George Harrison Said His Lyrics for ‘All Those Years Ago’ Were a Bit Abstract

George Harrison thought his lyrics for “All Those Years Ago” were a bit abstract. However, George didn’t like explaining his songs. He thought it should be up to the listener to decipher their meaning.

George Harrison performing at the Prince's Trust Concert in 1987.
George Harrison | Dave Hogan/Getty Images

Initially, George Harrison wrote ‘All Those Years Ago’ about Ringo Starr but changed it to be about John Lennon

During a 1987 interview with Entertainment Tonight, George explained he originally wrote “All Those Years Ago” for Ringo. However, after John Lennon died, George made it about him.

“I think I originally wrote it for Ringo,” he said, “who was doing an album at the time. I wrote it with slightly different words, it had the same chorus, but it was more about-it was a bit more of an uptight kinda lyric like, ‘You did this and you did all of that.’

“And I don’t know what happened, but I don’t think Ringo did the sessions, or maybe I never finished it or something, and then, that thing happened with John. Straight away, I changed it and made it you know more as a thing about John. Specifically about him.

“It was hard to sing it really because, you know, I mean at that time it was not long after you know his-he was killed and you know it’s sort of a bit difficult to sing it.

“At least take one was. Maybe by the time I’d done take eight, I was just not really thinking too deeply about what I was saying,” George concluded.

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George thought his lyrics to ‘All Those Years Ago’ were abstract

In a 1987 interview, Creem Magazine‘s J. Kordosh said the lyric where George jumps from John being “weird” to God and the reason we exist always puzzled him.

“It is a strange choice of words,” George agreed. “The way I saw it was, I’m talking all about God and he’s the only reason we exist­-now that’s something I believe to be true.”

In “All Those Years Ago,” George sings, “They’ve forgotten all about God/ He’s the only reason we exist/ Yet you were the one that they said was so weird/ All those years ago/ You said it all, though not many had ears/ All those years ago/ You had control of our smiles and our tears/ All those years ago.”

Kordosh asked, “Were you saying you were weirder than John?” George replied, “No, no, no. What I was saying is there’s all these weird people who don’t actually believe in God and who go around murder­ing everybody, and yet, in the broad sweep, it’s like they were the ones point­ing fingers at Lennon, saying he’s a weir­do. Sometimes my lyrics get a bit abstract in place-­I get so many thoughts coming from different angles, I’m not sure if they come across right. But I think that’s what I was trying to say.”

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The former Beatle didn’t like explaining his lyrics

In the new forward to George’s memoir, I Me Mine, George’s wife, Olivia, explained that he didn’t like explaining his lyrics. He wanted listeners to figure out his songs on their own. Sometimes his lyrics didn’t mean anything.

“George’s lyrics were, in my opinion, the most spiritually conscious of our time, although George, in turn, usually referred to the lyrics of Bob Dylan when trying to make a point or elucidate his own feelings of isolation and frustration brought about by things in and beyond this life,” George said.

“Many times he said, ‘I wish I knew more words,’ but perhaps all the words in the world, including the Sanskirt and mantras integral to his vocabulary, could not fully express his depth of feeling and realisation.

“George didn’t give much away when explaining his lyrics. Wasn’t it enough that he laid his emotions and thoughts on the line for everyone to hear? I finally stopped asking George what his songs were about because his answers never seemed to satisfy my questions. ‘Liv, I just needed something to rhyme with ‘love,’ so I used ‘glove.'”

In his songs, George sometimes liked to leave a lot of room for interpretation. Most of the time, a song’s meaning changed while he wrote it. So, there are limitless possibilities in George’s body of work.

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