I was cleaning my teeth… and suddenly in my head came this ‘You don’t need a dum dada-pmm pa-pmm-pa, you don’t need a bmm papa-bmm.’ All I had to do was pick up the guitar, find what key it was in, and fill in the missing words.
George Harrison: Living In The Material World
The first solo outings after the implosion of The Beatles all portrayed the former members’ key interests of the time. For John Lennon it was Primal Therapy and casting off the weight of his past; Paul McCartney celebrated his home life with his new wife Linda; and Ringo Starr performed an album of standards from his childhood.
For George Harrison, the primary quest was for spiritual contentment. He had all the riches and fame one could wish for, but his needs and desires transcended the earthly.
‘Awaiting On You All’ is about Japa Yoga meditation which is repetition on beads (mala) of mantras. A mantra is mystical energy encased in a sound structure, and each mantra contains within its vibrations, a certain power. They are constructed from the fifty letters of the Sanskrit alphabet (Devanagari – language of the Gods) and they turn the mind toward concentration on the supreme releasing spiritual energy in the Chakras1 of the Body.
Most mantras for Japa utilise the many names of God, and the maha-mantra has been prescribed as the easiest and surest way for attaining God-Realisation in this present age. (It can also rebuild the atoms in the body and make your life sublime!)
1 Chakras – storage places for the vital energy.
I Me Mine
The core message of the song is: “Chanting the names of the Lord and you’ll be free/The Lord is awaiting on you all to awaken and see”. Harrison had become a devotee of Hinduism in the late 1960s, and supported the Hare Krishna movement, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON).
Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada brought the movement to the West in 1965, and attracted followers among the hippies and the young in the US, UK and elsewhere. In London, the Radha Krsna Temple became the UK headquarters of ISKCON. Harrison produced an album of their devotional music, The Radha Krsna Temple, released by Apple Records in 1971, as well as providing financial support for the movement.
Harrison was a strong believer in the power of chanting as an expression of devotion to God, and included the Maha Mantra (Great Mantra) in ‘My Sweet Lord’.
[Sri] Prabhupada told me once that we should just keep chanting all the time, or as much as possible. Once you do that, you realise the benefit. The response that comes from chanting is in the form of bliss, or spiritual happiness, which is a much higher taste than any happiness found here in the material world. That’s why I say that the more you do it, the more you don’t want to stop, because it feels so nice and peaceful.
Back To Godhead, 4 September 1982
In 1972 Harrison wrote: “All religions are branches of one big tree. It really doesn’t matter what you call Him as long as you call.” The sentiments can also be heard in ‘Awaiting On You All’, telling his listeners to set aside churches, temples, rosary beads, astrology, and science, and to “chant the names of the Lord” to find salvation.
At that time, nobody was committed to that type of music in the pop world. There was, I felt, a real need for that, so rather than sitting and waiting for somebody else, I decided to do it myself. A lot of times we thing, ‘Well, I agree with you, but I’m not going to actually stand up and be counted. Too risky.’ Everybody is always trying to keep themselves covered, stay commercial, so I thought, Just do it. Nobody else is, and I’m sick of all these young people just boogeying around, wasting their lives, you know. Also, I felt that there were a lot of people out there who would be reached. I still get letters from people saying, ‘I have been in the Krsna temple for three years, and I would have never known about Krsna unless you recorded the All Things Must Pass album.’ So I know, by the Lord’s grace, I am a small part in the cosmic play.
Back To Godhead, 4 September 1982
‘Awaiting On You All’ contains some of Harrison’s most playful and deft lyrics, rhyming ‘visas’ with ‘Jesus’, and ending with a verse that EMI found contentious enough to omit from the album’s lyric sheet:
And while the Pope owns fifty one percent of General Motors
And the stock exchange is the only thing he’s qualified to quote us
The Lord is awaiting on you all to awaken and see
By chanting the names of the Lord and you’ll be free
An early version of ‘Awaiting On You All’ from the All Things Must Pass sessions was released on the 2012 album Early Takes: Volume 1.
Phil Spector left the All Things Must Pass sessions in June 1970 due to health reasons. Harrison sent early mixes of most of the songs to the producer, who was convalescing in Los Angeles. On 19 August 1970, the producer wrote a letter to Harrison in which he outlined his thoughts on the album’s progress.
AWAITING ON YOU ALL:
The mixes I heard had the voice too buried, in my opinion. I’m sure we could do better. The performance probably will be okay, unless you really think you can do it better. However, as I said above, I think a lot of it is in the final mix when we do it.
‘Awaiting On You All’ was performed at both the afternoon and evening shows at the Concert For Bangladesh on 1 August 1971. It was the last song of Harrison’s three-song opening set, which began with ‘Wah-Wah’ and The Beatles’ ‘Something’.
The recording of the evening performance was included on the live album The Concert For Bangladesh, and the film of the event. The song features Harrison, Eric Clapton, Klaus Voormann, Ringo Starr, Billy Preston, Leon Russell, Jim Keltner, and Jim Horn.
Harrison also performed ‘Awaiting On You All’ during a radio interview with Alan Freeman, recorded in late 1974 and broadcast on Freeman’s syndicated US radio show on 5 October 1975. He performed three other songs: ‘Dark Horse’, ‘Far East Man’, and ‘I Don’t Care Anymore’.
‘Awaiting On You All’ was among a list of 35 songs prepared by Harrison ahead of his December 1991 tour of Japan, although it was not performed at any of the concerts.