Truly, I’m not on a Beatles kick. The fact three of the first four Midweek Music Moments have dealt with Beatles-related releases is a coincidence of dates. And a couple things justify this week’s selection. First, as far as I am concerned, All Things Must Pass, released on Nov. 27, 1970, is the best post-Beatles release of any of the Fab Four. In addition, Nov. 29 marks the seventh anniversary of his death.
Three years to the day from the release of Magical Mystery Tour, the “quiet one” had the audacity to release a three-LP box set, believed to be the first in rock music history. Many might have thought two records were enough, since the third basically contained jam sessions (although those jams included most of the musicians from what would be known as Derek and the Dominoes). But even had it been limited to two records, the music was impressive.
All Things Must Pass “only” generated two hit singles: “My Sweet Lord” (which a court found Harrison “subconsciously” plagiarized) and “What Is Life.” While those two songs reflected Harrison’s ability to write about spirituality and love, respectively, All Things Must Pass displays great songwriting ability. Harrison covers a broad range, from rock (“Wah-Wah”) to even a country feel (“Behind That Locked Door”), not to mention songs like “Isn’t It a Pity,” “Beware of Darkness” and “Awaiting on You All” or the cover of Bob Dylan’s “If Not For You.”
There’s not really a weak tune in that entire bunch. Harrison clearly established that “Something” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” were not one-offs. Even on his spiritual side, Harrison displayed his adeptness at crafting the songs. He intentionally started the chant in “My Sweet Lord” by repeatedly using “hallelujah” before transitioning into a Hindu mantra. Not only was the former more familiar and acceptable to most listeners, Harrison said he was trying to “show that ‘Hallelujah’ and ‘Hare Krishna’ are quite the same thing.” Likewise, while the chorus of “Awaiting On You All” talks of chanting the names of the lord, Harrison explicitly mentions Jesus in the next verse.
To the extent any one has a “favorite Beatle,” there’s no doubt George was mine. It’s bittersweet that the anniversary date of this wonderful recording so closely coincides with the anniversary of his death. But Harrison didn’t change during that time. “Isn’t It a Pity” asks why we fail to love and care for each other. The statement announcing his death at age 58 concluded with a quote from Harrison, the last words of which urge us to “love one another.”
Isn’t it a pity
Isn’t is a shame
How we break each other’s hearts
And cause each other pain
“Isn’t It A Pity,” George Harrison, All Things Must Pass