Friday, August 20, 2010

George Harrison: It Don't Come Easy

Recorded in several takes in 1970, Ringo Starr’s hit record “It Don’t Come Easy” was originally sung by George Harrison during some preliminary mixes prior to Ringo adding his lead. The George Harrison rendition is very similar to the final released version and features the same takes and basically the same musicians. Additionally, Ringo's version included a new mix of the same backing tracks.

The original working title for the song was “You Gotta Pay Your Dues” and featured Harrison on guitar, Starr on drums, Klaus Voorman on bass, Stephen Stills on piano, and Mal Evans playing the tambourine. Badfinger’s Pete Ham and Tom Evans were later brought in for backing vocals and can be heard on the Harrison version singing “Hare Krishna” at one point in the song.

On Harrison’s demo the rhythm guitar is run through a Leslie rotating speaker at high speed (actually it sounds like he is using two Leslie cabinets) – an effect which can be achieved by using a chorus pedal or two these days – for a lot less cost and less hassle. Although not credited as a coauthor of the tune, it has been rumored that George Harrison contributed to the writing of “It Don’t Come Easy.” Richard Starkey (AKA Ringo Starr) is solely credited as the writer.

Ringo’s Hit Version

The tracks for both George’s and Ringo’s are basically the same, but the mix is different and Ron Cattermole’s horns have been added for the final mix. I never noticed it before, but the Badfinger “Hare Krishna” chant in the guitar break is still there, but potted down in the mix.

Unless you listen for it, you’ll never know it’s there. I’ve had this song since 1971 when it was released and never ever noticed it before hearing the George Harrison version. I guess George felt the need to do a little proselytizing on this number. The single charted at #5 in the UK and #4 in the US.

It was a single only release until Apple included it on Ringo’s greatest hits compilation “Blast from your Past.” Besides the US version of “Let it Be” released on Apple/United Artists, “Blast from your Past” is the only other Apple record with a red apple label.

It was also the last new LP to be released by Apple in the 1970s. Although the label continued to be used by EMI for existing Apple releases, no new Apple releases were issued by EMI until the 1990s. In the early 70s, Capitol began pressing all of the Beatles LPs that formerly were released under the Capitol brand on Apple; however, with the dissolution of the Apple label, these Beatles LPs reverted back to the original Capitol branded pressings.

The first post Apple issues were on the orange Capitol label and were subsequently replaced the next year with the more prolific purple Capitol version. Beatles albums on the early 70s lime green Capitol label (prior to the Apple releases) and the mid 70s orange Capitol label (after the Apple releases) are often worth more than the black Capitol label pressings from the 1960s. The value of these issues are inflated because so few were pressed on either label variation.

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