Noel Harrison, who was both a singer and actor during his career, has died at his home in Devon in the UK at age 79, the BBC reported Oct. 22. The British star was perhaps best known in America for his co-starring role in a TV spy series in America, but his musical career also played a contributing role to a huge hit for the Beatles' Apple Records.
Harrison was born on Jan. 29, 1934 in London the son of actor Rex Harrison and Collette Thomas. The younger Harrison, who was known for his shaggy blonde look in the '60s, made his screen debut in 1962. He had two Billboard top 100 songs in America, “A Young Girl” in 1965, and a cover of Leonard Cohen's “Suzanne” in 1967.
He had a top 10 song in the UK with “Windmills of Your Mind” from the soundtrack of "The Thomas Crowne Affair" that reached #8 in 1969. It won Best Song at the 41st Academy Awards.
He was best known in the U.S., though, for his co-starring role on a spinoff from the popular spy series “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” called “The Girl From U.N.C..L.E.”, which ran from 1966 to 1967. Harrison played Mark Slate, sidekick to the sexy April Dancer, played by Stefanie Powers. The show is available on DVD.
“I was part of the British Invasion spearheaded by the Beatles. I bought a nice house in Los Angeles,” he wrote on his website. “My wife and children and their friends enjoyed the house, the stables and the pool while I careered around the U.S.A. raking in the bucks. I didn’t like being a celebrity. There are lots of perks, pretty women all over you, good tables at fancy restaurants, and all kinds of ego-inflating bull---, but my marriage was crumbling and I felt as if I was exposing my emotional and distressed state in a fishbowl.”
Harrison's 1967 album “Collage,” his Reprise Records debut, featured covers of four songs written by members of the Beatles: the songs “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” “When I'm 64” and “Strawberry Fields Forever” written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, plus an acoustic cover of “Woman,” written by McCartney under the name Bernard Webb for Peter & Gordon and a hit for the duo the year before.
Harrison eventually moved back to England. “I’m writing and playing music and trying to figure out who I am, what I really think, if anything, and if it matters,” he wrote in recent years. “I’m pretty sure it doesn’t.”
His longtime friend Tony Bramwell, former CEO of the Beatles' Apple Records label, said the two had stayed in touch. “For the past 10 years or so, I have met up with him most weeks and shared a glass or two!,” he said.
Bramwell also tells a great story about Harrison and Paul McCartney.
“A long time ago Paul McCartney went to see Noel Harrison perform at The Blue Angel Club in London (not the Liverpool one) and the support act, Gene Rankin, sang 'Those Were The Days.' Paul noted the song and some years later produced Mary Hopkin's multi-million selling version!”
Copyright Steve Marinucci. Please do not reprint in full on other sites without permission. Connect with us on Facebook and Pinterest. And don't miss our weekly Beatles news podcast “Things We Said Today” available first on Fab4Radio.com on the weekends, then on iTunes and Podbean.com.