George Harrison and Ravi Shankar's 1974 North American tour was a 45-show concert tour of the United States and Canada, undertaken by English musician George Harrison and Indian sitarist Ravi Shankar in November and December 1974. It is often referred to as the Dark Horse Tour, since the concerts served as a launch for Harrison's record label Dark Horse Records, to which Shankar was one of the inaugural signings, and Harrison's concurrent single was the song "Dark Horse". The release of his delayed album, also titled Dark Horse, followed towards the end of the tour. The shows featured guest spots by Harrison's band members Billy Preston and Tom Scott.
|Tour by George Harrison and Ravi Shankar|
|Location||United States, Canada|
|Associated album||Dark Horse, Shankar Family & Friends|
|Start date||2 November 1974|
|End date||20 December 1974|
|No. of shows||45|
The 1974 tour was the first in North America by a former member of the Beatles since the band's 1966 visit. Raising expectations further among fans and the media, it marked the first live performances by Harrison since his successful staging of the 1971 Concert for Bangladesh shows, which had also featured Shankar and Preston. Harrison had no wish to revisit his Beatles past, however. He also stated in his pre-tour press conference in Los Angeles, in October 1974: "it's definitely not going to be a Bangladesh Mark II, if that's what people are thinking."
At the same press conference, in reply to questions about a rumoured Beatles reunion, he said that his former band "[weren't] that good", relative to musicians he had worked with since, and he dismissed the idea of ever being in a group with Paul McCartney again. According to author Peter Doggett, these remarks created "the same sense of shock" as John Lennon's 1970 lyric "I don't believe in Beatles" (from the song "God"). Harrison biographer Simon Leng writes that the ensuing tour represented "a whirlwind of pent-up Beatlemania" in North America, "where the group had a status way beyond that of mere icons".
In his set list for the tour, Harrison included just four Beatles songs: his own compositions "Something", "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and "For You Blue", and the Lennon–McCartney song "In My Life". Aside from Scott and Preston, the musicians in Harrison's band included the soul/R&B rhythm section of Willie Weeks and Andy Newmark, Scott's L.A. Express bandmate Robben Ford (on guitar), jazz percussionist Emil Richards, and horn players Jim Horn and Chuck Findley.
Among Shankar's orchestra of top Indian classical musicians were Alla Rakha, Shivkumar Sharma, Lakshmi Shankar, Hariprasad Chaurasia, L. Subramaniam and Sultan Khan. All of Shankar's musicians had recently participated in his Music Festival from India tour of Europe, which Harrison presented under the auspices of his Material World Charitable Foundation. Harrison also recorded a studio album by Shankar's orchestra and helped promote his other Dark Horse Records act, Splinter. These commitments left him behind schedule with his own album, Dark Horse, which he was forced to complete in Los Angeles in October, when not rehearsing for the tour. During the concerts in North America, the two ensembles performed separately and as one, mirroring the East–West fusion of Shankar's first Dark Horse album, Shankar Family & Friends.
The response from music critics varied significantly throughout the tour. Some reviewers were scathing in their assessment: Harrison was criticised for failing to respect the public's nostalgia for the Beatles, his choosing to afford considerable stage-time to Shankar's ensemble, his spiritual pronouncements and on-stage demeanour, and particularly the rough quality of his singing voice, caused by overexertion in the months leading up to the opening concert. Other reviews were highly favourable, admiring Harrison's humility in sharing the spotlight with his fellow musicians and the lack of overly theatrical presentation, and praising the breadth and adventurousness of the musical programme.
Mikal Gilmore of Rolling Stone magazine wrote in 2002 that the tour was "almost universally savaged by the press". Leng, having researched the contemporary coverage for his book While My Guitar Gently Weeps, concludes that "the majority of reviews were positive, in some cases ecstatic …" Leng contends that "the 'given' view of the tour" – namely, that it was "the most calamitous road show in the history of the genre" – has come from a series of unfavourable articles in Rolling Stone, culminating in the magazine's review of Dark Horse. Author Robert Rodriguez summarises the critical reception as follows: "Smaller press outlets without axes to grind tended to review the shows the best, whereas rock establishment coverage, such as Rolling Stone's, tended to spin the tour as something close to an unmitigated disaster (something that George never forgave them for)."
Aside from critics' opinions of the musical content, Harrison took exception to their reports that the shows were not being well received by audiences. Some 750,000 people attended the concerts, which grossed a total of around $4 million. In his 1997 autobiography, Raga Mala, Shankar says that despite the mixed critical reception, "financially it was not a failure", and all the musicians "immensely enjoyed the performing and especially the touring together". A double live album and a documentary film of the tour were planned but neither release took place.
In his 2014 article on the tour, for the website Ultimate Classic Rock, Nick DeRiso writes: "Ultimately, Harrison came to see the tour's issues as more a matter of media perception than anything. Bootlegs, to some degree, back up that notion – as fans appear to receive the dates with no small amount of enthusiasm." Writing for Record Collector in 2001, Peter Doggett said that the available bootlegs reveal the full extent of Harrison's damaged vocal cords, but equally, "tapes of the better nights of the tour prove that the enterprise deserved a better fate." DeRiso quotes Harrison's later recollection that "The public as a whole enjoyed it; it was always standing ovations – even for the Indian section … But they got on my case, the press – some of them anyway."
Due to the scrutiny he received from the media, Harrison remained wary of giving live performances. After 1974, he did not tour again until 1991, when he played a series of concerts in Japan with Eric Clapton.
More recently, the 1974 Harrison–Shankar tour has been recognised by some commentators as a forerunner to the 1980s world music genre, popularised by Western artists such as Paul Simon, Peter Gabriel and David Byrne. Referring to critics of the tour in a 1977 BBC Radio interview, Harrison said: "It's a pity that a lot of people missed out on something that went above their heads." Nick Hasted of Uncut views the reworking of the Beatles' "Something" as "unforgivable" but deems the programme "in retrospect, an admirable show" and a precursor to Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue.
The tour itinerary was as follows:
|2 November 1974||Vancouver, British Columbia||Canada||Pacific Coliseum|
|4 November 1974||Seattle, Washington||United States||Seattle Center Coliseum|
|6 November 1974||Daly City, California||Cow Palace|
|7 November 1974|
|8 November 1974
|Oakland, California||Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum Arena|
|10 November 1974||Long Beach, California||Long Beach Arena|
|11 November 1974||Inglewood, California||The Forum|
|12 November 1974|
|14 November 1974
|Tucson, Arizona||Tucson Community Center|
|16 November 1974||Salt Lake City, Utah||Salt Palace|
|18 November 1974
|Denver, Colorado||Denver Coliseum|
|20 November 1974||St. Louis, Missouri||St. Louis Arena|
|21 November 1974||Tulsa, Oklahoma||Tulsa Assembly Center|
|22 November 1974||Fort Worth, Texas||Tarrant County Convention Center|
|24 November 1974
|Houston, Texas||Hofheinz Pavilion|
|26 November 1974||Baton Rouge, Louisiana||LSU Assembly Center|
|27 November 1974||Memphis, Tennessee||Mid-South Coliseum|
|28 November 1974
|Atlanta, Georgia||Omni Coliseum|
|30 November 1974
|Chicago, Illinois||Chicago Stadium|
|4 December 1974
|Detroit, Michigan||Olympia Stadium|
|6 December 1974
|Toronto, Ontario||Canada||Maple Leaf Gardens|
|8 December 1974
|Montreal, Quebec||Montreal Forum|
|10 December 1974
|Boston, Massachusetts||United States||Boston Garden|
|11 December 1974||Providence, Rhode Island||Providence Civic Center|
|13 December 1974
|Landover, Maryland||Capital Centre|
|15 December 1974
|Uniondale, New York||Nassau Coliseum|
|16 December 1974||Philadelphia, Pennsylvania||Spectrum|
|17 December 1974|
|19 December 1974||New York City||Madison Square Garden|
|20 December 1974|
- Madinger & Easter, p. 446.
- Lavezzoli, pp. 195–96.
- Leng, p. 148.
- Rodriguez, p. 58.
- The Editors of Rolling Stone, p. 44.
- Clayson, pp. 345–46.
- Leng, pp. 138, 147–48.
- Spizer, p. 259.
- Madinger & Easter, p. 443.
- Spizer, p. 263.
- Schaffner, pp. 176, 177.
- Leng, p. 172.
- Tillery, pp. 113–14.
- Lavezzoli, pp. 190, 192.
- Leng, pp. 154, 166.
- Anne Moore, "George Harrison On Tour – Press Conference Q&A", Valley Advocate, 13 November 1974; available at Rock's Backpages (subscription required).
- Badman, pp. 136–37.
- Doggett, p. 225.
- Leng, p. 166.
- Leng, pp. 156–57, 167.
- Lavezzoli, p. 196.
- Shankar, pp. 223–25.
- Harrison, p. 335.
- Greene, p. 212.
- Leng, p. 171.
- Rodriguez, pp. 198–99.
- Leng, pp. 160–65.
- Rodriguez, p. 199.
- Woffinden, pp. 83–84.
- Schaffner, pp. 177–78.
- Mat Snow, "George Harrison: Quiet Storm", Mojo, November 2014, p. 72.
- Leng, pp. 160–65, 174.
- Rodriguez, pp. 59–60.
- Leng, pp. ix, 174.
- Leng, p. 174.
- Rodriguez, p. 59.
- Clayson, p. 338.
- Harry, p. 373.
- Shankar, p. 227.
- Harry, pp. 372–73.
- Nick DeRiso, "40 Years Ago: George Harrison Begins Ill-Fated 1974 North American Tour", Ultimate Classic Rock, 2 November 2014 (retrieved 8 June 2015).
- Peter Doggett, "George Harrison: The Apple Years 1968–75", Record Collector, April 2001, p. 39.
- Rodriguez, p. 60.
- Tillery, pp. 136, 166.
- Harry, p. 374.
- Nick DeRiso, "Gimme Five: Gary Wright, Robben Ford, Bobby Whitlock, Alan White, Joey Molland on George Harrison" > "'Dark Horse' …", Something Else!, 25 February 2014 (archived version retrieved 3 June 2015).
- Jackson, pp. 118–19.
- Lavezzoli, p. 81.
- The New Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, p. 1092.
- Clayson, pp. 339, 478.
- Nick Hasted, "George Solo: Dark Horse", Uncut Ultimate Music Guide: George Harrison, TI Media (London, 2018), p. 71.
- Badman, pp. 137–38.
- Madinger & Easter, p. 447.
- Keith Badman, The Beatles Diary Volume 2: After the Break-Up 1970–2001, Omnibus Press (London, 2001; ISBN 0-7119-8307-0).
- Alan Clayson, George Harrison, Sanctuary (London, 2003; ISBN 1-86074-489-3).
- Peter Doggett, You Never Give Me Your Money: The Beatles After the Breakup, It Books (New York, NY, 2011; ISBN 978-0-06-177418-8).
- The Editors of Rolling Stone, Harrison, Rolling Stone Press/Simon & Schuster (New York, NY, 2002; ISBN 0-7432-3581-9).
- Joshua M. Greene, Here Comes the Sun: The Spiritual and Musical Journey of George Harrison, John Wiley & Sons (Hoboken, NJ, 2006; ISBN 978-0-470-12780-3).
- Olivia Harrison, George Harrison: Living in the Material World, Abrams (New York, NY, 2011; ISBN 978-1-4197-0220-4).
- Bill Harry, The George Harrison Encyclopedia, Virgin Books (London, 2003; ISBN 978-0-7535-0822-0).
- Andrew Grant Jackson, Still the Greatest: The Essential Solo Beatles Songs, Scarecrow Press (Lanham, MD, 2012; ISBN 978-0-8108-8222-5).
- Peter Lavezzoli, The Dawn of Indian Music in the West, Continuum (New York, NY, 2006; ISBN 0-8264-2819-3).
- Simon Leng, While My Guitar Gently Weeps: The Music of George Harrison, Hal Leonard (Milwaukee, WI, 2006; ISBN 1-4234-0609-5).
- Chip Madinger & Mark Easter, Eight Arms to Hold You: The Solo Beatles Compendium, 44.1 Productions (Chesterfield, MO, 2000; ISBN 0-615-11724-4).
- The New Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, Fireside/Rolling Stone Press (New York, NY, 1995; ISBN 0-684-81044-1).
- Robert Rodriguez, Fab Four FAQ 2.0: The Beatles' Solo Years, 1970–1980, Backbeat Books (Milwaukee, WI, 2010; ISBN 978-1-4165-9093-4).
- Nicholas Schaffner, The Beatles Forever, McGraw-Hill (New York, NY, 1978; ISBN 0-07-055087-5).
- Ravi Shankar, Raga Mala: The Autobiography of Ravi Shankar, Welcome Rain (New York, NY, 1999; ISBN 1-56649-104-5).
- Bruce Spizer, The Beatles Solo on Apple Records, 498 Productions (New Orleans, LA, 2005; ISBN 0-9662649-5-9).
- Gary Tillery, Working Class Mystic: A Spiritual Biography of George Harrison, Quest Books (Wheaton, IL, 2011; ISBN 978-0-8356-0900-5).
- Bob Woffinden, The Beatles Apart, Proteus (London, 1981; ISBN 0-906071-89-5).
- George Harrison Concert Setlists & Tour Dates – Setlist.fm