Released on George Harrison’s 1970 opus All Things Must Pass, ‘Run Of The Mill’ was written shortly after The Beatles’ troubled Let It Be sessions.

Harrison quit The Beatles temporarily on 10 January 1969, having grown frustrated with the souring relations within the group, with suggestions for a return to live performance, and at having his songwriting overlooked by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. He wrote the song ‘Wah-Wah’ after walking out.

I liked the words to ‘Run Of The Mill’. It was the first song I ever wrote that looked like a poem on paper, whereas most of them don’t seem much until you put the lyric with the tune. It’s like the North of England thing – you know, ‘Trouble at t’mill’: it was when Apple was getting crazy – Ringo wanted it blue, John wanted it white, Paul wanted it green and I wanted it orange. Paul was falling out with us all and going around Apple offices saying ‘You’re no good – everybody was just incompetent (the Spanish Inquisition sketch). It was that period – the problem of partnerships.
George Harrison
I Me Mine

‘Run Of The Mill’ was inspired by the dysfunction in the last months of The Beatles, and especially Harrison’s deteriorating relationship with McCartney.

Everyone has choice
When to or not to raise their voices
It’s you that decides
Which way you will turn
While feeling that our love’s not your concern
It’s you that decides
‘Run Of The Mill’

Whereas several of Harrison’s songs speak of putting faith in God and higher powers, the lyrics of ‘Run Of The Mill’ are a paean to personal responsibility, with the knowledge that he was in charge of his destiny. Harrison had been with The Beatles since his teenage years, and was just twenty-six when they split.

I may decide to
Get out with your blessing
Where I’ll carry on guessing
How high will you leap
Will you make enough for you to reap it?
Only you’ll arrive
At your own made end
With no one but yourself to be offended
It’s you that decides
‘Run Of The Mill’

The phrase ‘run of the mill’ does not appear anywhere in the lyrics. Harrison explained in that he was using the phrase as a synonym for ‘average’. This may have been a barbed reference to the other former Beatles’ views of his songwriting.

There was an expression that came from a place called Yorkshire where they made fabric. Run of the mill just means average. I was using that phrase more or less, because, the Beatles were just splitting up. I don’t know if they had that expression in America.
George Harrison
MSN, 15 February 2001

Harrison performed solo demo versions of many of the All Things Must Pass songs for producer Phil Spector, during a session at EMI Studios, Abbey Road, on 27 May 1970. ‘Run Of The Mill’ was the first of these songs to be performed.

The acoustic demo appeared briefly in Martin Scorsese’s 2011 documentary George Harrison: Living in the Material World, and was included in the following year’s deluxe DVD edition. It got a wider release six months later on Early Takes: Volume 1.

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