So director Joe Massot decided to bring his 1967 production out of mothballs and see if there might be some interest in reissuing the film. On viewing the movie some 30 years on, he felt that the film could be improved with some re-editing and restoration work.
With the assistance of his eldest son Jason, an aspiring filmmaker, he started to re-edit the film and create a new ‘director’s cut.’ He also decided that he needed to restore the glory of the film’s original soundtrack which - conforming to the low-fi exhibition standards of the day - had been mixed in mono.
Massot set about tracking down all the original elements of the soundtrack. Several masters were located in the tape libraries of Abbey Road Studios and EMI’s Bombay studios. However there were still some music cues missing. Massot decided to contact George Harrison to see if he could be of assistance.
Harrison searched deep in his personal vaults and eventually located all the multi-track masters that he had created for the movie. He passed the tapes to Massot to be used for the soundtrack restoration. It was then that Joe Massot made his startling discovery....
The tapes contained most of the missing music cues. The Wonderwall tapes also included a hidden gem. Apparently Harrison had been working on a SONG for the movie - called “IN THE FIRST PLACE.” However since the commission had been for instrumental music and there seemed to be no obvious location for a song in the movie - he had not bothered to submit the track to the film’s director!
The song was an extremely strong piece of psychedelic pop - in the style of the Beatles’ “Blue Jay Way” recorded by Harrison just weeks before the Wonderwall sessions. The atmospheric style perfectly matched the movie’s mood. Since he was in the process of re-editing the film, Massot felt that he could find a way to include this long-lost gem. In fact he wanted to use it as the film’s theme song. He approached Harrison with news of his discovery and his request.
“Wonderwall” is apparently a project Harrison still feels great pride in. It was the first time that he was commissioned for a project as a creative person outside of the Beatles. Harrison considered the request - and he readily agreed to the use of his recording in the film. He even gave permission for the song to be commercially released as a single in conjunction with the reissue of “Wonderwall.”
He sought just two minor conditions.
Though the song was produced by him, clearly features his vocals, and is heavily influenced by his “Blue Jay Way” eastern/psychedelic style of composition and arrangement - he was not actually the song’s composer. It had been written by two of his session players for the “Wonderwall” soundtrack. The composers were Colin Manley and Tony Ashton - two members of the disintegrating Remo Four group.
Harrison first of all wanted to be sure that his fellow Liverpudlian musician pals were properly credited for their composition - and that the song was not erroneously represented as having been his composition.
(He acknowledged having been the sole producer of the recording - and agreed to accept the official credit as producer.)
Secondly, Harrison did not want to be officially credited as one of the artists or as a vocalist on the record. The song had been written by two members of a group that was barely in existence at the time of the recording - and that had indeed officially disbanded shortly after the Wonderwall sessions. But the recording had included the instrumental playing of its four members. The group - though never commercially successfully - was a well-respected Liverpool group which had provided instrumental backing for many local artists. Harrison’s guest performance on the 1970 Ashton, Gardner & Dyke album attested to his affection for his ex-Remo Four musician pals.
The shy and retiring ‘quiet Beatle’ - Harrison requested that the track be officially credited solely as a performance by The Remo Four.
At the time he took this decision, Harrison was also aware that none of the four members of the defunct group were in good financial health and that one of the song’s two composers - Colin Manley (who in recent years played with another old Liverpool group The Swingin’ Blue Jeans) - was also in poor physical health. In fact Manley died just a few months later.
Close friends say that Harrison’s insistence on sole credit going to a forgotten and long unsung band of pals (and to not take any credit for his performance) is a typically generous gesture by the reclusive ex-Beatle.
Ringo Starr and George Harrison biographer Alan Clayson (“George Harrison: The Quiet One”) - who is also acknowledged as one of the world’s leading author/historians on British beat music of the 60’s - states that at the time of the recording - the Remo Four had been without a record deal for two years. The group was primarily known as an instrumental backing group (most of their singles had been instrumentals.) They had spent much of 1967 playing live in Germany - where they had been experimenting with a new jazzy sound - quite unlike the progressive rock, psychedelia and eastern music styles which Harrison had been pursuing. The group’s subsequent breakup - with two members forming a ‘back-to-basics’ no-nonsense rockabilly trio (Ashton, Gardner & Dyke’s hit had been aptly titled Resurrection Shuffle) indicated that none of the group’s musical leanings were remotely in the same direction as those of Harrison.
The track in question “IN THE FIRST PLACE” sounds exactly as though it was a track from the Beatles’ “Magical Mystery Tour” - recorded just a few weeks earlier in September/October of 1967. Most particularly it has the same swirling eastern psychedelia found on Harrison’s song “Blue Jay Way.”
Taking all these factors into account - his opinion is that it was highly unlikely that the song could have been recorded as a prospective track for a Remo Four release. Apart from their long-standing lack of a record deal and the imminence of their break-up - the very contemporary Beatlesque style and vocals would have been at complete odds with the very limited industry - or public expectation of a Remo Four record.
Though they may not understand the reason for Harrison’s generous gesture to his old friends - fans of the Beatles and George Harrison are likely to agree with Clayson’s analysis of the music. They will simply be glad that the quiet Beatle agreed to allow this 31 year old gem hear the light of day.
In the UK, “Wonderwall” film director Joe Massot is already selling the CD single (with a collector’s 7” vinyl single also available) through his Pilar Productions company website. Both configurations feature two versions of the song. The original 1967 Abbey Road mix - and the new mix prepared for the movie.
Now Massot is looking for a US distributor to release his “Wonderwall” movie and for a record company that might be interested in a 3-minute recording by a long-defunct Liverpool group....
"Everyone should have themselves regularly overwhelmed by Nature"
- George Harrison