The Story of "In the First Place"

by Martin Lewis


BEATLE RARITIES AMONG HIGHLIGHTS OF SWINGING 60’S FILM FEST “AUSTIN POWERS” PHENOM POWERS SALUTE TO SHAG-A-DELIC FLIX

A previously unknown 1967 song featuring George Harrison is among the many highlights of a major 10-day film festival saluting the exploding “Austin Powers” phenomenon. The festival - titled MODS & ROCKERS! Groovy Movies of the Shag-a-delic Sixties! - will be presented by the American Cinematheque in its new home at the restored landmark Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood starting Friday June 25.

The festival - which showcases over 20 fun movies from the 1960’s - will be a delight to all fans of 60’s music - especially lovers of the Beatles.

The newly-discovered George Harrison recording will be heard for the first time on a special Beatles night at the festival on Saturday June 26 - with the American premiere of a legendary British psychedelic movie from the 60’s - WONDERWALL which stars cult British actress Jane Birkin.

The film was shot in 1967 by a London-based American director, Joe Massot, who was deeply entrenched in the Swingin’ London of the era. He had chosen the Beatles’ new favorite design team - a Sgt. Pepper-influenced Dutch collective known as “The Fool” - to create the ‘wonderwall’ of the film’s title. (The designers also made the very few clothes worn in the film by the nymph-like Jane Birkin!) In the fall of 1967 he was searching for the right musicians to create the soundtrack for his movie. The film’s production had created quite a buzz and several artists were vying for the opportunity. The Bee Gees (then riding the crest of the wave of their first hits) and a post-Hollies pre-CSN Graham Nash both made pitches to get the job.

Around this time, Massot attended the now famous opening party for the Beatles’ Apple boutique, which featured clothes designed by “The Fool.” (The party was attended by all the Beatles, Stones, Eric Clapton and the cream of British rock society.) At the party he found himself in conversation with George Harrison. At this time Harrison was the only member of the Beatles who had not yet pursued a solo project.

(Paul McCartney had scored the 1966 Hayley Mills movie The Family Way and was the principal directing force behind the Magical Mystery Tour film; in addition to writing two books, John Lennon had acted in Richard Lester’s 1967 movie How I Won The War; and Ringo Starr was preparing for his forthcoming acting roles in the movies Candy and The Magic Christian.)

Harrison indicated that he wanted to find a creative outlet for his growing interest in Indian music. Massot offered Harrison the job of creating the Wonderwall soundtrack - and Harrison accepted. He immediately set about writing and recording music for the film.

The resulting score was a groundbreaking blend of western and eastern music. Harrison crossed psychedelic rock with the Indian music which was his passion at the time. The Indian-flavored segments were recorded at EMI’s Bombay studios in January 1968 - at sessions which also produced the backing track for Harrison’s song The Inner Light - released as the ‘B’ side of the Lady Madonna single in March 1968.

The western music was principally recorded in the same Abbey Road studio in which Harrison recorded with the Beatles. For his first album as a producer, Harrison tried out a formula which he reprised in 1971 for his debut solo album All Things Must Pass. (On that album he used Apple artists Badfinger as a basic house band - augmenting them with other musicians.) For his Wonderwall score he recruited the session services of a the musicians from a Liverpool group called The Remo Four. The band were primarily known as an excellent instrumental band and as a backing group for singers such as Tommy Quickly and Billy J. Kramer who (like them) were represented by Beatles manager Brian Epstein. Since the movie commission was for an instrumental score - their lack of major vocal talent was not an issue.

(The Remo Four were available for the session work because they were, sadly, in the throes of breaking up. They had already been dropped by two labels which had become disillusioned with their lack of record success - and the group hadn’t had a record released since 1966. Subsequent to the Wonderwall sessions, two of the members of the group - Tony Ashton [keyboards] and Roy Dyke [drums] joined forces with bass player Kim Gardner and formed Ashton, Gardner & Dyke who had a Top 40 hit in the U.S. in 1971 with their single Resurrection Shuffle. [#3 in UK.] This came from their 1970 debut album The Worst Of Ashton, Gardner & Dyke - which featured guest guitar work by.... George Harrison - returning the favor of the Wonderwall sessions.)

As with his later solo album, Harrison invited a few musicians to augment his basic session group. One of these musicians was his new pal, guitarist Eric Clapton. However, as was the case on the Beatles’ White Album later in 1968 - his contribution was uncredited. (Prior to 1969, name musicians were rarely permitted to perform on recordings issued by labels other than their own.) Though the album credits didn’t display it, subsequent rumors referred to the soundtrack sessions as having included a guitarist called Eddie Clayton - a well-known pseudonym used by Eric Clapton.

Also contributing to the sessions - though uncredited for a different reason - were fellow Beatles Ringo Starr and John Lennon (who added rhythm guitar at one of the sessions.) Neither of the Beatles wanted the fact of their involvement to draw attention away from Harrison on his first solo project - and they eschewed any credit.

(The 1992 Apple CD reissue of the album includes comprehensive liner notes by longtime Beatles/Apple publicist and Harrison friend/confidante Derek Taylor - in which he confirmed in print for the first time the uncredited participation of Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr “and others” in the Wonderwall sessions.)

The completed film was first shown at the Cannes Film Festival on May 18, 1968 - at a screening attended by George & Pattie Harrison and Ringo & Maureen Starr.

On November 1, 1968, (December 2, 1968 in US) Harrison’s much-praised score for the movie became the first album released on the Beatles’ new Apple label (receiving the UK catalog number Apcor 001) The album was well reviewed and a comparative success for an album of instrumental music from an as-yet-unseen film. It stayed on the Billboard album charts for 16 weeks - peaking at #49.

The film - which was a heavily psychedelized impressionistic fable featuring the young Jane Birkin - premiered in London on January 20, 1969 - but it was not a commercial success and fell from distribution rapidly. It never secured release in the USA.

With the passage of time and the subsequent backlash against 60’s psychedelia, the film became an obscurity, occasionally surfacing on TV as late-night filler. The film’s director Joe Massot went on to a variety of other projects - most notably directing the 1972 Led Zeppelin documentary The Song Remains The Same and 1981’s Dance Craze about the two-tone ska revival - featuring Madness and The Specials et al.

Apart from the release of Harrison’s soundtrack album on CD in 1992 as part of a general Apple catalog reissue - the project attracted no further attention until 1995.

That was the year that Noel Gallagher writer/guitarist of the band Oasis happened to see the film on one of its occasional middle-of-the-night TV airings and became fascinated with the movie and its music. His fascination led to him writing a song incorporating the film’s title. The next Oasis album - their breakthrough What’s The Story Morning Glory - featured the song called Wonderwall - and it became a worldwide hit single for the by now enormously popular Oasis.

Once people realized the inspiration for the song - the success of the track sparked renewed interest in the original Wonderwall film.

So director Joe Massot decided to bring his 1967 production out of mothballs and see if there might be some interest in reissuing the film. On viewing the movie some 30 years on, he felt that the film could be improved with some re-editing and restoration work.

With the assistance of his eldest son Jason, an aspiring filmmaker, he started to re-edit the film and create a new ‘director’s cut.’ He also decided that he needed to restore the glory of the film’s original soundtrack which - conforming to the low-fi exhibition standards of the day - had been mixed in mono.

Massot set about tracking down all the original elements of the soundtrack. Several masters were located in the tape libraries of Abbey Road Studios and EMI’s Bombay studios. However there were still some music cues missing. Massot decided to contact George Harrison to see if he could be of assistance.

Harrison searched deep in his personal vaults and eventually located all the multi-track masters that he had created for the movie. He passed the tapes to Massot to be used for the soundtrack restoration. It was then that Joe Massot made his startling discovery....

The tapes contained most of the missing music cues. The Wonderwall tapes also included a hidden gem. Apparently Harrison had been working on a SONG for the movie - called "In the First Place". However since the commission had been for instrumental music and there seemed to be no obvious location for a song in the movie - he had not bothered to submit the track to the film’s director!

The song was an extremely strong piece of psychedelic pop - in the style of the Beatles’ Blue Jay Way recorded by Harrison just weeks before the Wonderwall sessions. The atmospheric style perfectly matched the movie’s mood. Since he was in the process of re-editing the film, Massot felt that he could find a way to include this long-lost gem. In fact he wanted to use it as the film’s theme song. He approached Harrison with news of his discovery and his request.

Wonderwall is apparently a project Harrison still feels great pride in. It was the first time that he was commissioned for a project as a creative person outside of the Beatles. Harrison considered the request - and he readily agreed to the use of his recording in the film. He even gave permission for the song to be commercially released as a single in conjunction with the reissue of Wonderwall.

He sought just two minor conditions. Though the song was produced by him, clearly features his lead vocal, and is heavily influenced by his Blue Jay Way eastern/psychedelic style of composition and arrangement - he was not actually the song’s composer. It had been written by two of his session players for the Wonderwall soundtrack. The composers were Colin Manley and Tony Ashton - two members of the disintegrating Remo Four group.

Harrison first of all wanted to be sure that his fellow Liverpudlian musician pals were properly credited for their composition - and that the song was not erroneously represented as having been his composition. (He acknowledged having been the sole producer of the recording - and agreed to accept the official credit as producer.)

Secondly, Harrison did not want to be officially credited as the artist or as a vocalist on the record. The song had been written by two members of a group that was barely in existence at the time of the recording - and that had indeed officially disbanded shortly after the Wonderwall sessions. But the recording had included the instrumental playing of its four members. The group - though never commercially successfully - was a well-respected Liverpool group which had provided instrumental backing for many local artists. Harrison’s guest performance on the 1970 Ashton, Gardner & Dyke album attested to his affection for his ex-Remo Four musician pals.

The shy and retiring “quiet Beatle” - Harrison requested that the track be officially credited as a performance by The Remo Four. At the time he took this decision, Harrison was also aware that none of the four members of the defunct group were in good financial health and that one of the song’s two composers - Colin Manley (who in recent years played with another old Liverpool group The Swingin’ Blue Jeans) - was also in poor physical health. In fact Manley died just a few months later.

Close friends say that Harrison’s insistence on sole credit going to a forgotten and long unsung band of pals (and to not take any credit for his performance) is a typically generous gesture by the reclusive ex-Beatle.

Ringo Starr and George Harrison biographer Alan Clayson (“George Harrison: The Quiet One”) - who is also acknowledged as one of the world’s leading author/historians on British beat music of the 60’s - states that at the time of the recording - the Remo Four had been without a record deal for two years. The group was primarily known as an instrumental backing group (most of their singles had been instrumentals.) They had spent much of 1967 playing live in Germany - where they had been experimenting with a new jazzy sound - quite unlike the progressive rock, psychedelia and eastern music styles which Harrison had been pursuing. The group’s subsequent breakup - with two members forming a ‘back-to-basics’ no-nonsense rockabilly trio (Ashton, Gardner & Dyke’s hit had been aptly titled Resurrection Shuffle) indicated that none of the group’s musical leanings were remotely in the same direction as those of Harrison.

The track in question "In the First Place" sounds exactly as though it was a track from the Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour - recorded just a few weeks earlier in September/October of 1967. Most particularly it has the same swirling eastern psychedelia found on Harrison’s song Blue Jay Way.

Taking all these factors into account - his opinion is that it was highly unlikely that the song could have been recorded as a prospective track for a Remo Four release. Apart from their long-standing lack of a record deal and the imminence of their break-up - the very contemporary Beatlesque style and vocals would have been at complete odds with the very limited industry - or public expectation of a Remo Four record.

Though they may not understand the reason for Harrison’s generous gesture to his old friends - fans of the Beatles and George Harrison are likely to agree with Clayson’s analysis of the music. They will simply be glad that the quiet Beatle agreed to allow this 31 year old gem hear the light of day.

In the UK, Wonderwall film director Joe Massot is already selling the CD single (with a collector’s 7” vinyl single also available) through his Pilar Productions company via a website. Both configurations feature two versions of the song. The original 1967 Abbey Road mix - and the new mix prepared for the movie.

Now Massot is looking for a US distributor to release his Wonderwall movie on home video and for a record company that might be interested in a 3-minute recording by a long-defunct Liverpool quartet....

The Mods & Rockers! film festival is co-created and produced by British humorist/Beatles historian Martin Lewis (a longtime Board member of the American Cinematheque).

Back to the "What's New (And Improved) Page"