All Things Must Pass

Anthology 3 album artworkWritten by: Harrison
Recorded: 25 February 1969
Producer: George Harrison
Engineer: Ken Scott

Released: 28 October 1996

George Harrison: vocals, electric guitar

Available on:
Anthology 3

Although best known as the title track of his 1970 solo triple album, George Harrison taped a solo demo of All Things Must Pass in early 1969.

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The recording took place on 25 February 1969, Harrison's 26th birthday. During the session he also taped demos of Old Brown Shoe and Something, all of which were released on Anthology 3 in 1996.

Harrison wanted all three to become Beatles songs, although Old Brown Shoe and Something went on to be recorded by the group. All Things Must Pass had also previously been put forward frequently during the Get Back sessions in January 1969; that it wasn't recorded properly by The Beatles suggests that either the other members didn't like the song, or that Harrison decided that they didn't deserve it.

All Things Must Pass was the simplest of the 25 February demo recordings. Harrison recorded two takes, then added extra guitar onto the second.

The lyrics were based on a translation of part of chapter 23 of the Tao Te Ching. A translation was included in Timothy Leary's 1966 book Psychedelic Prayers After The Tao Te Ching, under the heading All Things Pass:

All things pass
A sunrise does not last all morning
All things pass
A cloudburst does not last all day
Psychedelic Prayers After The Tao Te Ching

Another Harrison song, Isn't It A Pity, was demoed by Harrison on 26 January 1969 with the working title George's Demo. The Beatles never recorded the song - it also emerged as a highlight on the All Things Must Pass album - although Ian MacDonald and Mark Lewisohn have suggested that Harrison also put forward the song during the Revolver sessions.

22 responses on “All Things Must Pass

  1. TheOneBeatle (From Youtube)

    This is one of the songs, that i wished that we’re either recorded and put on Get Back or Abbey Road.
    But, it came in a solo album.
    Damn it, why The Beatles never recorded it.
    Only that somebody want do a version trying to imitate the vocals of John, Paul and drumming or backing vocal of Ringo too.
    But that’s just a dream.

  2. Josh Cook

    The Beatles did record this, but it was during the early rehearsals for GET BACK — i.e., the Twickenham sessions, after which they relocated to Apple to lay down a proper album. So the tapes I’ve heard are of mediocre fidelity, and the band’s haphazard attempts to conjure George’s paean to eternal cycles is marred by fumbling attempts to develop coherent parts on organ and bass by John & Paul, respectively, who fall flat as they repeatedly botch the anticipatory timing on the chorus and miss the bridge altogether — no offense to any of them; they were going through a tough time, as was much of the world that winter.

    A version of this song exists with George, Paul & John’s chorus vocals and Ringo’s explosive drum fills artificially grafted onto George’s signature solo version, creating an “Imagine”d version that features an augmented Beatles ensemble.

    The bit about the Leary prayer book is news to me, and I find it of particular interest given that George had previously harvested a kernel of inspiration for his song “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” from reading the I Ching, and that a couple years earlier John had derived “Tomorrow Never Knows” from the introduction to Leary’s interpretation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead called “The Psychedelic Experience”.

  3. Phil

    “Only that somebody want do a version trying to imitate the vocals of John, Paul and drumming or backing vocal of Ringo too.”

    The 2002 version at the Concert for George had Paul on lead vocals and acoustic guitar and Ringo on drums. That’s the closest we’re going to get.

  4. Jeff

    Both ATMP and “Pity” were Harrison songs that stood up to anything Paul or John offered the Beatles in the later years. It is almost shameful that these songs were not judged on their merits (which would have justified their proper recording/release by the group) and instead were basically discarded due to internal conflicts, space limitations and because George wrote them. Neither John or Paul would concede songs to accomodate George’s growing number of superb songs. Abbey Road should have included Something, Here Comes the Sun, All Things Must Pass and possibly Isn’t It A Pity. It was a pity that the Beatles showed such disrespect to such fine songs. Thankfully, George got them released on his fantastic solo debut release.

    1. JP

      If the LP’s time-limitations required cutting songs to accomodate Isn’t It A Pity and All Things Must Pass, then I would nominate Maxwell’s Silver Hammer and Sun King. There is nothing wrong with either song (though Sun King is far better), but IMO, the 2 Harrisongs I mentioned are better. It was clear that George wanted both songs – particularly ATMP – to be Beatles’ songs. Any song recorded by the group was money in the bank. Had those songs been properly recorded by the full band, they could have been placed on LPs or on singles and, like the rest of their output, would likely have been well-received and profitable. I guess it’s all a matter of personal preference, and who am I to second-guess the Beatles or George Martin. But we all have opinions – and these are mine.

      1. GniknuS

        Well, if you get rid of those songs and assume that neither Harrisong would have been on the B-side, unless you’d put one of the two in between You Never Give…and the medley, that would mean there would be 3 or 4 Harrisongs on the A side, 2 Lennons, 1 McCartney and 1 of Ringo’s. You just have to be realistic here, Paul would have the same number of songs on the A side as Ringo, I mean come on. The album worked out fine and the ATMP album was a better one with the inclusion of those two songs.

    1. Randy Coursey

      Octopus’s Garden? That is one of the best songs on the album. Harrison’s guitar shines here!~ Plus it’s the only song Ringo wrote and sang on. He actually Co. wrote it with Harrison….

  5. Larry Yates

    I’ve seen some who say “All things must pass” was from the Bible, but that doesnt’ really make sense. In Matthew, Jesus says,”…these things must COME to pass” which is a different meaning. All things must pass is talking not of things coming but of things going away.

  6. Travis

    You would REPLACE the epic, heavy, doom-laden masterpiece that is I Want You(she’s so heavy) w Isn’t It A Pity? That truly would be a pity. I think a strong argument could be made that “I Want You” represented John’s last great attempt at a “symphony to god” to paraphrase Brian Wilson. Never again in his life did he write and record a song with this kind of grandeur and ambition, where he was really aiming at creating something of grand, timeless art. You could say ‘Because’ but that’s same album so hard to say. Isn’t It A Pity isn’t even as good as “I Need You”, which I actually quite like. Def not worthy next to the stuff John and Paul were putting out at the time(although I’ll give you Maxwell and ick, Octopus’ Garden). Frankly I’m surprised Old Brown Shoe made the cut.

  7. apple_jam

    Hey Larry Yates…
    Don’t know if it’s from the bible or not but the line (without the word `must’) is in this prayer from St. Theresa of Avila:
    “Let nothing disturb you;
    Let nothing frighten you,
    All things pass away. God never changes.
    Patience obtains all things.
    He who has God,finds he lacks nothing.
    God alone suffices.” Buy the way, I love the snippet of this on LIB Naked. The Beatles would have done a beautiful version.

  8. The Nowhereman from Nowhereland

    God, I love this song. Although the Beatles didn’t put it on an album, I still love the version he released on his album. Love you, George!

  9. robert

    I love this album. Love it! And I am so glad the Beatles didn’t release any of these tunes – they are perfect George.

    If you don’t have the Album – get it. If you have listen to it again.

    The opening of “Art of Dying” has anyone done anything close since?
    (I know this is about the song, not the album – sorry Joe)

  10. Spike Evans

    Seems like I read somewhere that George Harrison gave up on attempting to get the other Beatles to take this song seriously after John returned from the using the toilet facilities at the recording studio. John apparently stating, “All things must pass” upon his return…..which pissed off George and he never pushed the song again.

  11. Ig

    This song should have been in “Let it Be”, not “Abbey Road”, I think. Changing ATMP for “Dig it” would be a great choice. This song is too good to be on the medley. Probably this song is better than most song of the A side, but I prefer any Abbey Road song (even Maxwell, which in fact I love) instead of Dig It.

  12. Holsety

    It’s ironic that they claimed to have a process of ruling out a song not all 4 of them liked.. and yet they all hated Paul’s granny songs, and John hated a lot of his own songs..

  13. Zen

    “The lyrics were based on a translation of part of chapter 23 of the Tao Te Ching.”
    This is the English translation of chapter 23 Timothy Learys words could only be said to have been a reflection of that idea and not a translation.

    *23. Words
    Nature says only a few words:
    High wind does not last long,
    Nor does heavy rain.
    If nature’s words do not last
    Why should those of man?

    Who accepts harmony, becomes harmonious.
    Who accepts loss, becomes lost.
    For who accepts harmony, the Way harmonizes with him,
    And who accepts loss, the Way cannot find.*

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