George Harrison said that most music in the 1980s all sounded the same. The former Beatle had some strong opinions about popular music.
The former Beatle fell in love with rock ‘n’ roll as a teenager. He loved Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins and many other pioneers. They were the essence of the genre, not the artists that came much later.
In 1975, George David Herman of WNEW-FM (per George Harrison on George Harrison: Interviews and Encounters) that very few people impressed him musically. The only person who inspired him was sitar legend Ravi Shankar, his musical and spiritual guru.
“In music, it breaks down into … I mean, there are people who have a more worldly consciousness and that’s why I’ve always been with Ravi Shankar because, especially in the West, he brings something obscure and creates an audience,” said George.
Pop music, on the other hand, made George “uptight.”
“It’s a very different train of thought that comes from the music,” George continued. “Put simply, there are people, I like people, who just convey a kind of sincerity in their music. I’m a huge Smokey Robinson fan just because he’s so sweet musically, he makes you feel good, he makes me feel Wellwhereas a lot of the music I listen to that’s popular music just makes me cramped up.
“Even if I don’t really listen carefully, it’s just the sound and the whole and the repetition, the boring repetition way it’s played…”
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During an interview with Guitar Player, George said that music from the 1980s all sounded the same. That was one of the reasons George didn’t make an album between 1982’s Gone Troppo and 1987’s Cloud Nine. He felt the record companies wanted the same music and he didn’t like them.
“I was sick of the record business, which I think was partly my own fault, because I was just sick of having all the responsibility and not having anyone to vent to – but also partly because of the nature of it and go the way it was,” George said.
“Personally, I still prefer the old music – late ’50s and early ’60s and a lot of late ’60s and early ’70s stuff. Of course now there are things I like; I mean, there was always some good stuff that I liked. But the mass of things, it all just sounds the same to me. And how the record business was; it went through a down phase – not just the record business but everything, when the oil crisis hit and everyone got fired from the labels and the radio stations played the same stuff.
“I’m just so fed up. I wrote a song on an album called “Blood From A Clone” a few years ago that kind of tries to say, “They say they like it, but you’re in the market now. It can’t go well because it’s too relaxed.
“Just all that marketing stuff – how everything has to be a certain way or you don’t have a chance of getting it on the radio. I was sick of writing songs and making records and then finding out that nobody could ever hear it – unless I wanted to go and make a video and all that. At that point I was just sick of it – after I did it had done for about 20 years.”
By the time George recorded Cloud Nine, his dislike of the system had cooled. However, he didn’t want to make the album the record companies wanted. George made Cloud Nine authentic by using real instruments unlike all the other music that came out.
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For George, pop music wasn’t hype.
In 1992, Guitar World asked George if any contemporary bands had “a bit of the same spark” as his early idols. George said no.
“I can’t say I really heard anything that got me excited like some of the stuff we did in the ’50s and ’60s,” George said. “The last band I really liked was Dire Straits on the brothers in arms Album. To me it was good music, well played, without any bulls***.”
Tom Petty also recalled that George wasn’t very interested in rock music after 1957.
“The thing he was most proud of was the Beatles,” Petty said. “He said the Beatles sent such a positive message. He was horrified by the things that were said in popular music. As soon as he got involved with his Indian music, this rock ‘n’ roll music was a thing of the past for him. I don’t think he had much interest in rock music after 1957.”