George Harrison – Got My Mind Set On You

First Hit #1: January 16, 1988

For years, I didn’t know that this song – at least this version of this song – was a George Harrison single. It doesn’t really sound like him, Harrison usually has a very distinct guitar sound that barely shows up at all, and it actually sounds like it could be anyone behind the mic. Part of that is a compliment, since Harrison has a really young voice and it kind of meshes with the propensity towards old music that has set up shop in the late ’80s – yep, it’s a cover of a song from the ’60s. But part of that is that it’s really not a very distinct song. Fun, yes, a great time all around, and put together by someone who knows how to make a high quality pop single. But not, unfortunately, a song that really captures a single artist and presents a distinct vision. But does it need to be? Sure, Harrison has his signature sound – which makes the briefest of cameos in the middle of the song – but he’s also entitled to have a bit of fun and make something that’s youthful and exuberant. One could argue that someone who was actually there would make the best ’60s homage, and Got My Mind Set on You is pretty good in that respect.

It’s not a bad song by any means, just one that could be sung by anyone. This time, it just happens to be sung by a former Beatle making a comeback.

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One Response to George Harrison – Got My Mind Set On You

  1. RBerman says:

    The reason it doesn’t sound like George Harrison can be summed up in three letters: E.L.O. The Electric Light Orchestra are the Rosetta Stone of 70s pop, a band that started sounding like the Beatles at the dawn of the decade and ended doing disco with Olivia-Newton John. Classical music defined 70s rock in various ways, from prog-rockers (Yes, Rush, Kansas, Genesis, etc.) experimenting with long-form composition, to disco’s huge orchestral backings, to Emerson, Lake, and Palmer’s rock versions of highbrow music. E.L.O, led by Jeff Lynne, were the goofy bunch likely to do a mashup of Beethoven and Chuck Berry (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CxXl4oS9wss).

    So for his comeback album, George Harrison tapped fellow classic (hyuk, hyuk) rock enthusiast Jeff Lynne as producer, and they churned out a cover of this song, originally a minor hit (#41) for James Ray in 1962. Harrison didn’t write it, and he probably didn’t play much on it. But he seems to have had fun singing one of the R&B songs of his youth, the sort of music that he and his three compatriots homaged and then drove from the radio landscape, much to the distress of Don MacLean.

    Jeff Lynne’s musical fingerprints are all over this song (compare with ELO tracks http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qj8kMmUxkSE or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UKQsv1Q3ZNY), as they would be on subsequent work like Tom Petty’s triumphant Full Moon Fever album (e.g. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nUTXb-ga1fo) and the Traveling Wilburys collective (e.g. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L8s9dmuAKvU, written by Harrison, who sings initial lead vocals too).

    Despite long and successful (and in the case of the latter, game-changing) careers, neither Tom Petty nor Bob Dylan ever managed a #1 single, so this is probably the best place to mention them in this blog. The Wilburys hit #2 three times in two albums over three years, so this is a good place to pay them tribute too. Their vocals were those of Orbison, Petty, Harrison, and Dylan, four of the giants of 20th century rock. But equally important to Harrison, to Petty, and to the Wilburys was the production, which was pure Lynne.

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