In November 1970, George Harrison released his astonishing triple album, All Things Must Pass. For a work of such scope, it would seem like a crazy-fast turnaround, considering that The Beatles had only ”officially” broken up in April. But for Harrison, the songs had been in the works during the band’s bitter last years – especially during the recording of The White Album. Harrison had also recorded some early demos during the sessions for what would be Let It Be, including one for “All Things Must Pass” – which, sadly, pretty much got zero attention from his bandmates.
Related: “George Harrison Quits the Beatles”
Now, unfettered by The Fabs, Harrison retreated to his newly-purchased Friar Park estate to start creating a solo album (in fact, it’s long been speculated that the famous cover image of the gnomes surrounding him represented his former band and the liberation from the group).
Producer Phil Spector visited him there in early 1970, impressed by the sheer tonnage of songs Harrison had accumulated, some stretching back to 1966 (“Isn’t It A Pity” is reportedly one dating from that year).
To help him out on his first big solo venture, Harrison tapped his (very) wide network of musician friends, including Eric Clapton, Gary Wright, Jim Gordon, Bobby Keys, Dave Mason, Billy Preston, Peter Frampton, Phil Collins, and members of Badfinger – just to name a very few. There were also rumors that Maurice Gibb of the Bee Gees and Richard Wright of Pink Floyd also appeared on the project. Of course, longtime pals Klaus Voorman and Ringo Starr were also included. The first song recorded was “Wah Wah” in May of 1970.
The original plan was to get the album done in a tidy eight weeks – but the process slogged on for five long and difficult months. Part of the delay was due to Harrison’s travels to Liverpool to visit his very sick mother, part as a result of Spector’s manic behavior (and his need for copious amounts of cherry brandy to work). Sadly, some delays were due to Clapton’s infatuation with George’s wife Pattie – plus his growing heroin addiction.
Talk about a triple whammy.
Nonetheless, after all the drama, Harrison’s landmark project was finally released on Nov. 27, 1970. The album has since been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, and been included on Rolling Stone’s list of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” (although at the woefully-low ranking of #433). The New York Times also included All Things Must Pass on its list of “The 100 Best Albums of All Time.”
A running joke among Beatle fans is that the album title refers to the enormous amount of overlooked material that George had stored up during his time with the Beatles that needed to be released (insert laxative joke here). True or not, the triple-album that Harrison gifted us with in 1970 holds up incredibly well these fifty years on. Whether considered a passion project, some off-gassing of pent-up creativity, whatever you call it – All Things Must Pass remains one of the glorious musical creations of the post-Beatle era, and of the 20th-century rock landscape. Aching, poignant, brilliant — the “quiet Beatle” never spoke quite so eloquently.
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