In Australia we did not get the impressive boxed version of All Things Must Pass. Our version was a three-panel gatefold sleeve with the lyrics printed inside. We did get the poster, though. A dark 3’ x 2’ portrait of a morose, hairy George. But our flimsy fold-out was disappointing. The box had solidity, gravitas. It was an item that said, ‘I’m an important release. I’m special’. Ours was a triple album passing itself off as a double (which actually wasn’t far from the truth). It said, ‘I just want to fit in. Nothing special here’.
But there was.
All Things Must Pass was two records jam-packed with outstanding songs and a third packed with jams. Looking at the poster, which you kind of had to, you noticed a mysterious pull; the dark hues and moody shadows seemed to draw you in. So much so that one might be forgiven for thinking this was a sombre record.
While it’s true some songs have a serious tone (“The art of dying” and “Isn’t it a pity”, for instance) there is something life-affirming about this wonderfully rich double album. (I call it a double as I don’t really count, nor rate highly, the ‘bonus’ LP of jams).
“What is life” has a great melody, strong lyrics and a huge brass-filled arrangement. “Wah-Wah” surges with a righteous anger that makes it an album highlight. Dylan’s “If not for you” is presented with slide guitar and a touching sincerity.
If not for you
The winter would hold no spring
You couldn’t year a robin sing
I just wouldn’t have a clue
If not for you
It was a fondness for the simple devotion of this latter song that led me to buy the songbook.
This stained and dog-eared volume was once bright and crisp and full of guitar chords and lyrics for the aspiring George to tackle their favourite Harrisongs. Which I duly did, as the damaged spine and coffee rings attest. I even learned “Isn’t it a pity” on piano and played it with what I imagined to be empathic sadness.
But that songbook made me happy. It was a lovely volume that included a smaller version of the album poster, a tear-out book of the lyrics and some unique illustrations on coloured paper echoing that of the record. I loved the care and attention to detail. Still do.
And I still love All Things Must Pass.
So much so that when it came to negotiating my first feature for the Discrepancy Records blog, the quiet Beatle’s masterpiece was the one I suggested. And happily accepted the recent vinyl re-issue instead of monetary payment. It seemed a fitting way to honour an album I’ve appreciated since I was a teenager. And, of course, a chance to secure the impressive boxed version that now sits next to my original Aussie pressing. I’ve even put the old songbook with them, for company.
Some things pass, and some endure.
This is the second part of a piece spread across three sites.
The first is at Lonely Keyboards.
The third is the Discrepancy review.