Sunday, August 9, 2009

All Things Must Pass

Here's another song that was fiddled about with during some Beatles sessions, but wound up on a solo album. In fact, it ended up titling George's massive first solo album, All Things Must Pass, which is probably the greatest single musical thing George ever made. (Even if it is a bit long.) But long before George became the first solo artist to release a triple album, the Beatles worked on "All Things Must Pass" during the Get Back sessions. I'm not really sure why it never went anywhere, but it didn't.

Of course, "All Things Must Pass" would have made a particularly poignant track on Let It Be-- it's sort of George's own "Let It Be," in a way, and it's easy to hear it as saying goodbye to his band. Then again, maybe that's exactly why he left it off. The atmosphere in the studio at this point had become so acrimonious that he probably realized "All Things Must Pass" would end up in some kind of competition with "Let It Be" or some other McCartney song, so he kept it for himself. And this was probably for the best, because it made a rad addition to his album. And anyway, it's still pretty poignant as a former Beatle's first solo album.

Considering we've only got this as a Beatles track only as a demo, it's remarkable how complete it is. The lyrics-- which, incidentally, are based on the last words of the Buddha, though unlike the similarly mystically inspired "The Inner Light" George throws in some of his own original lyrics too-- are pretty much all here, and the tempo and general guitar feel are all in place. It's a finished song, is my point, and the crucial difference between this and the version that appeared on All Things Must Pass is that George introduced all kinds of production elements that give it the anthem-like feel that he clearly was going for. Let's listen.

So now we've got piano and flute and horns and so forth. I don't mind it, though. In the context of the big sounds of All Things Must Pass this sounds just right to me. Isn't this song great, actually? It's just a fabulous melody-- a melody just riddled with these beautiful yet understated moments. You know how sometimes George writes a great melody, but lets it get kind of dreary and serious and even, you know, plodding? (I'm looking at you, seven-minute version of "Isn't It a Pity." Look, I love George and his work dearly, but despite some good guitar work or whatever that song is out of hand. And you know I only criticize out of love.) Anyway, I think he avoids that trap in "All Things Must Pass," which feels nice and balanced to me.

But the demo version is great too. And George's vocal in this unproduced format, hitting that high note on "morning" or singing that simple little bridge, is maybe even more gut-wrenching in its quiet way than the more dramatic album version. Eh, they're both great. It's just a shame that George didn't write this song under happier circumstances. And it's also a shame that that this song deserves so much more time than I can give it, but hell, all things must pass. Enjoy.

"All Things Must Pass," released in the U.K. and the U.S. disc 2 track 10 of Anthology 3, October 28, 1996.


  1. I also like this version more than the album version, and like both better than the demo where you can hear John and Paul singing backup and sounding like The Band or something. But I like Isn't It a Pity most of all. It does go on, and I don't know that it's better than this song, but I think the arrangement and production are unimpeachable.

  2. This is probably heresy but the version of "All Things Must Pass" that I like best is when Paul sang it at the "Concert for George" after George's death. Paul's voice is absolutely gorgeous singing this song with Eric Clapton, Ringo, Dhani Harrison, and a bunch of other folks playing backup.

    And this is heresy too, but I've never really enjoyed George's big 3-album set much. I like his voice in small doses but, for me, it's just not compelling enough or different enough, from song to song, to carry that much of a set. I love George but too much of his music at one time tends to put me to sleep.

  3. Here I am, Mr Contrare today. I never liked this song, in any version. Dreary and plodding and boring, oh my.

    BTW, Meg, the local Atlanta paper ran an interview with Paul today, pending his upcoming concert here, plus a really interesting article on the Beatles '65 concert and how it was audio engineered like no concert before it. Pretty interesting. I would like to mail it to you, but need your address. If you are interested, send me your street address via my email address which is on my profile page. That is if you trust me with it!

  4. Wow, some strong and varying opinions on this one. Fascinating. And for the record, Anonymous, I think I almost agree with you-- Paul's version of this is pretty awesome...

    Frank, my addy's coming your way. Thanks for thinking of me!