The Back Catalogue: Get to Know George Harrison

Twitter: @PeteHatesMusic

Hello folks! Here’s another great classic rock album from the back catalogue for all you PHMers to check out. Following my last post on the Byrds, this one is from the year 1970. I’m not sure how many younger people would recognize the name George Harrison. For those of you who haven’t heard of him, he was the youngest of the four Beatles (and the ‘quiet’ one). The guitarist wrote such fab-four hits as: Taxman, Something, Here Comes The Sun, and While My Guitar Gently Weeps.

Obviously, when people think of the Beatles and songwriting, they think of catchy pop songs and drug music the Lennon/McCartney songwriting ‘partnership’. While Harrison was given his moments in the group, it wasn’t until Yoko showed up and the band broke up in the spring of 1970 that George was able to commit to doing his first proper solo album.

All Things Must Pass was initially released as a triple vinyl album (rock music’s first triple vinyl, if you don’t count the live Woodstock collab.) in late November of 1970. In my personal opinion (and other more qualified peoples’ too!) it’s better than any of the solo stuff Paul McCartney or John Lennon ever put out.

Renowned producer/gun enthusiast Phil Spector was brought in to help out Harrison with recording at Abbey Road Studios. This meant the album would have the famous “wall of sound” production Spector had popularized the previous decade (a big, layered, reverb-laden sound with multiple instruments playing same parts simultaneously). Rolling Stone described the sound of All Things Must Pass as “the music of mountain tops and vast horizons”. Sweet!

Phil Spector side-note: he’s currently in jail for shooting and killing a woman in 2003. You may remember seeing him on TMZ showing up to court in one ridiculous wig after another, they made an HBO movie about the trial starring Al f’n Pacino. On a less Pacino-y serious note, Spector is also the Pee-Wee Herman-lookin’ guy in the yellow shades who buys the coke (not the soft drink kind) off of Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda at the start of the 1969 movie Easy Rider.

The material on All Things Must Pass consisted of many songs Harrison had been saving up for years. Some of them had already been rejected for use in The Beatles. Production duties were mostly left to Harrison as Spector reportedly needed “eighteen cherry brandies” before he could start work for the day (honestly, who doesn’t?). What I like most about this album is how diverse it is. There are rock songs, country songs, folk songs, ballads, and spiritual tunes. As a whole, it is really beautiful to hear, especially the first 14 songs (Editor’s note: way to narrow it down!).

The lineup of backing musicians who contributed to the record has been described by Rolling Stone as “a who’s who of the decade’s rock royalty”. It includes such recognizable names as Eric Clapton (guitar god and half-Canadian), Ringo Starr (mop-top hero), Phil Collins (pre-Genesis/Disney’s Tarzan), plus many of the best studio musicians around (horns, keys, vibraphones…you name it!).

Guitar aficionados will love this album. You’ve got amazing acoustic/electric/slide playing all over the place to marvel at. People who like loud, rock music will like songs like: Wah-Wah, What Is Life, Let It Down, Awaiting On You All, and Art Of Dying. Mellower folks will enjoy tunes like: I’d Have You Anytime, My Sweet Lord (a #1 single), Beware Of Darkness, and the title track. To hear some solid country-inspired sounds check out Behind That Locked Door and Ballad Of Sir Frankie Crisp (Let It Roll). There’s something for everyone here.

George Harrison – Wah-Wah

My three favourite tracks on the LP are Isn’t It A Pity, the Bob Dylan-penned If Not For You, and Run Of The Mill. They are all mellower tunes that are fine examples of great songwriting. The country-tinged If Not For You features wicked pedal-steel guitar, great lyrics and was written by Dylan, ‘nuff said.

The album cover for All Things Must Pass was a black and white photo of a bearded Harrison sitting on a stool on his massive lawn surrounded by four little garden gnomes. Many have often speculated that image represents Harrison’s separation from the Beatles. Garden gnomes as Beatles, that’s cute.

So go check out All Things Must Pass. It’s an album that I don’t hear much about, but man is it ever amazing, both musically and lyrically. Harrison fully stepped out of McCartney/Lennon’s shadow with this brilliant piece of art. The album has actually sold more copies than Lennon’s Imagine and McCartney/Wings’ Band On The Run combined – mind blowing to think about. Sadly, Harrison passed away in 2001 but his music will forever live on (or at least until the Earth crashes into the sun).

Twitter: @PeteHatesMusic

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