Neil Harrison if you didn't know, played John Lennon for 32 years in the Bootleg Beatles whom he now manages and are said by many to be the greatest Beatles tribute act. What is less know about Neil is that he released an album of his own material, years before in 1974 on Deram records. Here's the blurb from the LP insert, which sheds a lot of light on to what he was doing up to the point of the album's release...
"Neil Harrison is a talented singer/songwriter, he writes simple and unpretentious songs and sings them in an equally honest manner.
|Neil Harrison circa 1974|
His educational years were spent at St. Bede's Boarding School, Cumberland where he obtained ten 'O' Levels, three 'A' Levels and a place at Liverpool University to read zoology. University life lasted two days for Neil, he realised very quickly he was not a zoologist.
His musical talents which had become his main interest, had been born during his school days. During holiday periods he taught himself to play acoustic guitar with Bert Wheedon's "Play In A Day" guitar tutor. He began to become frustrated by trying to express himself through the only medium he knew and loved - music.
After leaving university he worked at odd jobs and at the same time developed a songwriting relationship with Neil Alford. They wrote and sang songs together in and around Liverpool. Known as Driftwood they produced some demo tapes which they sent round to all the major record companies. Decca
stepped in and sent producer Pete Swetenham to Liverpool to see Driftwood, they were subsequently brought to London to make an album make an album which, unfortunately passed completely unnoticed by the public. Neil Harrison's frustration continued.
Neil remained in London, living and working as a van driver. The failure of his album had dampened his confidence considerably. He began to examine himself and the people around him, wanting to know how and why they behaved in certain ways and patterns.
He became interested in social interactions and relationships between people and what these things are based upon. Neil recorded his questions, answers and observations in his songs. His luck changed and once again after making a series of demo tapes Neil was signed to a publishing contract with Southern Music, who financed an album which, although not made available to the general public did bring Neil back to the attention of Decca, via producer Keith Whiting.
Neil's confidence has been restored, his honest unpretentious songs are to be released on the Deram label, on an album called 'ALL DRESSED UP AND NOWHERE TO GO' His view of the world and what he's learnt about people whilst living, struggling and growing up has been recorded as a sincere down to earth expression.
He is still extremely interested in sociology and is in fact taking an external degree in the subject at London University. If Neil's album is anything to go on, he should pass his finals with flying colours."
|Neil as John Lennon|
The album sleeve sees Harrison already looking like Lennon circa 1967 with his little round spectacles and moustache. Musically, it sounds closer to Paul McCartney's mellower moments his first two solo albums and the Wings Wild Life LP than Lennon and vocally resembles George Harrison especially on "This Is London" which is a dead ringer for "Savoy Truffle". Lucky for Neil nobody heard it otherwise he'd have ended up in court with his namesake.
On the whole the album is a grand affair with plenty of orchestration and epic Beatlesque moments, some killer pedal steel provided by the dependable B.J. Cole and some tasteful splashes of Moog throughout the forty minutes of sophisticated singer/songwriter pop. For me, the stand out songs on the album are "I Need A Friend Like You", the most obvious Beatles-y, "Crisis Point", the most Abbey Road-y and "Sad Eyes", the most McCartney-y and the one that Decca fancied Harrison's chances with, releasing it as a single backed with "Bicycle Driver" in 1974. I've got another single from 1974 on Deram records "Eyes In The Back Of My Head" b/w "The Busker" which is pretty good also but not on par with the LP. Another single exists from 1972 on Spark records "Maybe I'm Lost Without You" b/w "I Get This Feeling With You", which I've not heard.
Has anybody out there got a copy of the Driftwood LP they would like to sell or share? I'd love to hear it!