‘All Things Must Pass’, when George Harrison was born again, big time

By Alberto D. Prieto

In the Twickenham studios, George Harrison couldn’t keep his head from spinning. They came to a boil in his guts and under his fingers on tens of new tunes, but he was keeping them for himself. The last experience came off rather disappointing. For sure, Something and Here Comes the Sun deserved a spot on Abbey Road, the last album together with The Beatles, but the boys once again didn’t appreciate his input fairly. Revolver was long ago in 1966 when they let him open the album with Taxman.   

Yet that guy wasn’t George. Back then he took his place filling more grooves than ever, but he was already on another level. Outside The Beatles he had a new life to live; Dylan, Clapton, Delaney & Bonney had shown him it. And Jack Bruce, Leon Russell...others were waiting to play with him, to form a band around the mystic Beatle who never reached his place between his two long-life mates, who had turned themselves into a whirlwind business, selfish gamecocks, and cold travel-mates.  

It was in the chilly spring of May 1970, London, when Phil Spector went to Friar Park, Harrison’s mansion, to listen to tapes. Well the surprise wasn’t in the quality, but ‘in the depth and talent’ he had accumulated, already an almost ex-Beatle for 10 years. In a box in his enormous house he had tunes recorded that should have enhanced the glory of the Fab Four from Liverpool, which could have been a real step towards the swerve of The Beatles as a more choral band. If they were already two different voices, why leave him evidently at arms length of Lennon and McCartney?  Another genius could have been discovered…! 

There, still in the box, were heard Isn't It a Pity and the blues bomb that would end up being Art of Dying when they were put together in Spector's wall of sound, the mortar of Clapton’s Blackie, full blast, Billy Preston’s organ, and the brass of Jim Price and Bobby Keys. All this around the brutal drums in the hands of Jim Gordon, who would go down in history, a bit later, as the one responsible for the piano coda heard in Layla...the song Clapton wrote to capture his friend Harrison’s wife, Pattie Boyd.

On The Beatles Anthology III there are rehearsal takes of numbers that would never become part of the Beatle repertoire, as if George had been practicing throwing stones during the final group sessions, letting them know that either they take him seriously or he would have to go another route. Finally, when, on the 10th of April 1970 Paul McCartney announced he was leaving the band - a little trick, for the band had let it go in November 1969 - it was the last push. Nothing lasts forever, everything must pass, even the greatest band in history. You gotta be born again.  

Harrison picked up Lucy, the old Les Paul Clapton gave him in 1968, the acoustic Epiphone Casino, and the Gibson SG, got together with his mates in the studio and in two weeks began a project, that stretched to 5 months in the end.  


A nifty gem on this triple LP - the first in rock history, by the way - is I Dig Love. On it, Harrison gets inside the dirty grooves of the slide together with Clapton and Dave Mason to seal a composition, which actually sounds like a Lennon hit from the 70s. A repetitive piano, toying with a solo rhythm chord and a single vocal note held as long as possible, resulting in the characteristic personality of the melody.

The same crowning touch in the Lennonesque vocal echo, and a modest drum by an inspired Ringo Starr and the bass pulse of his old friend from Hamburg, Klaus Voormann —. who designed the cover of Revolver —.

These are not mere coincidences, the re-enforced sound of the Spector production for All Things Must Pass is an heir of The Beatles White Album, perhaps the most eclectic, complete, and multidisciplinary of the Fab Four, the one that turned them into ‘mall’ music.  

Brandy got Spector, Clapton heroin, breast cancer Harrison,  EMI pressure to stretch out sessions, and the consequent overload, brought a disturbing tone heard on all the numbers, from the romantics, to the mystics to the most vindictive or rockers. 

(Images: ©CordonPress)