The Brick Did Have to Go

“Well I remember that wall, that brick … Bob Gill and I never quite recovered our compatibility but the brick did have to go. Were we right? Yes.”

Derek Taylor

(recalling difficulties with artist Bob Gill over Harrison’s requested alteration to his cover design)

 
 

Front cover

 
 

Wonderwall Music is the soundtrack album to the film Wonderwall (Joe Massot, 1968), and the debut solo release by English musician George Harrison. It was the first album to be issued on The Beatles‘ Apple record label, and the first solo album by a member of that band. The songs are all instrumental pieces, except for occasional non-English vocals, and a slowed-down spoken word segment on the track Dream Scene. Harrison recorded the album between November 1967 and February 1968, with sessions taking place in London and the Indian city of Bombay. Following his Indian-styled compositions for the Beatles since 1966, he used the film soundtrack to further promote Indian classical music by introducing rock audiences to musical instruments that were relatively little-known in the West – including shehnai, sarod and santoor. During the sessions, Harrison recorded many other pieces that appeared in Wonderwall but not on the soundtrack album, and the Beatles’ song The Inner Light also originated from his time in Bombay. Although the album’s release in November 1968 marked the end of Harrison’s direct involvement with Indian music, it inspired his later collaborations with Ravi Shankar, including the 1974 Music Festival from India.

For the front cover of Wonderwall Music (, American artist Bob Gill painted a picture in the style of Belgian surrealist René Magritte. The painting shows a formally dressed man “separated by a huge red brick wall from a group of happy bathing Indian maidens”, Bruce Spizer writes. Apple executive Derek Taylor, whom Harrison had invited to help run the Beatles’ label in early 1968, later recalled of Gill’s submission: “It was a nice painting but missed the essence of hope.” To Gill’s chagrin, Harrison requested that a brick be removed from the wall, because he deemed it important to “give the fellow on the other side a chance, just as the Jack MacGowran character had a chance [in the film]”.

 
 

Back cover

 
 

For the back cover, Harrison chose a photo of part of the Berlin Wall, which designers John Kelly and Alan Aldridge then manipulated and mirrored to represent a corner. Taylor describes the result as innovative for its time, with the wall made to look “proud and sharp as the prow of a liner”.

 
 

 
 

The sleeve was designed so that the rear face appeared upside down relative to the front. In America, some copies of the LP had the Berlin Wall image mistakenly printed on the front, which made for “a less than exciting cover to be sure”, in Madinger and Easter’s opinion. Included on the LP’s sleeve insert was a black-and-white photograph of Harrison taken by Astrid Kirchherr (credited as Astrid Kemp, since 1967, Kirchherr married English drummer Gibson Kemp).

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Some Things Remains

The song’s title and message provided inspiration for Barry Feinstein’s cover photo for All Things Must Pass (1970). In a 2001 interview, Feinstein admitted that the words “All Things Must Pass” had helped inspire his set-up for the photo, saying: “What else could it be? … [It] was over with The Beatles, right? And that title … Very symbolic.”

 
 

George Harrison commissioned Tom Wilkes to design an “elaborate hinged cardboard box” in which to house the three vinyl discs, rather than have them packaged in a triple gatefold cover. Apple insider Tony Bramwell later recalled: “It was a bloody big thing … You needed arms like an orang-utan to carry half a dozen.” The packaging caused some confusion among retailers, who associated boxed albums with opera or classical works.

 
 

Alternate image from All Things Must Pass photo session

 
 

The stark black-and-white cover photo was taken on the main lawn at Friar Park by Wilkes’ Camouflage Productions partner, Barry Feinstein. Commentators interpret the photograph – showing Harrison seated in the centre of, and towering over, four comical-looking garden gnomes – as representing his removal from The Beatles‘ collective identity. The gnomes had recently been delivered to Friar Park and placed on the lawn; seeing the four figures there, and mindful of the message in the album’s title, Feinstein immediately drew parallels with Harrison’s former band. Author and music journalist Mikal Gilmore has written that John Lennon‘s initial negativity regarding All Things Must Pass was possibly because he was “irritated” by this cover photo; Harrison biographer Elliot Huntley attributes this negativity to Lennon’s “jealousy” during a time when “everything [Harrison] touched turned to gold”.

 
 

Outtakes

 
 

Trade ad for the What Is Life single, February 1971

 
 

Apple included a poster with the album, showing Harrison in a darkened corridor of his home, standing in front of an iron-framed window. Wilkes had designed a more adventurous poster, but according to Beatles author Bruce Spizer, Harrison was uncomfortable with the imagery. Some of the Feinstein photographs that Wilkes had incorporated into this original poster design appeared instead on the picture sleeves for the My Sweet Lord single and its follow-up, What Is Life.

 
 

To mark the 30th anniversary of the album’s release, Harrison supervised a remastered edition of All Things Must Pass, which was issued in January 2001. Harrison oversaw revisions to Wilkes and Feinstein’s album artwork, which included a colorized “George & the Gnomes” front cover and, on the two CD sleeves and the album booklet, further examples of this cover image showing an imaginary, gradual encroachment of urbanization on the Friar Park landscape.

Art of Dying

Psychedelic portrait of George Harrison. Richard Avedon, 1967

 

“There’ll come a time when all of us must leave here
Then nothing sister Mary can do
Will keep me here with you
As nothing in this life that I’ve been trying
Could equal or surpass the art of dying
Do you believe me?

There’ll come a time when all your hopes are fading
When things that seemed so very plain
Become an awful pain
Searching for the truth among the lying
And answered when you’ve learned the art of dying

But you’re still with me
But if you want it
Then you must find it
But when you have it
There’ll be no need for it

There’ll come a time when most of us return here
Brought back by our desire to be
A perfect entity
Living through a million years of crying
Until you’ve realized the Art of Dying
Do you believe me?”

 

Art of Dying is a song by English musician George Harrison, released on his 1970 triple album All Things Must Pass. It was written in 1966–67 when Harrison first became immersed in Hindu spirituality, and its subject matter is reincarnation – the “art” in question being the need to avoid rebirth, by limiting actions and thoughts whose consequences lead to one’s soul returning in another, earthbound life form. The song was co-produced by Phil Spector and features a hard-charging rock arrangement that has been described as “proto-disco”. The backing musicians include Eric Clapton and the rest of the latter’s short-lived band Derek and the Dominos, as well as Gary Wright, Billy Preston and a teenage Phil Collins playing the congas.

For the last 30 or more years of his life, George Harrison repeatedly identified his first experience of taking the hallucinogenic drug LSD, with John Lennon and their wives, as being responsible for his interest in spirituality and Hinduism. The “trip” occurred by accident in February 1965, and he later recalled a thought coming to his mind during the experience: “‘Yogis of the Himalayas.’ I don’t know why … It was like somebody was whispering to me: ‘Yogis of the Himalayas.'” But it was a visit in August 1967 to the epicentre of hippie conterculturalism, San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district, that then persuaded him to abandon LSD and pursue a spiritual path through meditation.

The mention of “Sister Mary” refers to the Catholic faith in which Harrison had been brought up as a child. Speaking to author Peter Doggett, Harrison’s sister Louise qualified his embracing of Hinduism with regard to his upbringing: “Our family were Catholics, but we always had a global outlook. We were spiritual, not religious as such. George didn’t change as a person after he went to India [in 1966] …”

Rather than Sister Mary, Harrison’s original lyric named “Mr Epstein” – the Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein. Given this reference to Epstein, author Bruce Spizer has speculated that Harrison was “contemplating life after the Beatles” as early as mid 1966, since “most of the song’s original verses recognize that even Mr. Epstein won’t be able to keep the group together or help out when it’s over …”

As Harrison explains in his autobiography, I, Me, Mine, in most cases one’s soul does not in fact “leave here” after death, due to the karmic debt, or “load”, accrued through actions and thoughts carried out in one’s lifetime

The mention of “a million years of crying” is a reference to the endless cycle of rebirth associated with reincarnation, where the soul repeatedly fails to leave the material world and attain nirvana, otherwise known as moksha.

Since Harrison’s death in November 2001, the lyrics of Art of Dying have been much quoted as a comment on the nature of human existence.