was premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on May 17th 1968 with George
and Patti Harrison and Ringo and Maureen Starkey in attendance. The
British release was on January 12th 1969. The movie soundtrack album
was said to have made George the first member of The Beatles to compose
a complete soundtrack for a film (although Paul had been involved in
soundtrack work on ‘The Family Way’ two years previously). The soundtrack
was issued under George’s name, although he only composed and produced
and didn’t play on any of the tracks.
He was initially asked to become involved in composing the soundtrack by director Joe Massott in 1967, although Massott had originally approached The Bee Gees, who declined the project. George began work on it after the ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ in late 1967, deciding on an instrumental soundtrack and produced a series of home demos after viewing an unfinished version of the film. Massot was to say, “I had various choices, The Bee Gees were interested in doing something and came to Twickenham Studios to see me. It seemed the movie had created a vibe as Graham Nash also wanted to join in. George told me that he had been working on "Magical Mystery Tour" helping out, but that was Paul's project...that he would like to do something solo. So I told him he would have a free hand to do anything he liked musically. That was what interested him in the picture"
then gathered a number of musicians using Abbey Road and the De Lane
Lea Recording Studio in Kingsway. He produced two numbers in Abbey Road’s
Studio 2 on Wednesday November 22nd 1967 under the working titles ‘India’
and ‘Swordfencing,’ utilising the talents of two flautists Richard Adeney
and Jack Ellory, together with a tabla player. The following day he
was recording in Studio 3 and the musicians used included two oboists,
one trumpeter and two flautists. The complete personnel of musicians
at the various London sessions were: John Barham, piano, flugelhorn;
Tommy Reilly, harmonica; Colin Manley, guitar, steel guitar; Tony Ashton,
jangle piano, organ; Phil Rogers, bass; Roy Dyke, drums. He recorded
another session at Abbey Road’s No 2 studio on January 5th and on January
George flew to India and spent five days at the EMI Studios in Bombay. Musicians at the Bombay sessions included: Ashish Khan, sarod; Mahapurush Mistra, tabla, pakavaj; Sharod and Hanuman Jadev, shanghais; Sambu-Das, Indril Bhattacharya, Shankar Ghosh, sitars; Chandra Shakher, surbahar; Shiv Kumar Shermar, santoor; S.R. Kenkare, flute; Vanaik Vora, thar-shanhai, Rij Ram Desad, harmonium, Tablatarang. The album became the first LP released on the Apple label on Friday November 1st 1968 on Apple SAPCOR 1 and in America on December 2nd 1968 on Apple ST 3350 where it reached No.49 in the charts.
The tracks were: Side One: ‘Microbes’, ‘Red Lady Too’, ‘Tabla and Pakavaj’, ‘in the Park’, ‘Drilling A Home’, ‘Guru Vandana’, ‘Greasy Legs’, ‘Ski-ing’, ‘Gat Kirwani’, ‘Dream Scene.’ Side Two: ‘Party Secombe’, ‘Love Scene’, ‘Crying’, ‘Cowboy Music’, ‘Fantasy Sequins’, ‘On the Bed’, ‘Glass Box’, ‘Wonderwall To Be Here’, ‘Singing Om.’
|The press synopsis for the film read: “In 1960’s London an eccentric professor (Jack MacGowran) lives the life of a recluse. He becomes fixated with a beautiful model Penny Lane (Jane Birkin), the girlfriend of Svengali-like fashion photographer (Iain Quarrier). The professor spies on the girl through a hole in the wall in his gothic flat, and embarks on a quixotic quest to become her champion. The kaleidoscope of images and George Harrison’s musical score catapult the audience into another realm of consciousness. “As the professor retreats into his own world, his lab assistant, (Richard Wattis) and his cleaning woman (Irene Handl) become concerned for his well-being. When the girl becomes pregnant she is abandoned by her boyfriend and attempts suicide. To save her, the Professor enters her flat via the roof and passes through the Wonderwall. When he returns to his laboratory, he is a transformed man. The film has the quality of a dreamscape where appearance and reality are intermingled, in the manner of Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear. What could have been a mere exercise in voyeurism becomes instead an alchemist’s search for love and redemption.”|
restored and re-released the movie in 1998 and when George Harrison
was searching through the master recordings he came across a track by
Liverpool group The Remo Four called ‘In The First Place.’ The track
was included in the new print replacing the Indian chants over the opening
titles and it was also issued as a CD single in 1999 by Pilar.
Sadly Massot, who went on to direct Led Zeppelin’s ‘The Song Remains The Same’ in 1976 and who was present with The Beatles in Rishikesh, India, passed away in 2002 and Colin Manley and Tony Ashton of The Remo Four are also no longer with us.
Interestingly enough Oasis, a Manchester group who were inspired by the Beatles, produced one of their biggest hits under the title ‘Wonderwall.’