bye, Love", the latter described by critic Mikal Gilmore as Harrison's "farewell to his marriage". Reflecting the contrast between these side-one songs and the more optimistic themes in side two's, Tom Wilkes's design for the LP face labels included a photo of Harrison on the first side and one of new girlfriend Olivia Arias on the reverse. The pictures were taken by Henry Grossman and their inclusion in the album artwork, just two months after the couple first met, was evidence of the immediacy of their relationship.
Leng views this rendition of "So Sad" as a "harrowing encounter, a far more savage affair than the Alvin Lee take". With its dejected lyrics detailing the onset of winter, "Eclipsing the sun" both literally and in the singer's heart, he sees the song as the antithesis of Harrison's 1969 composition "Here Comes the Sun" – as well as "the temporary death of George's Krishna dream", as spiritual conviction proves inadequate against "the human pain of separation". Leng comments on how this Dark Horse version was "[t]he subject of scorn on release", yet Lee and LeFevre's recording of "So Sad" "merited not a single critical sneer" the year before; according to Leng, this contrast "illustrates the difficulty of being George Harrison in 1974". In I, Me, Mine, Harrison states that he likes the song "a lot", but acknowledges: "the only problem with it is, it's depressing. It is so sad."
In a notably unfavourable critique of Dark Horse, for Rolling Stone, Jim Miller considered "So Sad" to be "one of the album's few resonant moments" and a song that "probably tells the truth" regarding Harrison's state of mind, unlike "Bye, Bye Love", which he found "a sick man's idea of a joke". In another scathing review, Bob Woffinden of the NME labelled "So Sad" "a trite, self-pitying number, both unoriginal and lifeless, with the vocals again sounding portentous and unnatural". Woffinden added: "When somebody sings 'While his memory raced/with much speed and great haste', you just know the lyricist is floundering and filling in lines." Writing in Circus Raves magazine, Michael Gross described the track as "luxurious", with a guitar introduction that "[speaks] to the poverty of loneliness".
AllMusic's Richard Ginell nominates "So Sad" as one of two "AMG track picks" on the Dark Horse album. Writing for the music website Something Else!, Nick DeRiso includes the song among his "five often-forgotten gems" from Harrison's solo career on Apple Records, and notes its "elegiac tone", similar to that on Living in the Material World.
In his review of Harrison's 2014 Apple Years reissues, New Zealand Herald journalist Graham Reid describes Dark Horse as a "sloppy and slapdash album" before adding: "but as always he could craft a lovely melody. So Sad mightn't find him in great voice but you can hear a fine song in there as he explores his inner loneliness …"
English singer Iain Matthews, a former member of Fairport Convention, recorded a demo of "So Sad" in 1974, around the time of his Some Days You Eat the Bear album. It was finally released in 1993, on his compilation Orphans & Outcasts, Vol. 1. In 2011, Matthews' version appeared on the multi-artist Harrison Uncovered CD, accompanying a feature by Mojo tying in with the release of Martin Scorsese's documentary George Harrison: Living in the Material World.
- George Harrison – vocals, 12-string acoustic guitars, electric guitar, electric pianos, slide guitars, backing vocals
- Nicky Hopkins – piano
- Ringo Starr – drums
- Jim Keltner – drums
- Willie Weeks – bass
- Harrison, p. 242.
- Harrison, p. 240.
- Clayson, pp. 297–98.
- The Editors of Rolling Stone, p. 43.
- The New Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, p. 183.
- Badman, p. 89.
- Clayson, p. 330.
- Pattie Boyd, "Pattie Boyd: 'My hellish love triangle with George and Eric' – Part Two", Daily Mail, 4 August 2007 (retrieved 4 May 2012).
- Clayson, p. 329.
- Schaffner, p. 176.
- Badman, p. 136.
- Anne Moore, "George Harrison on Tour – Press Conference Q&A", Valley Advocate, 13 November 1974; available at Rock's Backpages (retrieved 15 July 2012).
- Schaffner, p. 178.
- Clayson, p. 343.
- Richard S. Ginell, "George Harrison Dark Horse", AllMusic (retrieved 15 March 2012).
- Schaffner, pp. 165, 173–74.
- Sounes, pp. 282, 285.
- Eric Clapton interview, in George Harrison: Living in the Material World DVD (Village Roadshow, 2011; directed by Martin Scorsese; produced by Olivia Harrison, Nigel Sinclair & Martin Scorsese).
- Harrison, p. 244.
- Leng, pp. 96, 151.
- Leng, p. 152.
- Madinger & Easter, p. 443.
- Leng, pp. 124–26.
- Spizer, p. 306.
- Rodriguez, pp. 35, 261.
- Badman, pp. 91, 92.
- Spizer, p. 303.
- Rodriguez, pp. 35, 157.
- Badman, p. 110.
- Clayson, pp. 299, 390.
- Leng, pp. 229, 239.
- Castleman & Podrazik, p. 129.
- Castleman & Podrazik, pp. 206–07.
- Wood, p. 147.
- Bruce Eder, "Splinter The Place I Love", AllMusic (retrieved 23 November 2012).
- Spizer, p. 264.
- Leng, p. 151.
- Castleman & Podrazik, p. 130.
- Chris Welch's liner notes, booklet accompanying On the Road to Freedom reissue (Repertoire Records, 2003; produced by Alvin Lee).
- Rodriguez, p. 58.
- O'Dell, p. 256.
- O'Dell, p. 263.
- Clayson, p. 344.
- Castleman & Podrazik, p. 198.
- Schaffner, p. 179.
- Badman, p. 145.
- Castleman & Podrazik, p. 144.
- Leng, p. 159.
- Harrison, p. 282.
- Leng, p. 150.
- The Editors of Rolling Stone, p. 46.
- Woffinden, pp. 84–85.
- Spizer, pp. 265, 268.
- Spizer, p. 265.
- Olivia Harrison's foreword, in George Harrison, p. 1.
- Rodriguez, pp. 423–24.
- Huntley, pp. 112–13.
- Leng, pp. 174, 175.
- Jim Miller, "Transcendental mediocrity: George Harrison Dark Horse", Rolling Stone, 13 February 1975.
- John Harris, "Beware of Darkness", Mojo, November 2011, p. 82.
- Bob Woffinden, "George Harrison: Dark Horse", NME, 21 December 1974; available at Rock's Backpages (subscription required; retrieved 6 December 2014).
- Michael Gross, "George Harrison: How Dark Horse Whipped Up a Winning Tour", CIrcus Raves, March 1975; available at Rock's Backpages (retrieved 30 October 2013).
- Nick DeRiso, "Forgotten George Harrison gems from The Apple Years: Gimme Five", Something Else!, 11 September 2014 (retrieved 3 October 2014).
- Graham Reid, "George Harrison Revisited, Part One (2014): The dark horse bolting out of the gate", Elsewhere, 24 October 2014 (retrieved 4 December 2014).
- Brett Hartenbach, "Iain Matthews Orphans & Outcasts, Vol. 1: A Collection of Demos, 1969–1979", AllMusic (retrieved 31 October 2013).
- Michael Simmons, "Cry for a Shadow", Mojo, November 2011, p. 86.
- "MOJO Issue 216 / November 2011", mojo4music.com (retrieved 30 October 2013).
- Keith Badman, The Beatles Diary Volume 2: After the Break-Up 1970–2001, Omnibus Press (London, 2001; ISBN 0-7119-8307-0).
- Harry Castleman & Walter J. Podrazik, All Together Now: The First Complete Beatles Discography 1961–1975, Ballantine Books (New York, NY, 1976; ISBN 0-345-25680-8).
- Alan Clayson, George Harrison, Sanctuary (London, 2003; ISBN 1-86074-489-3).
- The Editors of Rolling Stone, Harrison, Rolling Stone Press/Simon & Schuster (New York, NY, 2002; ISBN 0-7432-3581-9).
- George Harrison, I Me Mine, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA, 2002; ISBN 0-8118-3793-9).
- Elliot J. Huntley, Mystical One: George Harrison – After the Break-up of the Beatles, Guernica Editions (Toronto, ON, 2006; ISBN 1-55071-197-0).
- Simon Leng, While My Guitar Gently Weeps: The Music of George Harrison, Hal Leonard (Milwaukee, WI, 2006; ISBN 1-4234-0609-5).
- Chip Madinger & Mark Easter, Eight Arms to Hold You: The Solo Beatles Compendium, 44.1 Productions (Chesterfield, MO, 2000; ISBN 0-615-11724-4).
- The New Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, Fireside/Rolling Stone Press (New York, NY, 1995; ISBN 0-684-81044-1).
- Chris O'Dell with Katherine Ketcham, Miss O'Dell: My Hard Days and Long Nights with The Beatles, The Stones, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, and the Women They Loved, Touchstone (New York, NY, 2009; ISBN 978-1-4165-9093-4).
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