So why is George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass on this best 1,000 albums ever thing?
In answer to the age old question of “Who’s your favorite Beatle?” my quick and easy answer has always been “Paul,” and that remains the case.
But over the years, when I think about The Beatles as individuals, I tend to focus on George Harrison the most. And I realized that when I think about George Harrison, I think about him in four different respects.
Bear with me on this one.
The “first way” is George Harrison as presented in the 2011 documentary, Living in the Material World. Directed by Martin Scorsese, it’s quite good and interesting and holds my attention for its 3.5 hours of running time, but I long suspected that it was pushing a particular narrative about Harrison – as documentaries are wont to do.
The George Harrison we see in the doc is a man of deep spiritual faith, fundamentally influenced by the Krishna Consciousness movement that he encountered during his travels in India with The Beatles. The documentary is co-produced by Harrison’s widow, Olivia (who is also featured in the doc), so that obviously impacts the story being told as well.
The second version of Harrison that I think about is the one that pops up many times in Monty Python’s Flying Circus alumnus and iconic comedic actor and writer Eric Idle’s autobiography, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. Idle and Harrison were close friends, and the Harrison who Idle knew was a sweet and humble man, but also one who deeply loved to laugh and joke around and associate with comedians.
Version #3 of George Harrison that I think about is his presence in Peter Jackson’s astonishing documentary about The Beatles, Get Back. This doc captures The Beatles during a very specific time period – close to the end of their run as a group – and captures some truly magical moments of musical creation.
There are so many things to get into about this documentary, but one absolutely wonderful thing that we get to witness are these (still) young men making jokes and cracking wise with each other as they plunge back into a creative process that even for the greatest musicians and the most famous band on the entire planet, it requires starting from Step One every single time – all past glories and plaudits swept off the table once more.
And we also see George Harrison clearly frustrated at times with regard to getting his own songs and material on Beatles albums within a band that included Paul McCartney and John Lennon.
And of course, The Beatles finally did break up, which brings us (finally!) to All Things Must Pass, Harrison’s first post-Beatles solo album and by far his best solo effort. This here is the fourth way I think about Harrison: it’s both through his music and through the prism of the other “three ways” I mention above.
“My Sweet Lord” clearly tracks with the spiritual Harrison*. It’s a gorgeous and exquisitely produced acoustic guitar jam that builds into a joyous celebration of Harrison’s faith.
* And during the Get Back recording sessions, it’s noteworthy that Harrison brought in Hari Krishnas to look on during the writing and recording sessions.
“What Is Life” is my favorite song on All Things Must Pass, and represents the best of Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound” recording style. It’s big and grand and represents the best of 1970s catchy but mellowed out and groovy rock and roll.
Songs like “Isn’t It A Pity” and the title track, “All Things Must Pass,” were written for The Beatles while Harrison was still in the band, and form a bittersweet coda on the closing of an era in music history. These songs sound particularly Beatles-y to my ears, which of course automatically makes them pretty great.
All Things Must Pass was originally issued as a massive triple album. The very end of the album includes a number of blues jams that feature Jim Gordon, Carl Radle, Bobby Whitlock, and Eric Clapton (already of Cream fame), who formed Derek and the Dominos during the recording sessions.
One of these tracks is a bouncy blues number that I imagine Ray Manzarek of The Doors appreciated. It’s called “Thanks for the Pepperoni,” which is a reference to both a line from a Lenny Bruce comedy album and ties to George Harrison’s love of comedy and comedians – and subversive ones at that – which I mention above.
And don’t forget the tripped out “It’s Johnny’s Birthday,” weird and glorious!
Pop culture stuff that’s somehow related to George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass
One more tidbit about Harrison and Get Back, if you can handle it.
One of my favorite scenes of the entire documentary is a moment when Ringo Starr introduces a song called “Octopus’ Garden” to Harrison. It’s a perfect moment when the two relative outsiders of the Beatles songwriting brain trust (McCartney/Lennon) get a chance to collaborate, and we get to witness in real time yet another eventual Beatles classic taking shape.
Personal culture stuff that’s somehow related to George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass
This may well be the “closest” that Rolling Stone’s greatest 500 albums rankings and the best 1,000 albums ever are in slotting an album, #368 versus #396 for All Things Must Pass!
Some stats & info about George Harrison – All Things Must Pass
- What kind of musical stylings does this album represent? Rock Music, Album Rock, Pop Music, Singer Songwriter
- Rolling Stone’s greatest 500 albums ranking – #368
- All Music’s rating – 5 out of 5 stars
- When was All Things Must Pass released? 1970
- My ranking, the one you’re reading right now – #396 out of 1,000
George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass on Spotify
A lyrical snippet from George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass that’s evocative of the album in some way, maybe
Tell me what is my life without your love, tell me who I am without you by my side.
What does the “best 1,000 albums ever” mean and why are you doing this?
Yeah, I know it’s audacious, a little crazy (okay, maybe a lot cray cray), bordering on criminal nerdery.
But here’s what it’s NOT: a definitive list of the Greatest Albums of All-Time. This is 100% my own personal super biased, incredibly subjective review of what my top 1,000 albums are, ranked in painstaking order over the course of doing research for nearly a year, Rob from High Fidelity style. Find out more about why I embarked on a best 1,000 albums ever project.