George Harrison’s 1976 hit “Crackerbox Palace,” the second single from his Thirty Three & 1/3 album, is one of those vaguely worded songs (Sample lyric: “Sometimes are good . . . sometimes are bad. That’s all a part of life”) that could be just about anything. It’s a happy little tune that you could project just about any happy thoughts onto while you hum along.
In actual fact, the song was written about his visit to the Los Angeles home of the great Beatnik comic, Lord Buckley, after a chance meeting with Buckley’s former manager George Grief in France. Harrison was a big admirer of Buckley (as was Frank Zappa) and thought the name of his house would make a great song title. The song includes references to both George Greif (“I met a Mr. Greif”) and to his Lordship (“know that the Lord is well and inside of you”).
Monty Python member Eric Idle directed a promo film for “Crackerbox Palace” that was shown on SNL (along with another for “This Song”) that featured Neil Innes (in drag and in other weird costumes). Harrison appeared—as himself and as “Pirate Bob” his sea-shanty singing alter ego—on Idle and Innes’ BBC Rutland Weekend Television, on the show’s Christmas special.
A compilation of Harrison’s bits on the ‘Rutland Weekend Television’ Christmas special
In the charming “Crackerbox Palace” short you can spot Harrison’s future wife, Olivia Arias, in a flash as one of the women by the bed and director Idle—as well as one of his partners in Python, John Cleese—can be seen as one of the people in the chair. But what’s really wild about this clip is that you can see how George Harrison lived like royalty in his Friar Park mansion. Talk about a palace, the amazing house and the grounds are really quite a sight. The final pull-out shot shows some of the incredible landscaping that was one of Harrison’s great passions. In 1978, when EMI Films abruptly pulled out of Life of Brian just four days before production was due to begin, Harrison would take out a second mortgage on Friar Park to finance the £3 million film through his Handmade Films.