George Harrison and Ravi Shankar's 1974 North American tour
|Tour by George Harrison and Ravi Shankar|
|Location||United States, Canada|
|Start date||2 November 1974|
|End date||20 December 1974|
|No. of shows||45|
George Harrison and Ravi Shankar's 1974 North American tour was a 45-show concert tour of the United States and Canada, undertaken by English musician George Harrison and Indian sitarist Ravi Shankar in November and December of 1974. It is often referred to as the Dark Horse Tour, since the concerts served as a launch for Harrison's record label Dark Horse Records, to which Shankar was one of the inaugural signings, and Harrison's concurrent single was the song "Dark Horse". The release of his delayed album, also titled Dark Horse, followed towards the end of the tour. The shows featured guest spots by Harrison's band members Billy Preston and Tom Scott.
The 1974 tour was the first in North America by a former member of the Beatles since the band's 1966 visit. Raising expectations further among fans and the media, it marked the first live performances by Harrison since his successful staging of the 1971 Concert for Bangladesh shows, which had also featured Shankar and Preston. Harrison had no wish to revisit his Beatles past, however, and he stated in the pre-tour press conference in Los Angeles: "it's definitely not going to be a Bangladesh Mark II, if that's what people are thinking." At the same press conference, in reply to questions about a rumoured Beatles reunion, he said that his former band "[weren't] that good", relative to musicians he had worked with since, and he dismissed the idea of ever being in a group with Paul McCartney again. According to author Peter Doggett, these remarks created "the same sense of shock" as John Lennon's 1970 lyric "I don't believe in Beatles" (from the song "God"). Harrison biographer Simon Leng writes that the ensuing tour represented "a whirlwind of pent-up Beatlemania" in North America, "where the group had a status way beyond that of mere icons."
In his set list for the tour, Harrison included just four Beatles songs: his own compositions "Something", "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and "For You Blue", and the Lennon–McCartney song "In My Life". Aside from Scott and Preston, the musicians in Harrison's band included the soul/R&B rhythm section of Willie Weeks and Andy Newmark, Scott's L.A. Express bandmate Robben Ford (on guitar), jazz percussionist Emil Richards, and horn players Jim Horn and Chuck Findley. Among Shankar's orchestra of top Indian classical musicians were Alla Rakha, Shivkumar Sharma, Lakshmi Shankar, Hariprasad Chaurasia, L. Subramaniam and Sultan Khan. During the performances, the two groups performed both separately and as one, mirroring the East–West fusion of Shankar's album Shankar Family & Friends.
Reception and legacy
The response from music critics varied significantly throughout the tour. Some reviewers were scathing in their assessment: Harrison was criticised for failing to respect the public's nostalgia for the Beatles, his choosing to afford considerable stage-time to Shankar's ensemble, his spiritual pronouncements and on-stage demeanour, and particularly the rough quality of his singing voice, caused by overexertion in the months leading up to the opening concert. Other reviews were highly favourable, admiring Harrison's humility in sharing the spotlight with his fellow musicians and the lack of overly theatrical presentation, and praising the breadth and adventurousness of the musical program.
Although Mikal Gilmore of Rolling Stone magazine wrote in 2002 that the tour was "almost universally savaged by the press", Leng, having researched the contemporary coverage for his book While My Guitar Gently Weeps, concludes that "the majority of reviews were positive, in some cases ecstatic …" Leng contends that "the 'given' view of the tour" – namely, that it was "the most calamitous road show in the history of the genre" – has come from a series of unfavourable articles in Rolling Stone, culminating in the magazine's review of Dark Horse. Author Robert Rodriguez summarises the critical reception as follows: "Smaller press outlets without axes to grind tended to review the shows the best, whereas rock establishment coverage, such as Rolling Stone's, tended to spin the tour as something close to an unmitigated disaster (something that George never forgave them for)."
Aside from critics' opinions of the musical content, Harrison took exception to their reports that the shows were not being well received by audiences. In his 2014 article on the tour, for the website Ultimate Classic Rock, Nick DeRiso writes: "Ultimately, Harrison came to see the tour's issues as more a matter of media perception than anything. Bootlegs, to some degree, back up that notion – as fans appear to receive the dates with no small amount of enthusiasm." DeRiso also quotes Harrison's later recollection that "The public as a whole enjoyed it; it was always standing ovations – even for the Indian section … But they got on my case, the press – some of them anyway."
Due to the scrutiny he received from the media, Harrison remained wary of giving live performances. After 1974, he did not tour again until 1991, when he played a series of concerts in Japan with Eric Clapton. More recently, the 1974 Harrison–Shankar tour has been recognised by some commentators as a precursor to the 1980s world music genre, popularised by Western artists such as Paul Simon, Peter Gabriel and David Byrne. Referring to critics of the tour in a 1977 BBC Radio interview, Harrison said: "It's a pity that a lot of people missed out on something that went above their heads."
The tour itinerary was as follows:
- Madinger & Easter, p. 446.
- Lavezzoli, pp. 195–96.
- Leng, p. 148.
- Rodriguez, p. 58.
- The Editors of Rolling Stone, p. 44.
- Clayson, pp. 345–46.
- Leng, pp. 138, 147–48.
- Spizer, p. 259.
- Madinger & Easter, p. 443.
- Spizer, p. 263.
- Schaffner, pp. 176, 177.
- Leng, p. 172.
- Tillery, pp. 113–14.
- Lavezzoli, pp. 190, 192.
- Leng, pp. 154, 166.
- Anne Moore, "George Harrison On Tour – Press Conference Q&A", Valley Advocate, 13 November 1974; available at Rock's Backpages (subscription required).
- Badman, pp. 136–37.
- Doggett, p. 225.
- Leng, p. 166.
- Leng, pp. 156–57, 167.
- Lavezzoli, p. 196.
- Leng, p. 171.
- Rodriguez, pp. 198–99.
- Leng, pp. 160–65.
- Rodriguez, p. 199.
- Woffinden, pp. 83–84.
- Schaffner, pp. 177–78.
- Mat Snow, "George Harrison: Quiet Storm", Mojo, November 2014, p. 72.
- Leng, pp. 160–65, 174.
- Rodriguez, pp. 59–60.
- Leng, pp. ix, 174.
- Leng, p. 174.
- Rodriguez, p. 59.
- Clayson, p. 338.
- Nick DeRiso, "40 Years Ago: George Harrison Begins Ill-Fated 1974 North American Tour", Ultimate Classic Rock, 2 November 2014 (retrieved 8 June 2015).
- Rodriguez, p. 60.
- Tillery, pp. 136, 166.
- Nick DeRiso, "Gimme Five: Gary Wright, Robben Ford, Bobby Whitlock, Alan White, Joey Molland on George Harrison" > "'Dark Horse' …", Something Else!, 25 February 2014 (archived version retrieved 3 June 2015).
- Jackson, pp. 118–19.
- Lavezzoli, p. 81.
- The New Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, p. 1092.
- Clayson, pp. 339, 478.
- Badman, pp. 137–38.
- Madinger & Easter, p. 447.
- Keith Badman, The Beatles Diary Volume 2: After the Break-Up 1970–2001, Omnibus Press (London, 2001; ISBN 0-7119-8307-0).
- Alan Clayson, George Harrison, Sanctuary (London, 2003; ISBN 1-86074-489-3).
- Peter Doggett, You Never Give Me Your Money: The Beatles After the Breakup, It Books (New York, NY, 2011; ISBN 978-0-06-177418-8).
- The Editors of Rolling Stone, Harrison, Rolling Stone Press/Simon & Schuster (New York, NY, 2002; ISBN 0-7432-3581-9).
- Joshua M. Greene, Here Comes the Sun: The Spiritual and Musical Journey of George Harrison, John Wiley & Sons (Hoboken, NJ, 2006; ISBN 978-0-470-12780-3).
- Olivia Harrison, George Harrison: Living in the Material World, Abrams (New York, NY, 2011; ISBN 978-1-4197-0220-4).
- Andrew Grant Jackson, Still the Greatest: The Essential Solo Beatles Songs, Scarecrow Press (Lanham, MD, 2012; ISBN 978-0-8108-8222-5).
- Peter Lavezzoli, The Dawn of Indian Music in the West, Continuum (New York, NY, 2006; ISBN 0-8264-2819-3).
- 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).
- Robert Rodriguez, Fab Four FAQ 2.0: The Beatles' Solo Years, 1970–1980, Backbeat Books (Milwaukee, WI, 2010; ISBN 978-1-4165-9093-4).
- Nicholas Schaffner, The Beatles Forever, McGraw-Hill (New York, NY, 1978; ISBN 0-07-055087-5).
- Ravi Shankar, Raga Mala: The Autobiography of Ravi Shankar, Welcome Rain (New York, NY, 1999; ISBN 1-56649-104-5).
- Bruce Spizer, The Beatles Solo on Apple Records, 498 Productions (New Orleans, LA, 2005; ISBN 0-9662649-5-9).
- Gary Tillery, Working Class Mystic: A Spiritual Biography of George Harrison, Quest Books (Wheaton, IL, 2011; ISBN 978-0-8356-0900-5).
- Bob Woffinden, The Beatles Apart, Proteus (London, 1981; ISBN 0-906071-89-5).
- George Harrison Concert Setlists & Tour Dates – Setlist.fm