When We Was Fab

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"When We Was Fab"
When We Was Fab.jpg
UK picture sleeve
Single by George Harrison
from the album Cloud Nine
  • "Zig Zag"
  • "That's the Way It Goes (remix)" (12" and CD only)
  • "When We Was Fab (reverse end)" (12" and CD only)
Released25 January 1988
Format7", 12", CD
Recorded1987 at FPSHOT, Oxfordshire
GenrePsychedelic rock
LabelDark Horse
Songwriter(s)George Harrison, Jeff Lynne
Producer(s)Jeff Lynne, George Harrison
George Harrison singles chronology
"Got My Mind Set on You"
"When We Was Fab"
"This Is Love"
Picture disc
12" (W8131TP)
12" (W8131TP)

"When We Was Fab" is a song by English musician George Harrison, which he released on his 1987 album Cloud Nine. It was also issued as the second single from the album, in January 1988. The lyrics serve as a nostalgic reflection by Harrison on the days of Beatlemania during the 1960s, when the Beatles were first referred to as "the Fab Four". Harrison co-wrote the song with Jeff Lynne, who also co-produced the track. The recording references the psychedelic sound that the Beatles had helped popularise in 1967, through its use of sitar, cello, and backwards-relayed effects. Harrison's former Beatles bandmate Ringo Starr is among the other musicians on the track. The single was accompanied by an innovative music video, directed by the partnership of Kevin Godley and Lol Creme. One of Harrison's most popular songs, "When We Was Fab" has appeared on the compilations Best of Dark Horse 1976–1989 (1989) and Let It Roll (2009).


"When We Was Fab" has similarities to songs by the Beatles, such as "I Am the Walrus" (1967). It uses a string quartet and psychedelic effects as did many Beatles songs.


In the United Kingdom, it peaked at number 25 on the UK Singles Chart, and in the United States, the song peaked at number 23 on Billboard magazine's Hot 100 chart. It was Harrison's last top 40 hit in the US, and the second such hit in which the lyrics reflect on his years as a Beatle – the other being "All Those Years Ago" (1981).

In 2010, AOL radio listeners chose "When We Was Fab" as one of the 10 Best George Harrison Songs, placing it number 9 on the list.[1]

Track listings[edit]

  • 7" W8131
  1. "When We Was Fab" – 3:59
  2. "Zig Zag" – 2:45
  • 12" W8131T, 12" picture disc W8131TP, 3" CD W8131CD
  1. "When We Was Fab" (unextended version)
  2. "Zig Zag" – 2:45
  3. "That's the Way It Goes" (remix)
  4. "When We Was Fab" (reverse end)

Cover art[edit]

The single cover incorporates Klaus Voormann's 1966 line drawing of Harrison, which was used in the album art for the Beatles's 1966 album Revolver, and on which the letters ER from the title are visible, along with a similar, updated drawing of Harrison 22 years later.

Music video[edit]

The music video that accompanied the song was directed by Godley & Creme.[2] Ringo Starr appears first as Harrison's "assistant" and then as the drummer. Also making guest appearances in the video are Jeff Lynne, Elton John (putting the coin in the cup), and Neil Aspinall (the Beatles' road manager and personal assistant, holding a copy of John Lennon's 1971 Imagine album). Aspinall, resembling Lennon, crosses the screen at the same time Harrison and Starr are on screen playing their instruments along with a bass guitar player in a walrus costume. Paul McCartney is rumoured to have appeared in the walrus suit, playing the bass, with Harrison stating in a televised interview that it was indeed Paul McCartney in the promo video, "but he was camera shy that day and he kept his walrus mask on."[3] The bass player in the video was playing left handed, thus implying that it was at least a reference to McCartney; however, in a 1995 interview, McCartney said, "George wanted me to be in it but I wasn't available. So I suggested that he put someone else in the walrus and tell everyone that it was me." [4] Other appearances feature Paul Simon (pushing a cart) and Ray Cooper.[2]

The video received six nominations at the 1988 MTV Video Music Awards, including best art director for Sid Bartholomew.[2][5]


Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1988) Peak
Australia [6] 35
Belgian Ultratop Singles (Flanders)[7] 38
Canadian RPM 100[8] 20
Canada RPM Adult Contemporary[9] 7
Dutch MegaChart Singles[10] 52
Irish Singles Chart[11] 24
UK Singles Chart[12] 25
US Billboard Hot 100[13] 23
US Billboard Mainstream Rock 2
US Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks[13] 10
West German Media Control Singles[14] 40

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Dickinson, Boonsri. "10 Best George Harrison Songs". AOL.
  2. ^ a b c "George Harrison – "When we was fab"". mvdbase.com. Retrieved 23 December 2010.
  3. ^ unidentified radio interview with George Harrison, ca. 1988
  4. ^ Record Collector. Feb 1995 No.186 p. 21
  5. ^ "MTV Video Music Awards | 1988 | Highlights, Winners, Performers and Photos from the 1988 MTV Video Music Awards". MTV.com. 7 September 1988. Retrieved 23 December 2010.
  6. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (doc)|format= requires |url= (help). Australian Chart Book, St Ives, N.S.W. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  7. ^ "George Harrison – When We Was Fab", ultratop.be (retrieved 11 April 2014).
  8. ^ "RPM 100 Singles (April 9, 1988)", Library and Archives Canada (retrieved 24 August 2018).
  9. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. 23 April 1988. Retrieved 10 October 2018.
  10. ^ "George Harrison – When We Was Fab", dutchcharts.nl (retrieved 11 April 2014).
  11. ^ "Search by Artist > George Harrison", irishcharts.ie (retrieved 11 April 2014).
  12. ^ "Artist: George Harrison", Official Charts Company (retrieved 11 April 2014).
  13. ^ a b "George Harrison > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles", AllMusic (retrieved 11 April 2014).
  14. ^ "Single – George Harrison, When We Was Fab", charts.de (retrieved 11 April 2014).