All Those Years Ago
The estate of George Harrison uploaded the 1981 music video for “All Those Years Ago” to his YouTube channel on June 1, 2021.
The video was to commemorate the release of George’s “Somewhere in England” album from May 1981. The song was a late addition to the album, a tribute to the recently slain John Lennon. Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr also participated in the recording, making it the first post-John collaboration by the trio fans later lovingly nicknamed “The Threetles”. The same trio, incidentally, who had recorded George’s “I Me Mine” in January 1970. But Paul’s backing vocals on “All Those Years Ago” is sadly mixed almost inaudible.
The video for the song shows its age, evidenced by the many not yet upgraded or restored Beatle film clips it was made from.
For George, his experiences with the “Somewhere in England” album must have left a bad taste in his mouth. Having compiled the album from recent recordings and designed an album cover, it was rejected by Warner Bros, his distributor at the time. They may have felt that the black and white cover image with the album title in green letters looked a bit too much like John and Yoko’s new album, “Double Fantasy”. And they weren’t happy with all the songs, either.
Harrison began recording “Somewhere in England” in March 1980 and continued sporadically before finally delivering the album to Warner Bros. Records, the distributor of his Dark Horse record label, in late September that year. However, the executives at Warner Bros. rejected the album, feeling it was “too laid back” and not sufficiently commercial. Harrison agreed to rework the album and to record new material.
Returning to the project in November, Harrison was joined in his Friar Park studio in Henley-on-Thames by Ringo Starr, who arrived specifically to have Harrison produce some songs for him. They recorded two Harrison originals – “Wrack My Brain” and “All Those Years Ago” – plus a cover of “You Belong to Me” for Starr’s album “Can’t Fight Lightning”. The two other songs were completed but “All Those Years Ago” was left unfinished. Ringo’s album “Can’t Fight Lightning” was going to have songs from both George, Paul and John on it. The sessions with Lennon were supposed to take place in early 1981, however the killing of John Lennon put a stop to that plan. Eventually Ringo’s new album was reworked as “Stop and Smell The Roses” and released in October 1981.
On 8 December 1980, John Lennon was shot dead outside his apartment building, the Dakota. After the shock and devastation of Lennon’s murder, Harrison decided to make use of the unfinished recording of “All Those Years Ago”. He changed the lyrics of the song to reflect the Lennon tragedy. With Starr’s pre-recorded drum track in place, Harrison invited Paul and Linda McCartney, and their Wings bandmate Denny Laine, to record backing vocals in early 1981.
Along with “All Those Years Ago”, three more songs were added to the album: “Blood from a Clone” (a criticism of the WB executives who had rejected his original album), “Teardrops” and “That Which I Have Lost”. To make room for the new songs, Harrison had to drop four tracks from the original line-up: “Tears of the World”, “Sat Singing”, “Lay His Head” and “Flying Hour”. A new cover was then shot in the Tate Gallery in London, and “Somewhere in England” was resubmitted and accepted.
Of the four missing songs omitted from the 1981 “Somewhere in England”, “Lay His Head” was first issued in October 1987 as the B-side of Harrison’s “Got My Mind Set on You” single. The other three became very expensive to obtain legally, when they were included on two EPs accompanying the Genesis Publications deluxe limited edition books “Songs by George Harrison” in 1988 (“Sat Singing”, “Lay His Head” and “Flying Hour”) and “Songs by George Harrison 2” in 1992 (“Tears of the World”). However, they were readily available on counterfeits of George’s original “Somewhere in England” album. Furthermore, the EP versions were remixed, compared to bootleg versions of the originals.
In 2004, “Somewhere in England” was remastered and reissued, both separately and as part of the box set “The Dark Horse Years 1976–1992”, on Dark Horse Records with new distribution by EMI. The reissue included the original mix of “Unconsciousness Rules” and, as a bonus track, Harrison’s demo of “Save the World”, recorded in early 1980. In addition, the rejected artwork was reinstated, replacing that used for the 1981 release. An alternative mix of “Tears of the World” from that submitted in 1980 was included as a bonus track on the Dark Horse Years reissue of Harrison’s 1976 album “Thirty Three & 1/3”.
The iTunes Music Store’s digital version of “Somewhere in England” includes “Flying Hour” as a second bonus track. Rather than the rendition that Harrison had intended for release in 1980, it is the version that appeared on the “Songs by George Harrison EP”. With a running time of 4:35, this slower version begins with a studio count-in, is longer, lacks and adds guitar riffs, fades slightly at the end, and plays at the correct speed.
In 2006, a survey was conducted on the GeorgeHarrison.com message boards to find the artist’s 50 most popular songs. The results featured only one track from the album: “Life Itself”, at number 29. The same survey included three of the four rejected songs: “Flying Hour”, at number 14; “Lay His Head”, number 27; and “Sat Singing”, number 41.