George Harrison’s “Crackerbox Palace” is a combo of big ideas and pretty rock melodies


An interesting thing happens when “Saturday Night Live” pulls out an episode from the show’s early days – – there are performances by musicians whose careers were still a bit young at the time, and more than 40 years later, audiences can only marvel at the development of artists in the passage of time. That is exactly what happens when an episode from 1976 was shown. Paul Simon was the host, and George Harrison was the musical guest. That didn’t stop the two from interacting.

At one point, Simon was introducing Harrison’s “movie.” To 21st century audiences, this sounded odd. A movie? With George Harrison without the Beatles? While such isn’t impossible, modern audiences had a difficult time figuring out what this movie was. As it turned out, it was a music video for Harrison’s single “Crackerbox Palace.”  The song would be forthcoming from Harrison’s album “Thirty three & 1/3.”

George Harrison: sight and sound of “Crackerbox Palace”

The video features Harrison cavorting with a cast of characters in scenes reminiscent of “Alice in Wonderland,” complete with tea parties, hedgerow mazes and top hats.

Harrison starts his song with the idea of being born and being unable to see. Listeners allow him this (hopefully metaphorical) phrase because who remembers what they could see as infants? The song’s story is set up like a coming-of-age story, but toward the end, if those born into the “Crackerbox Palace” do not behave or otherwise perform as expected, then they can get deported from the titular box. This puts an edge on the melancholy song that endears itself to audiences with its slightly off-kilter, but also pretty in a fragile way, melody.

As if the song’s deep-thinking lyrics were not enough, there was the idea of the tiny movie to accompany a song. These became known as “videos,” of course. It would be interesting to know who watching that video either at the taping or at home, could have predicted that the music video would become the cultural phenomenon that it did by the early 1980s.


Popularity of “Crackerbox Palace” by George Harrison

The song “Crackerbox Palace” appeared on Harrison’s “Thirty Three & 1/3” album which was released in 1976. The video was available in November that year. The song performed well on multiple US charts, and even in Canada. It cracked the top 20 on both of those charts, including peaks at Nos. 20 and 17 on US Billboard Hot 100 and US Cash Box Top 100, respectively.

Of the ten tracks on “Thirty Three & 1/3,” “Crackerbox Palace” was arguably the most popular. With its presentation of big ideas in a melody that is somewhat easy to sing, and a title that few could forget, it is little wonder that “Crackerbox Palace” was as popular as it was.  The song is impressive as it marks the still kind of early years of Harrison’s post-Beatles career. For some tastes, the song is not played nearly often enough on classic rock radio stations. Thanks to YouTube and “Saturday Night Live” re-runs, the song will continue to find new audiences.


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2 responses to “George Harrison’s “Crackerbox Palace” is a combo of big ideas and pretty rock melodies”

  1. No, 33 1/3 was released in 1976. No, we didn’t call videos “movies” but called them “promos” and also sometimes “videos” before the 1980s. They DID exist for many years. Yes their popularity soured when MTV played music videos 24/7. And “marveling at the passage of time” etc. is not “exactly what happens” when Paul Simon and George Harrison are on the same show. This was an instance when the music performers were not “new start ups”. In fact there were many well known artists in the early days of SNL. One of the things that made it so popular.

    • That’s true, but the terminology I used came from the show, not what I thought everyone used. And, the release dates are conflicting from one source to another. Certainly the show aired in 1976, but in some places the release date is still listed as January 1977. And, yes, for people who were not born yet, they do marvel at the passage of time because those two performers have a different profile now than they did 40 years ago.

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