A symphonic introduction, arpeggiated winds and romantic string lines building to a climatic pad behind an oboe and classical guitar dialogue. A cinematic swell with harp runs and brings the brass entry, before a diminuendo returns us to the lyrical statement of the melody from the cellos. The acknowledged Ravel-like arc then clears way for a clear melodic rendition of the uplifting music of George Harrison’s Here Comes the Sun. A song of optimism and leaving troubles behind, written during the recording of Abbey Road, draws on Harrison’s appreciation of nature and a day’s escape from the routine of life and business to Eric Clapton’s house in Ewhurst, Surrey. Clapton recalls the song being born in front of his eyes and ears as George Harrison just strummed away in his garden.
Here Comes the Sun is featured on George Martin’s 1998 farewell album, In My Life, in which he felt that the time had come to call it a day for his music career and re-visit some of the works for which he was best known from his days as the fifth member of The Beatles (a position often given to Brian Epstein or Stuart Sutcliffe, but very much acknowledged this last week as belonging to The Beatles’ long term producer, Sir George Martin). There are thousands of posts about the life of this amazing man, many of which have taught me a lot that I didn’t know about him, but the most interesting material for me this week, has been the ‘making of’ documentary of his retirement album. This documentary shows him as a producer in the truest sense of the word – working directly with artists (including some great footage of him and Robin Williams), writing arrangements and conducting the orchestra. A producer in the sense that is so often forgotten today.
Here Comes the Sun features John Williams on guitar alongside the London Philharmonic Orchestra, recorded at Sir George’s studios, Air Lyndhurst. Williams humbly talks about the challenge for a classical performer in approaching a ‘pop’ song, although this particular song does draw on more than may be expected from the average pop tune. Irregular time signatures weave away alongside Indian influenced modal passages and repetition. George Martin drew on this repetition to produce his own theme and variation-like piece around George Harrison’s song.
Following the introduction and solo guitar passage, an orchestral tutti complete with timps leads us into a nimble feel with pizzicato strings and the oboes doubling the guitar melody before legato string lines compliment the quicker natural decay of the guitar. The guitar is doubled either in octaves or unison, at which point the guitar becomes a part of the orchestra and not a soloist (i.e. 2’08” for the “Sun, sun, sun” rundown).
John Williams is then able to start exploring more adventurous ornamentation as a soloist with the orchestra providing a solid bed. The range and technique of the guitar passages is carefully considered in relation to the instruments around it as is so well demonstrated in the documentary.
The final chorus is more homophonic with the brass lines moving directly with the guitar melody, making the descending chromatic clarinet passage at 3’00’ very effective, almost humorous, but without becoming too comical.
John Williams and the orchestras brilliant performance, combined with Sir George Martin’s production and arrangement skills, produce a very fresh take on this brilliant song and demonstrate the talent and creativity of such an amazing musician.