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#askNat – concerning when George Harrison composed the tracks on “All Things Must Pass”

This time around on #askNat, Brian Downey from Raleigh, NC has this to say:

Love your site Nat! My question is this: It seems that for the All Things Must Pass album George Harrison wrote a large number of songs in a very short time. Were these songs written during his time with The Beatles and subsequently rejected for inclusion on a Beatles album or did he write them after the Beatles broke up?

Good question Brian! The official breakup of The Beatles was in April of 1970 and here is George, in November of the same year, releasing a solo triple album! Wow! Triple albums were not so common in 1970. In fact, the only earlier successful triple album as far as rock music goes that I can think of is the soundtrack for the Woodstock festival, which had just come out in the summer of 1970.

The short answer to your question is that most of the songs on the album were written before The Beatles were disbanded officially. It’s easy to say that The Beatles “rejected” them but that’s not to say that some of them would not have been done had The Beatles stayed together. It’s probably more accurate to say with hind site being 20/20 that a lot of them were just not given the priority they deserved. The best way to answer the question more thoroughly though is to make a list for you and everyone reading. A track-by-track account follows below the image.

All Things Must Pass boxed 3-LP set, 1970

All Things Must Pass boxed 3-LP set, 1970

 

All Things Must Pass in chronological order by composition date

# Song Title When composed/Remarks
1 “Isn’t It A Pity” 1966
In a recorded conversation between George Harrison & John Lennon in 1969, George reminds John of his “veto” of “Isn’t It A Pity” back in the Revolver sessions of 1966. Some rehearsals exist during the Jan. 1969 “Get Back” sessions w/The Beatles.
2 “Art Of Dying” 1966/67
George wrote “Art Of Dying” when his interest in Hindu spirituality began to increase around this period.
3 “Let It Down” late 1968
Some rehearsals exist during the Jan. 1969 “Get Back” sessions w/The Beatles.
4 “I’d Have You Anytime” Nov. 1968
Written with Bob Dylan at his home in Bearsville, NY around Thanksgiving.
5 “All Things Must Pass” Dec. 1968
Some rehearsals exist during the Jan. 1969 “Get Back” sessions w/The Beatles.
6 “Hear Me Lord” early-Jan. 1969
Some rehearsals exist during the Jan. 1969 “Get Back” sessions w/The Beatles.
7 “Wah Wah” mid-Jan. 1969
George wrote this during the time he had temporarily quit The Beatles during the Get Back sessions after a dispute with the others.
8 “Run Of The Mill” early 1969, likely March
Inspired partly by the strife between The Beatles and pre-Allen Klein troubles over Apple Corp.
9 “What Is Life” mid-1969
Originally written for Billy Preston in about 15 minutes during sessions for Billy’s LP That’s The Way God Planned It.
10 “Behind That Locked Door” Aug. 1969
Written as encouragement to Bob Dylan who was making a comeback at the time with The Band.
11 “My Sweet Lord” Dec. 1969
Written in Copenhagen, Denmark while guesting on Delaney & Bonnie’s European tour with Eric Clapton and Billy Preston.
12 “Beware Of Darkness” late 1969/early 1970
George wrote this song at home in England during a period when some friends from the Radha Krishna Temple were staying with him.
13 “Awaiting On You All” early 1970
George may have been inspired to write this after co-writing the spiritual song “Sing One For The Lord” with Billy Preston.
14 “Ballad Of Sir Frankie Crisp (Let It Roll)” spring 1970, shortly after Beatles breakup
By this time George was actually planning a solo record. This track is a tribute to Frankie Crisp, the original owner of George’s home (Friar Park).
15 “Apple Scruffs” first half of 1970
George had actually coined the term in 1968 as a nickname for Beatles fans hanging out outside of Apple in hopes of an autograph or to get to interact with any of The Beatles.
16 “I Dig Love” first half of 1970
George’s song about loosening the taboos of sex and sexuality.
17 “Apple Jam” June 1970
Largely improvised tracks on disc 3 of the set where George jams with Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker and others.

 

Note: “If Not For You” covered on the album by George is not listed in the table as it is a Bob Dylan composition originally recorded for his 1970 LP New Morning.

That should cover it Brian! Thanks for a great question. If anyone has anything to add, I welcome your comments below.


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Here are some Amazon links to read more on, or purchase music related to this post:

1) All Things Must Pass [BOXED EDITION] – 2-CD special boxed version containing 2001 remastered set of original 1970 3-LP All Things Must Pass album with bonus tracks.

2) Let It Roll: Songs by George Harrison – 2009 hits collection by George Harison including 5 songs from George’s All Things Must Pass 3-LP set from 1970.

3) Beatles Music: The Beatles, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.

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26 Comments

  • Lou says:

    I know this view won’t be popular but:

    IMO, what your list shows is that the constant drumbeat we’ve heard for 40 years about how John and Paul “held poor George back” is overblown People seem to think George had all these songs stored up from 65-66-67 and that the two Meanies kept turning him down. But (1) during those years, when Paul and John were writing a ton of songs, George wasn’t. He was focused on learning the sitar and that was his choice to do so. And (2) The vast majority of the ATMP songs were written in 69-70 when the band was falling apart and not actually spending all that much time in the studio (or outside it) together. Finally (3), there was always a lag between the time Paul, John, and George first brought a song into the studio and the time it actually showed up on an album — which is why all 3 of them had songs on their first few solo albums that could have ended up on Beatles albums had the band stayed together. There’s no way of knowing how many of George’s songs would have ended up on Beatles albums.

    I don’t know why people can’t be satisfied with the obvious: George blossomed as a songwriter later than John and Paul, and had his most prolific songwriting period in 69-70. When you have two powerhouses who are writing hit after hit, and great song after great song for 7 years, they’re not just going to step aside for the second string and say, “go ahead, you take over.” They’re still creating, too. Sure, George Harrison could have been encouraged more — especially by John, since he’s the one MIA from the studio on a good number of George songs, and also by George Martin. I recently read an interview with George Martin who was asked about Harrison’s songwriting, and Martin came right out and said most of GH’s early songs were, and I quote, “rubbish.” I was surprised by how blunt he was but that’s what Martin said.

    So George developed later as a songwriter, and the fact that John and Paul wouldn’t step aside and give him more space on the albums meant that he had one hell of a solo debut. So despite the rather large chip on Harrison’s shoulder about all this, he made his mark in the end, didn’t he? And maybe that struggle helped him to do so, given that George never produced another album that came close to the quality of ATMP.

    • Lennonista says:

      I pretty much agree with you, too, Lou… though we have to admit that there was some collusion on John and Paul’s part. As John famously admitted, they “carved up the empire between” themselves… and I think it was Paul who talked about how he and John had made a conscious and explicit decision to keep their songwriting partnership exclusive. Doesn’t mean that George wasn’t allowed to write, but it does go to his point that they didn’t actively help him. They didn’t HAVE to, of course, but I can kind of see how George would be resentful since they were like brothers and all.

    • anon says:

      Lou, I don’t think it was merely the fact that he had less songs on the albums that caused George to develop a chip on his shoulder so much as the general way he had been treated by John and Paul since the beginning and later on George Martin. People like Cynthia and John and Paul themselves have commented on how they made a conscious effort to ignore him and shut him out of the partnership. He didn’t get credit for his contributions to their songs, was seen by others since The Quarrymen as lesser than the other two, there was the whole business with Northern Songs and when Paul became more controlling he was essentially reduced to a session musician. Picking up the sitar actually made them take him a bit more seriously. The accumulation of all these things gave him a serious inferiority complex, and I can see how it was difficult for him to get over it. Even after ATMP they didn’t give him much respect.

      Also, the space used for John and Paul’s mediocre songs in the later albums could’ve been given to George, but they still had priority.

  • Elliott Marx says:

    Lou you have made excellent points, I absolutely agree that John and Paul were not simply being mean. You didn’t mention the sticky business with the publishing company Northern Songs which actually went public in the 1960s. This meant that there was some sort of obligation to the shareholders for the company to make profit year over year. John and Paul each owned a 15% stake in this company, George owned less than 2 percent. A publishing company probably didn’t care about the Beatles versions of their own songs or what went on each album, but wanted multiple cover version and sync licenses – more likely to arrive with the Lennon – McCartney tag than any other. With all the power the Beatles had, they did not have ALL the power at all. This madness was separate from the insanity Apple Corps. was soon to create. I speculate that George’s compositions were excluded from albums at times simply because of complicated financial realities. George famously hated business meetings, which certainly didn’t help his case.

    Nat, ATMP is an excellent double album, but that third piece of vinyl, with the meandering jams is a novelty at best. That stuff would even be left off a posthumous compilation if it had remained unreleased. I imagine Olivia and Dhani wouldn’t even consider Thanks for the Pepperoni for release. I think the third album is about as hubristic as it gets.

    • Rich says:

      Elliott, I’m glad to see someone besides me considers ATMP a double album. Much is made of Harrison coming out with THREE albums of music as his solo debut, but as you point out, it’s really two albums of music and a third disc of dreck. And I’m really surprised it’s as bad as it is, considering the caliber of the musicians playing on it.

  • Happy Nat says:

    The third LP “Apple Jam” on ATMP was thrown in for fun. I really don’t have a problem with it. It’s just that – a “jam.” It is labelled as such on the inner sleeve (with a sketch of a jar labeled apple jam) to give you a heads-up that if you are not into listening to a jam but want the “serious” music you can play the other two discs. There’s plenty of conventional tracks with words to choose from and they are all excellent. I don’t get the complaints at all. It was not put in there at the expense of any other music and you can play what you want, right? John and Yoko had a jam disc on Sometime in NYC too and the jams there featured Zappa. Jams were kind of “in” for a while during that period for those of us that remember. Although this is not the case these days, I see no reason to criticize it’s inclusion back then.

    • Rich says:

      Nat, in my case it isn’t a complaint as such; it’s just that everyone made such a big deal about George releasing three full discs of new material, and it really isn’t. It’s a combination of what you and Elliott said: a double album with a third disc “thrown in for fun.”

  • Elliott Marx says:

    Nat, rambling jams can be awfully fun and groovy soundtrack to a ruckus evening. Now here is where my footing is uncertain, did ATMP cost the equivalent of a double album in 1970, or did it cost more? If those unfocused jams increased the price of the set then I remain committed to my original point. If they were a free (or even near-free) bonus, then why not? Give me hours of noodling, some incense, a bottle of cabernet sauvignon and a black light. I’ve gotten by on worse. But I genuinely feel that the third album was more of an Allen Klein cash-grab than it was a meaningful artistic gesture.

    As far as George albums overall, ATMP is my favorite though, the much maligned Somewhere in England is a close runner up. Blood From a Clone is maybe my favorite Harrison tune of them all.

  • Great info, HN!! I don’t know whose idea the 3rd “Apple Jam” disc was (if it were Harrison’s idea of a fun disc, or Klein’s idea of a “cash grab”)but either way, aren’t we glad we have it now? Look at all the “extras” on the Beatles’ Anthology discs that we all devoured back in 1995!! If Harrison left the Apple Jams disc off, and Olivia, Dhani and Jeff Lynne discovered it and threw it on posthumously to an ATMP anniversary disc, we would all be raving! ha ha!! Great article and great comments, folks!! Love the discussions!!

    • Happy Nat says:

      Another cool way of looking at it Tony. You’re probably right. There’s always going to be criticism but how it’s presented and when it’s presented often changes opinions for better or worse.

  • YouKnowMyNameLookUpThe# says:

    I for one not only am not raving happy they included that third LP but I wish they deleted it from inclusion at the expense of paying extra for it as if it was any good!!! Comparing Anthology tracks to that garbage is an insult. ATMP is a good album. I am sure it surprised many back in 1970, but it doesn’t surprise me. If you compare his songs, song for song to the same period of recording for John and Paul (after the Beatles) you’d see he still only had a handful of songs which were “Beatles worthy”.

    Neither John nor Paul felt the need to include his “god” music and you can’t possibly expect a cover of Dylan’s to make a Beatles LP (although if anyone’s songs could make it to their albums by 1970, it would be a Dylan or Nilsson song).

    So add up an album of music from 1970 – post Beatles – and see if Ringo, John & Paul would allow George to suddenly have all he put out on an album? This exercise has been done to death as to see what kind of LP might have been early on with recordings made from songs written while Beatles but recorded after Beatles, but has anybody done what John said to do on Mike Douglas Show? He said to take each album from each ex-Beatle and make their own Beatles albums from them. Well, George still wouldn’t dominate on a post-Beatles, Beatles album.

    How many songs do you get on a British album, 14? OK- GO! lol (Keep in mind, this would be based on what was released and not what might have been written with inspiration of the band OR what other songs were eventually recorded that could have been included like some of RAM’s tracks).

    Let’s start with John’s songs which would certainly be on the album:

    1. Working Class Hero
    2. Isolation
    3. Remember
    4. Love
    5. Look At Me
    (possible inclusion of Power To The People)

    Paul’s songs which would certainly be on the album: (Paul had already spent his best songs trying to keep the band together on Let It Be and Abbey Road while John and George held back further development of their songs knowing the end was near).

    6. Every Night
    7. Junk
    8. Teddy Boy
    9. Maybe I’m Amazed

    Ringo always got a song or two his way on an album: (so even if these didn’t make it, John or Paul would have given him something they had lying around. But again, we can only work with what was recorded/released in 1970).

    10. Beau-coups of Blues
    11. Sentimental Journey

    So that leaves poor old George with just a couple tracks for him. He got two on Abbey Road, right? Well, he gets 3 possibly 4 here. I think John or Paul would have made him change My Sweet Lord after hearing it was He’s So Fine (they laughed when Ringo would re-write other people’s songs) so I can’t put that on here as much as I still like the song. Also, no “gos music” would be allowed by John unless it was his song “God” which was not really praising a god.

    So, what do we get with our last 3 tracks of a 1970 Beatles album? Probably this:

    12. What Is Life
    13. Apple Scruffs
    14. All Things Must Pass

    IF there was any room left on the album, we might see Isn’t It A Pity or Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp or you can replace my choices with one of these. Also if you replaced Apple Scruffs with My Sweet Lord, you still wouldn’t get Apple Scruffs to replace a John or Paul track. You might replace a Ringo track with it? Otherwise, the rest of Lennon’s, McCartney’s and Harrison’s music in 1970 was not “Beatle” enough for a Beatles album.

    SO what does that tell you? They really needed to break up to explore things other than Beatles music. They should have retained the band for a while too though AND did their solo efforts. but with those egos, it may have caused rifts anyway accusing one another of holding back sure hits for their own albums and publishing.

    George would have less room by 1971 when John would have more commercial music with his Imagine album and Paul would have both RAM and Wild Life and George would have…made you wait 2 more years for another album, Living In The Material World. So as good as ATMP was, it was an anomaly created by a patient George.

    (How’s that for a post full of things to pick apart? lol)

    • Happy Nat says:

      I have to admit if I went to buy ATMP and the bonus disc was not there, I’d feel ripped off. Historically it is part of the record so I feel it should remain. George explained in 2000 that the reason he decided to included it is that after listening to it he felt a lot of it was really “on fire” – particularly Eric’s part.

      • YouKnowMyNameLookUpThe# says:

        I can agree that at this point, you have to include it. Just like Ringo’s jam on one of his more recent CD releases (recent being like 1993-1997? I forget) and John Lennon’s jam on Sometime In New York. But as for being critical about the content being so superior that John and Paul should be ashamed of themselves for passing up this guy’s songs, that’s where I have an issue. Only in that context.

  • dennis gunn says:

    I liked your list of the songs George wrote for the album. But actually he had more songs up his sleeve than he had room for on ATMP. He did a demo session with Phil Spector at some point early on, with him playing acoustic guitar on most songs. This demo reel includes such songs as, “Beautiful Girl” “Tell Me What Happened To You” “Cosmic Empire” “Mother Divine” and others. Not to mention, “You” later released on Extra Texture as well as, “I Live For You” which he recorded for the album. He even had “Going Down To Golders Green” and “Dehra Dhun” which were recorded during a Billy Preston session. Admittedly some of these songs are better than others, and it’s my belief a lot of these songs were written after or near the end of the Beatles time together. Some of these tunes might be good for future posts, Nat!

    • YouKnowMyNameLookUpThe# says:

      Dennis, I agree they all had some great songs around that time and George had a few others too and gave some away etc. But my point was to only look to those songs recorded during 1970 which were solo songs. Paul was spent by the time the others started launching solo efforts, but still would have had some of the better tracks from Ram and Red Rose Speedway and even a track or two from album not released until much much later! John certainly had music at the ready and gave songs away to Ringo as did George. So I only tried to make a compilation of 1970 released tracks which I may have missed Another Day from Paul in my list? I forget if it was recorded/released prior to 1971 or not.

      So yes, George was extremely talented and was a very good songwriter, but he was better in a band where he had support. Traveling Wilburys, The Beatles both benefitted from being a true group effort.

      I have argued that George’s output couldn’t match John’s & Paul’s on most any given day. BUT I must stress that George’s contributions to the Beatles made them much better than any other band. Without George, you’d end up with some songs from John & Paul which were given away and were truly not as strong as what they kept. Although I would have enjoyed hearing Paul sing A World Without Love, and maybe Woman (his version, not John’s) as Beatles songs, Revolver was much better for George’s contributions than it ever would have been without them. And yes, we probably would have just heard a few different versions of songs they recorded later anyway, like, When I’m Sixty-Four and One After 909 since they were written before they ever had a recording contract AND were eventually recorded anyway.

      So in conclusion I agree with the fellow, Lou, who opened this comment section by saying he thought most would not agree with him. lol

  • Elliott Marx says:

    It is too much fun, and a serious time killer to overly speculate on a final Beatles LP. I think You Know My Name largely gets it right. Though, I do believe that It Don’t Come Easy would have certainly been one of Ringo’s vocal contributions. It could have been his first Beatles A-side.

    I do know that since Rubber Soul each subsequent release had something which broke major new ground on it – Tomorrow Never Knows, A Day in the Life, I am the Walrus, Revolution 9 and The Abbey Road Medley come to mind chronologically. I think some part of this made-up album (that we all wish existed) would have had something along these lines on it. Something grand. Perhaps Paul would have hurried the construction of Uncle Albert or Back Seat of my Car as an album highlight – he was such an expert with multi-part suites. Sadly the sum of all of the solo Beatles does not equal what they did together as a team. But it is a fun daydream.

  • I loved reading the article and the comments. I lived overseas when this LP came out originally and I remember my joy listening to it for the very first time. To me, it is the best solo album by any former Beatle – to this day.

    • Happy Nat says:

      Very high on my list too Judy…I can never seem to have a fave though because I go back and forth on these things. It stays in the top 4 at all times though…how’s that?

      • The worst solo LP I thought was Paul’s first album. I bought that the day it came out as well. I played it once… couldn’t believe it was so bland. I played it again to give it the benefit of the doubt… and still didn’t enjoy it and so… I gave it away.

    • YouKnowMyNameLookUpThe# says:

      While I can not agree with you that ATMP was the best solo album to date by an ex-Beatle, I can agree that I had the benefit of hindsight when I finally got a copy of McCartney on vinyl. Had to be 1980 (after McCartney II). I consider it more like basement tapes than an actual album. Had he waited to release Ram or Wild Life first, he would have not lost so many fans initially after the break up. But I can understand why you don’t care for it. For me, I like Paul so I like adding to my collection of his music. That album is sparse and not polished at all.

      So yes, I own this on CD in about 5 different versions to date and they all sound great! The music, however, hasn’t changed. But I like it. I will agree that George’s album is better than McCartney, but my favorite Harrison solo effort was Cloud Nine. I thought it a perfect blend of rockabilly and pop where he showed some great guitar work and strong vocals. Second best George album to me was Somewhere in England. His Baltimore Oriole cover was beautiful.

      But I do understand why you’d feel that way about McCartney (the album, not the man/artist).

  • Mick says:

    I love the album. But I, as some others here, think that the old argument with John and Paul being meanies is unfair. George didn’t have anything in the beginning and his early contributions to songwriting are not on par with the other two’s. Also, he should not complain: George got 3 songs on Revolver! His other contribution to Pepper: Only A Northon Song is not very strong. I think that when he started to blossom as a songwriter, it was too late to make an impact as the group was falling apart. I think it is also worth mentioning that Paul and Ringo always made some great contributions to Georges songs, where Lennon did not or just stayed away.

  • appmanga says:

    The criticism for crowding George out also stems from good songs like “Not Guilty” (heard on Anthology 3) and “Sour Milk Sea (a really good song that Jackie Lomax’s vocals weren’t up to) bring left off the White Album and subsequent LPs in favor of weaker Maclen efforts.

    • YouKnowMyNameLookUpThe# says:

      Although I agree with Not Guilty and a couple other songs, John and Paul had songs which they also left off the white album AND songs left off Beatles albums (which ended up on solo albums) so that sort of negates the argument. Paul recorded a demo of The Long and Winding Road in 1968, so I’d say that beats Not Guilty. John had already had the melody (and alternate lyrics) for Jeaous Guy (in the form of Child of Nature)). So that is an over-simplification of the argument.

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