Dhani Harrison on when he found out his dad was in The Beatles

Dhani Harrison, born in 1978, is the late Beatle George Harrison’s only child. Born eight years after the final break-up of The Beatles, any residual Beatlemania had long since faded into the background of post-punk hysteria by the time Dhani was coming to terms with the world as a toddler.

In 2011, fans of the so-called ‘quiet Beatle’ were blessed with Martin Scorsese’s insightful documentary film George Harrison: Living in the Material World. The 208-minute documentary details George’s rise to fame with The Beatles and follows his story beyond the group’s break up in 1970 with commentary from a selection of some of the late star’s close friends and family.

The documentary followed Harrison’s spiritual journey in the aftermath of The Beatles as he pursued a solo career, continued his promotion of Indian heritage and started a family with Olivia. The carefully collated footage reflected Harrison’s passion for the natural world, and he was often shown basking in the glorious setting of the 62-acre grounds at Friar Park in Henley-on-Thames.

In the documentary, Dhani recalled his earliest memory of his father. “My earliest memory of my dad is probably of him somewhere in a garden covered in dirt, somewhere hot, a tropical garden, in jeans, khakis covered in dirt, just continuously planting trees,” he remembered. “I think that’s what I thought he did for the first seven years of my life.”

It transpires that Dhani thought his dad was some sort of hippy Alan Titchmarsh. “I was completely unaware that he had anything to do with music,” he said. “I came home one day from school after being chased by kids singing ‘Yellow Submarine’, and I didn’t understand why. It just seemed surreal: Why are they singing that song to me? I came home and I freaked out on my dad: ‘Why didn’t you tell me you were in The Beatles?’ And he said, ‘Oh, sorry. Probably should have told you that.’”

It’s not clear exactly why Harrison kept his involvement with the biggest band of all time a secret from his child for so long, but I would imagine it was to do with the former Beatle’s idea of ego escape. Still, Dhani grew up a keen admirer of his father’s work and became an inquisitive and accomplished musician in his own right.

When tasked with remastering some of his father’s solo work for the 2014 box set The Apple Years 1968-1975, Dhani revealed his favourite of his father’s solo albums. While most people would likely choose one of Harrison’s more commercial records, such as All Things Must Pass or Living In The Material World, as their favourites, Dhani revealed a particular passion for Wonderwall Music, Harrison’s first solo effort from 1968.

Wonderwall Music was a project Harrison worked on while still with The Beatles to provide a soundtrack for Joe Massot’s debut feature-length film, Wonderwall. But the late Beatle was also motivated to make a body of work to help bring Indian music to the western world. In 1992, George explained, “I decided to do it as a mini-anthology of Indian music because I wanted to help turn the public on to Indian music.”

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Dhani once explained why Wonderwall Music was his favourite of his father’s early solo work. “I remember getting a CD of it in the early ‘90s and thinking, ‘What is this?’ You’re sitting there, almost meditating to the music, literally drooling in your lap,” Dhani said. “Then a shenai [an Indian oboe] will come in and practically take the top of your head off.”

“It’s such a deep, psychedelic record. It had Eric Clapton in it, all this backwards guitar, horns – it’s a full-on freakout record. And it was instrumental. Any singing on it was deep Hindu chants.”

He continued, addressing the unfortunate obscurity of the record in the modern-day. “‘Wonderwall’, for my generation, is a title associated with Oasis,” Dhani said. “It’s not. It’s one of the first things my dad did on his own, away from The Beatles.” He continued, “for someone who hasn’t heard Wonderwall before but who knows ‘The Inner Light,’ this gives them a better idea of where that album fits into my father’s history. That album is a missing link to the end of The Beatles.”

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