Activities Week at Oakmeeds was always great fun. No normal lessons. Timetable abandoned. Every student could more or less do as they pleased. The normal rules of behaviour didn’t apply. It was great fun. For the students. It was a week of hell for teachers. For many years, I avoided it but in my last two years I had to partake with a rictus grin on my face. One year, as all the teachers were waiting together for the carnage to begin, a colleague took one look at my face and said “It will be okay, Mick. Everything passes.”
I have been clinging on to this mantra for nine months now and with some vaccinations taking place this week, I can see that maybe, just maybe, this too will pass. It works both ways of course. The bad times will pass but so will the good times. A cloudburst doesn’t last all day but a sunrise doesn’t last all morning.
On George Harrison’s 26th birthday in February 1969, he recorded solo acoustic demos of “Old Brown Shoe”, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “All Things Must Pass”. These were included on “Anthology 3” and, to my mind, are vastly superior to the officially released versions. “All Things Must Pass” is an incredibly wise, calm and mature song which ruminates on the transient nature of the weather, relationships and life. It’s a mystery as to why The Beatles never chose to record this song. Mind you, with “Something” and “Here Comes The Sun”, John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s “generosity” in giving George Harrison space to record his songs on “Abbey Road” was probably pushed to its limit. The version released on this triple album is also very good and a new 2020 mix has just been released which is probably the best of them all.
There are twenty two songs on this album along with a whole vinyl disc’s worth of “jams”. Some of these songs date from 1966 (“Isn’t It A Pity”). All of them are thoughtful and heavily produced by Phil Spector. Sometimes the production is a bit overwhelming but there’s no doubt that this album is the most substantial piece of work released by a solo Beatle.
A year after the album’s release, George Harrison organised a benefit concert for the victims of the Bangladesh tragedy in which a cyclone had killed close to half a million people. The first song that he played in that concert was “Wah Wah” and it was a dynamite version. It’s the third song on this album and he wrote it on the day he temporarily quit The Beatles in the middle of the “Let It Be” sessions in Twickenham. It’s a beautifully wise song in which he reminisces about how good things used to be. He’s not sighing or crying now, just glad to be free of all the noise. The “Wah Wah”.
“Isn’t It A Pity” is a masterpiece and is over seven minutes long. If has a long guitar coda which fades out slowly and gracefully. Lyrically, he is sorry to be in a situation where “we break each other’s hearts” and take without giving. It’s easy to relate this to the breakup of The World’s Best Group but it could equally apply to the end of a love affair.
There are several religious songs on the album including “Awaiting On You All”, “Hear Me Lord” and, of course, “My Sweet Lord” which has sold over ten million copies. George Harrison was sued by Bright Tunes who owned the copyright to “He’s So Fine” by The Chiffons, claiming that he copied key elements of their 1964 hit. When this lawsuit was first filed, Allen Klein was George Harrison’s manager and he explored ways in which a defence could be mounted. By the time the case came to court, he was no longer his manager and Bright Tunes had gone bust, going into receivership. Luckily they found a buyer: Allen Klein bought the company for half a million dollars and successfully won the court case against George Harrison who was ordered to pay Bright Tunes one and a half million dollars. Astonishing. There’s a happy ending though: on appeal, the award was reduced to half a million dollars and George Harrison was given the ownership of Bright Tunes thus negating any further actions. All things must pass.