George Harrison

All Those Years Ago

Song Review by

When this song peaked at number two in the spring of 1981, "All Those Years Ago" became George Harrison's highest-charting hit in eight years -- despite having purportedly first been a consideration for Ringo Starr. Fate intervened when Harrison's former Beatles bandmate John Lennon was assassinated in December of 1980. The tune was reworked to reflect not only Lennon's passing, but to celebrate the camaraderie the two shared while similarly dealing with the combo's immeasurable social and musical influence. As scathingly critical as other cuts on 1981's Somewhere in England are -- most notably "Blood from a Clone" and "Unconsciousness Rules" -- "All Those Years Ago" is quite the opposite. Harrison's lyrics read like an endearing and poignant open letter to Lennon, reiterating an evident admiration ("Living with good and bad/I always looked up to you") and the affection between the two ("You had control of our smiles and our fears"). Harrison also reinforces what many had undoubtedly already surmised, that it was Lennon who "had made it so clear" and "pointed the way to the truth when you say 'All You Need Is Love'" -- obviously referring to the Fab Four's Summer of Love anthem. He touches upon Lennon's violent passing in the lines "Now we're left cold and sad/By someone, the devil's best friend/Someone who offended all," and continues the sentiment with "We're living in a bad dream/They've forgotten all about mankind" and "They've forgotten all about God/He's the only reason we exist." Although not a full-fledged in-person collaboration by the remaining Beatles, "All Those Years Ago" is a reunion of sorts, as Starr plays drums and Paul McCartney contributes backing vocals alongside wife Linda.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Somewhere in England 1981 Dark Horse 3:43
The Best of Dark Horse (1976-1989) 1989 Dark Horse 3:44
The Dark Horse Years 1976-1992 2004 Capitol / Dark Horse 4:26
Let It Roll: The Best of George Harrison 2009 Capitol