1981: George Harrison’s “All Those Years Ago”

“All Those Years Ago” is a memorable George Harrison song that was the first single released from the 1981 Somehere in England album. It is a heartfelt tribute to John Lennon, whose death several months before greatly affected Harrison.

Harrison originally wrote the song before Lennon’s death for Ringo Starr to sing, but Ringo felt the vocal range needed on the song did not coincide with his own. Then, after Lennon was killed, Harrison decided to slightly alter the lyrics to make the song a tribute to the slain Beatle. Also, the lyrics make reference to the Beatles song “All You Need Is Love” and the John Lennon solo hit “Imagine”.

The song was the first to feature collaboration by all three remaining Beatles. Ringo played drums on the single while Paul and Linda McCartney provided backing vocals along with Wings guitarist Denny Laine. It represented the first time that Harrison, McCartney and Starr had worked on a song together since they were Beatles and recorded Harrison’s song “I Me Mine”. The next time the three would collaborate on a song would be 13 years later for the Beatles Anthology when the three recorded “Free As a Bird” and “Real Love” with old recordings of John Lennon’s vocals.

Beatles producer George Martin co-produced the single with Harrison, making it as complete a Beatles reunion as possible without John Lennon.

Ironically, at the time of John Lennon’s tragic death, McCartney had been recording the song “Take It Away” and the events of the day caused him to stop recording it and it would be more than a year before he returned to the song, which appeared on the 1982 album Tug of War. George Martin produced Tug of War for McCartney and even played electric piano on “Take It Away”. Many people at the time said that McCartney’s collaboration with Harrison on “All Those Years” ago was therapeutic in that it got him back on the right track in terms of recording.

“All Those Years Ago” was released on 11 May 1981 in the U.S. and reached # 2 on the charts and stayed there for three weeks, never making the jump to the top slot. Surprisingly, after being released on 15 May 1981 in Great Britain, it only reached # 13 there.

The video was meant to highlight the song’s obvious tribute to Lennon. It is no coincidence that many of the photos and footage used were of Harrison with Lennon.


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