Most Things Must Pass?

It’s been a long time since a new episode of this podcast has been released, and I assure you I’m working on the next (one segment has been recorded, two others written), but in the mean time, I figured this WordPress-based site would be a good place to jot down my thoughts on this particular topic; I briefly considered making it a “Music for Schnooks” segment, but man, I have so many Beatles topics in mind that every music segment for the next five or six episodes would be Beatles!

Recently I happened upon a Twitter debate over whether it’s true that most of George Harrison’s huge-selling three-record album (well, his first one — The Concert for Bangla Desh was also three records) All Things Must Pass consisted mostly “of songs that were rejected for inclusion in Beatles albums.” That’s a very common belief. Is that accurate? Before we answer that question, let’s all agree on what “most” means: the most concise definition I ever heard for that word is “at least fifty percent plus one.” For example, if you have a jar of 200 beans, and you ate most of those beans, it means you have eaten at least 101 beans. (Fifty percent of 200 is 100. That makes half. Add one, you get most.) If we count every banded track on the album as a song (including the two versions of “Isn’t It a Pity”), then all three records put together have 23 songs. We already have a bit of an issue here because that gives us a floating point fifty percent: eleven and a half songs, which means that for the definition of “most” to apply with All Things Must Pass, a minimum 12 and a half songs had to be submitted for Beatles projects.

So, was the album mostly made of songs that were rejected for Beatles albums? Let’s check it out.

First of all, let’s rule out what was not in the running for Beatles projects (and what likely was not). That automatically eliminates the entire third record, known as “Apple Jam.” That disc consists of four jam sessions and a silly remake of Cliff Richard’s song “Congratulations,” reworked as “It’s Johnny’s Birthday” in tribute to John Lennon, whose birthday was around the time of the sessions. So if we take that song, “Thanks for the Pepperoni,” “I Remember Jeep,” “Plug Me In,” and “Out of the Blue” away, that leaves us with 18 songs, still keeping the “most” definition alive. How about “If Not For You”? Absolutely not: first of all, it was written by Bob Dylan and ergo chances are slim to none would ever have even been presented as a possible Beatles song; also, Dylan wrote the song after The Beatles had already disbanded. So now we’re down to 17 songs that may have been considered, ergo still in the “most” side. “I’d Have You Anytime” was cowritten with Dylan and ergo was highly unlikely thought of as a Beatles possibility (and no evidence exists that it ever was), so now we’re down to 16 possible Beatles songs. While we’re still talking Dylan, let’s also discuss “Behind That Locked Door,” a song Harrison wrote as a message to Bob Dylan…in August 1969, when sessions for the Abbey Road album were winding down; given that The Beatles essentially were disbanded by September (and reunited briefly in 1970 to record “I, Me, Mine”), the chances of “Behind That Locked Door” being suggested for The Beatles are virtually zip. The count now is 15.

I’ll discuss “Hear Me, Lord” later, so let’s look at the other two religious songs on the album: “My Sweet Lord” and “Awaiting on You All.” “My Sweet Lord” was written in December 1969 and ergo would absolutely not have been in the running for The Beatles, and all evidence shows that “Awaiting on You All” was written in 1970. Regardless, the song likely would have been too preachy for The Beatles, especially given the “more popular than Jesus” comment that was still causing Lennon to walk on eggshells, and ergo would never have been even offered. (Get it right people: “more popular than Jesus,” not “bigger than God.”) So now we have 13 left on the album that could have been Beatles songs. We can only afford to lose half of a song for the commonly held assertion to be true.

And here’s where the bubble bursts with “Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp (Let It Roll),” a song that George didn’t even mention to anybody until he started planning the All Things Must Pass album, and even then, it was still called “Everybody, Nobody” until he rewrote the lyrics. So now we are down to 12 songs that could have been offered to The Beatles. Myth: All Things Must Pass is comprised mostly of songs George wrote that were rejected for Beatles albums. Status: busted. (Oh…and “Beware of Darkness” wasn’t written until 1970, ergo would never have had a chance to be a Beatles song. So now we’re down to 11.)

It’s safe to say that “All Things Must Pass,” “Hear Me, Lord,” and “Let It Down” all were offered up for Beatles albums, given that, thanks to bootleggers, we have audio of The Beatles running through the eventual title track and of George performing the other two during the Get Back sessions. (And thanks to Peter Jackson, we now also have video of the former!) “Isn’t It a Pity,” according to Mark Lewisohn, was actually presented to the group for possible inclusion on Revolver, so that gives us five songs so far that definitely were contenders for The Beatles. (Remember, the album has two versions of “Isn’t It a Pity.”) George started working on “Art of Dying” as early as 1966, but there’s no evidence it was ever offered to the band; in fact, in October 1969 (a month after The Beatles realistically disbanded) George mentioned that he had been working on the song, implying that even if he had started writing it in 1966, it wasn’t finished and ergo wouldn’t have been ready to be offered. It’s theoretically possible that “Wah-Wah” could have been in the running, but I don’t think it was likely. The song was written after George quit The Beatles in January 1969, and the message he was trying to get across was, “Paul, you’re giving me a headache.” Upon his return to The Beatles, it is highly unlikely that George would have tried to get his bandmates to join him in bashing McCartney (although it would have been pretty badass if he had tried and succeeded).

From what I can tell, we can’t pin down the time when “I Dig Love” and “Apple Scruffs” were written, and it is highly possible that the latter could have been written as early as late 1968, but in either case, we have no evidence that either was considered for The Beatles. “Run of the Mill” was written in 1969 after the Get Back sessions, but there’s no solid evidence that that song was offered up for Abbey Road. “What is Life” was inspired by sessions for Billy Preston’s That’s the Way God Planned It album, but we don’t know for sure that it was suggested for the Fab Four.

Despite what we know for sure was in consideration for Beatles projects and what might have been but we don’t know for sure, the fact is, most of the album was definitely not made up of Beatles could-have-beens. And if you don’t count the second version of “Isn’t It a Pity,” that tilts the stats even more out of the “most were possible Beatles” songs possibilities.

I’m not feeling creative enough for a well thought out ending to this post, so I’ll just say this:

So THERE!

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