George Harrison said that on his 1987 album, Cloud Nine, he ignored the technological advancements that had become popular since his previous album, 1982’s Gone Troppo. He wanted to make good old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll.
George Harrison and his producer, Jeff Lynne, had the same vision for ‘Cloud Nine’
There were a few reasons why there were five years between Gone Troppo and Cloud Nine. First of all, George had gotten sick of contemporary music. He claimed it all sounded the same, and that’s what the record companies liked. So, George took a break and, in the meantime, recorded demos and founded his film production company, HandMade Films.
Most importantly, George couldn’t find the right person to help him make a new album. He wanted someone who understood him and his music.
“I had to have somebody who I respected and who I felt had a legitimate input and, likewise, somebody who was aware of my past and wasn’t just going to crowd me out, or turn me into some sort of thing that I wasn’t,” George told Anthony DeCurtis (per George Harrison on George Harrison: Interviews and Encounters.)
That person was ELO frontman Jeff Lynne. On Midday with Ray Martin (per George Harrison on George Harrison), George explained that he and Lynne worked well together because of their mutual dislike of pop music.
He explained, “I’m sure most people don’t like everything, but Jeff and I fit in together good, you know, we both have a dislike for certain clattery sounds and stuff like that, and I wanted to try and get it so it wasn’t so much like a computer record that didn’t have any human feel to it, you know?”
George ignored all technological advancements while recording ‘Cloud Nine’
During an interview with Warner Bros., George talked about the technological advancements that came in the five years he wasn’t releasing music.
The interviewer asked George if he had to change anything he did in the recording studio to make way for the new technology. He said he didn’t change a single thing while making Cloud Nine. “I ignore them,” he said. “That’s one of the things I thought, ‘I’m not going to make one of them sort of clattery records like everybody else seems to be doing.’
“I’m going to make a record, something like 20 years ago. Just like a rock ‘n’ roll band making a record except the modern technology, it’s going to sound like now, like it’s just been made now. I avoided all those sort of drum machines and all those kind of things MIDI this and that and the other and all these emulator little phony trumpets and stuff.
“We had real saxes and real guitars, real pianos, real drums, real people playing real songs.”
Jim Keltner and Ringo Starr helped George keep it real
George thought having the drums as authentic as possible was essential to making an old-fashioned rock record. Jim Keltner and Ringo Starr helped him.
George told DeCurtis, “I always had in mind that when I did this record, I would like to have these proper drummers, and more or less do it like I did it in the late ’60s, early ’70s, which is to say [Jim] Keltner and Ringo,” George said.
“Those two are perfect. Jim is a very great session drummer, and he’s always kept ahead of or up to the technology, so Jim could just as well sit down on his drum kit and play whatever you need. At the same time, if you want to have a machine play it, Jim can play that machine like nobody else, and make it sound like real drums. I mean, he’s called the ‘Stenographer of Soul.’
“Everything’s become so dependent on sampled sounds. I don’t mind sampled sounds, but rather than find one that’s already in there.”
George essentially thought that all the sampling that was going on in the music industry became “washing-up liquid.” He liked straightforward rock ‘n’ roll, that’s all.