ON THIS DAY 27 November, 1989: “Cheer Down” (Co-written with Tom Petty and produced by Jeff Lynne) was issued as a single in the UK. The song was originally submitted to the soundtrack of the film Lethal Weapon 2.
The song has appeared on the Harrison compilation albums Best of Dark Horse and Let It Roll. A live version recorded with Eric Clapton was included on Harrison’s 1992 album Live in Japan.
The title of the song is attributed to Harrison’s wife Olivia, who would tell her husband, “Okay, cheer down, big fellow” when he became too enthusiastic.Harrison first recorded a rhythm track for the song during the sessions for his 1987 album Cloud Nine. He subsequently finished the lyrics with assistance from Tom Petty. The following year, along with “Run So Far” and “That Kind of Woman”, “Cheer Down” was among the four compositions that Harrison offered to Eric Clapton for inclusion on the latter’s album Journeyman. Clapton instead decided to use it for the soundtrack to the film Lethal Weapon 2, which he had been commissioned to supply, but he persuaded Harrison to contribute his own recording for inclusion in the film.
George completed “Cheer Down” at his home studio, FPSHOT, in March 1989. The song was again co-produced by Jeff Lynne, who had served the same role on Cloud Nine, in addition to forming the Traveling Wilburys with Harrison and Petty. The completed recording features a long closing slide guitar solo that author Simon Leng admires for its fluency and variation. In Leng’s description, during this section, Harrison’s playing “runs the gamut from Indian blues chops to two-part countermelodies and sweeping Pete Drake jaunts through the octaves”.
“Cheer Down” was used over the closing credits of Lethal Weapon 2. It was then issued as the opening track on the accompanying soundtrack album, released on 10 August 1989 in the United States,and as a single to promote the film there, on 22 August. Issued on Warner Bros. Records,the single’s B-side was “That’s What It Takes”, a track from Cloud Nine.The UK release, which took place on 27 November, on Harrison’s Warner-distributed Dark Horse record label, instead used the newly recorded “Poor Little Girl” as the B-side. The single was the last such release by Harrison as a solo artist during his lifetime.
In October 1989, “Cheer Down” was included on Harrison’s Dark Horse Records compilation album Best of Dark Horse 1976–1989, as the final track. Although Best of Dark Horse is no longer in print, “Cheer Down” was included on the 2009 career-spanning compilation Let It Roll: Songs by George Harrison.It also appeared on the reissued soundtrack album in 2013, as part of a box set titled Lethal Weapon Soundtrack Collection.
The following personnel are credited by Simon Leng:
- George Harrison – vocals, guitar, slide guitars
- Jeff Lynne – bass, guitar, keyboards, backing vocals
- Richard Tandy – piano
- Ray Cooper – percussion
- Ian Paice – drums