Monday, 29 April 2013

George Harrison - All Things Must Pass (Part One)

Album 4 - George Harrison - All Things Must Pass (1970)

US Amazon - CD/MP3
UK Amazon - CD/MP3

1. I'd Have You Anytime
2. My Sweet Lord
3. Wah-Wah
4. Isn't It A Pity (Version One)
5. What Is Life
6. If Not For You
7. Behind That Locked Door
8. Let It Down
9. Run of the Mill
10. Beware of Darkness
11. Apple Scruffs
12. Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp (Let It Roll)
13. Awaiting on You All
14. All Things Must Pass
15. I Dig Love
16. Art of Dying
17. Isn't It A Pity (Version Two)
18. Hear Me Lord
19. Out of the Blue
20. It's Johnny's Birthday
21. Plug Me In
22. I Remember Jeep
23. Thanks for the Pepperoni


I know that this has been a long time coming, but at last we have reached the absolute monster that is George Harrison's debut - the juggernaut of a set entitled All Things Must Pass (and oh my this is going to take a long time to get past).  The whole triple album's worth of material!

In some ways I think that George was perhaps more prepared than the others when it came to a solo career when you look at the wealth of material that he quite obviously had ready.  I will say however that I'm not completely certain if everything on the album would have worked as part of the Beatles catalogue.  That comment isn't meant to put down any of the material that appears, but just an opinion that I have.  Some I think would have worked wonderfully on Beatles releases.

From what I've heard of the attempts made by The Beatles to "run through" the title track, that would have made a killer Beatles song (much like McCartney's Back Seat of My Car and Lennon's Look At Me - I'm not saying Jealous Guy because at the time it was still called Child of Nature and the change of lyrics made that into a better song in my opinion).  There are other songs on here that would have worked too, but others that wouldn't.

Here is an apt quote by Paul McCartney taken from an interview with Mojo magazine from 2009 -

"I remember him talking about All Things Must Pass as diarrhoea. That was his own affectionate way of describing that he'd had a lot of stuff stored up and it had to come out. I mean, I don't think I'd describe it like that. [laughs] But I know what he meant. He now was writing furiously - great things - like Isn't It A Pity."

I'm glad that George had the chance to record and release this beast of a set because, in all honesty, we would possibly have not heard all of the songs on this album if we were just left with what would have been chosen for the Beatles albums.  George had already come out of the shadows long before now as a songwriter, but here was absolute proof that he was a songwriter to be reckoned with.  It also proved his versatility as a songwriter, and as a collaborator.  The opening song was written with Bob Dylan, and it is a far better song than a Rolling Stone magazine reviewer back in 1971 said.

George & Bob
I'd Have You Anytime is actually a strange song in my opinion to start the album off.  It is a laid back chilled introduced song, which a lot of the album is I suppose, which in a way could be seen as a "two-fingered" response to the accepted tradition of bringing the listener in with a faster tune that they can sing along to.

Instead, this opening song is one that is relaxed, with some fascinating chord usage.  In a sense it is actually a good song to start the set off because it introduces the tone of the whole thing.  The song is very dramatic with all of the changes (timings, mood, keys, chords, etc), and it has that big production to it as well, just like the rest of the album.  The song comes in lightly though and the instrumentation is built up, so it introduces that production sound bit by bit.

Written in November of 1968 at Dylan's house in Bearsville, Harrison was taking some time off and Dylan was having a break from music for a while to have time with his family after the motorcycle accident.  No one had heard or seen much from Dylan since 1966, apart from the John Wesley Harding (UK/US) album.  A lot of people see the song as being about the friendship that had developed between the two of them since they had first met in 1964, which is when both parties changed the way they looked at music (I'm not writing about the music of The Beatles exactly, so I'll leave that there).

Dylan had been very influential on Harrison's writing, with George's lyrics becoming much more focused, and Harrison was influential to Bob as well, because his writings started to use less basic chords which were his stock in trade before this time.  Now he started to look at some chord inversions, and this was something that he had purposely asked Harrison about.

George with producer Phil Spector
Apparently the song started with George just playing something on the guitar to show Bob some different chord shapes (sevenths, diminished, augmented, etc), when he happened to go from the G major chord to B flat major 7, and he said to Bob "This sounds like a tune here..."  Keen to get Bob writing again, George came up with the first verse based on the G major 7, B flat major 7, C minor 7, G, Am, Em, D run (in the key of G major, but with the Bb in the Bbmaj7 and C minor 7 chords being a flattened third of the scale).

Bob then responded with the chorus lyrics, and between them they worked on the music for the chorus as well as working together on the lyrics for the second verse.  Musically the chorus is an incredible piece of work that, I think, goes through three different keys.  Perhaps that's just me not understanding it properly, but I see the first line as being in the key of A major (A, E, and D), the second line in C major (C, G, F, and then the A to lead to third key), and the finishing two lines in D major (ish) of D, D/C (the C being a flattened seventh), D/B, D/Bb (Bb is a flattened sixth), and then the lovely A major to A suspended fourth to A major as a musical finish to that chorus to bring us back to the G major key verses.

The first two lines of the chorus by the way slightly touch on one of the "tickets to write" as they're called in my friend Matt's Beatles Songwriting Academy blog - "Ticket 43" is to descend in fourths (or go up in fifths), and here the A to E and C to G changes are exactly that.  You get it slightly in the verses as well with C minor 7 to G, and with the Am to Em chords.  I'm not sure if that was arrived at on purpose or just coincidence, because I think if it was intended then they may have gone further with it.

So there we have it, to my ears a song that is in four different keys (please let me know if you have another opinion, as I am a novice at looking at these things).

Oh I almost forgot...  Timings!   Intro is basically the first half of a verse - five times through 4/4, four times through 3/4, and once through 4/4. It's the same for both halves of the verse.  The chorus is, I think, 4/4, 2/4, 4/4 three times, 2/4, 3/4, 5/4, and then six bars of 4/4.  The constant change in time signature adds so much to the song I feel, and is something that John, George, and Paul did a lot in their songs. John was very well known for doing it in his songs, mostly to trim out what wasn't necessary.  George wasn't like that at all with his writing, because he loved the idea of giving instruments space to create atmosphere and mood.

I think that I will leave this post as it is with just the one song.  Next time we will be looking at the song that most people see as George's best ever song - My Sweet Lord.

Links -
My cover version of I'd Have You Anytime (needs re-recording due to one chord mistake)
The original runthrough demo I'm guessing from 1968
Cover version by Evan Rachel Wood
The story behind the song and it's cover recording by Evan Rachel Wood (featuring Laurence Juber of Wings)
Chimes of Freedom album for Amnesty International - UK CD/MP3       US CD/MP3