Outtake from Cloud Nine
Following the release of the relatively unsuccessful Gone Troppo in 1982, and Harrison's increasing frustrations with a changing musical climate, he decided to halt his recording career for other interests, such as film production with his own company, Handmade Films. The odd soundtrack or charity song would surface during this period, but otherwise it was a musically silent period for Harrison.
By late 1986 — after a substantial break — Harrison felt the desire to make music again. Wanting to sound contemporary but true to his roots, he asked former Electric Light Orchestra leader and fellow musician Jeff Lynne to co-produce the album with him. After having composed a round of new songs, Harrison entered his home studio, Friar Park, in Henley-on-Thames on 5 January 1987 to begin recording his first new commercial album in five years.
Joining Harrison and Lynne in the studio were old friends such as Jim Keltner and Ringo Starr on drums, Eric Clapton on guitar, and on piano both Gary Wright and Elton John. It was clear that a substantial break was what Harrison really needed — he felt refreshed and reinvigorated. For the first time in years he actually wanted to make an album. His enthusiasm to be musically productive again would have an impact on the quality of the music produced for Cloud Nine.
Part of Harrison's strategy for his comeback was making himself seen. He appeared with Starr at the Prince's Trust Concert that June performing "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and was actively involved in promoting the upcoming album. In October, Harrison's cover of Rudy Clark's obscure early 1960s song "Got My Mind Set on You", (which Harrison had wanted to record with the Beatles in the early days) accompanied by a humorous video, was released and stunned everyone by reaching #1 in the US and #2 in the UK — heights Harrison had not achieved in almost fifteen years. A few short weeks later, Cloud Nine was released with very high anticipation and was promptly lauded by critics worldwide as Harrison's best album since All Things Must Pass in 1970, sending it to #10 in the UK and #8 and platinum status in the US. His Beatles tribute "When We Was Fab" also proved a successful follow-up single, reaching the Top 30 in both the UK and US.
While the success of Cloud Nine was not enough to spur Harrison into a tour (the ill-fated 1974 Dark Horse jaunt in North America was still fresh in his mind), he certainly did embrace his good fortune and it inspired him to continue — but with a difference. In the spring of 1988, along with Lynne, he would call up friends Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and Roy Orbison and begin recording a project ultimately released as the Traveling Wilburys.
In 2004, Cloud Nine was remastered and reissued both separately and as part of the deluxe box set The Dark Horse Years 1976-1992 on Dark Horse Records with new distribution by EMI, adding two bonus tracks from the Shanghai Surprise film: "Shanghai Surprise" and "Zig Zag" (also released as "When We Was Fab"'s B-Side).
George Harrison Vocals, guitars, keyboards
Jeff Lynne Guitars, bass, vocals, keyboards
Eric Clapton Guitar
Elton John Piano
Gary Wright Piano
Ringo Starr Drums
Jim Keltner Drums
Ray Cooper Percussion, drums
Jim Horn Baritone and tenor sax
Bobby Kok Cello
Vicki Brown Vocals on "Shanghai Surprise"