Released in May 1981, ‘All Those Years Ago’ is a song that not only reunited The Beatles for a brief foray but, in the wake of the tragic murder of John Lennon, offered a sincere reflection of the lost icon provided by those who knew him most sincerely. It’s hard to quantify what life as Beatle was truly like, and, in honesty, there are only ever four people who can know. It’s a unique bond that Harrison, Lennon, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr will always share.
The closest we ever come to truly knowing what it felt like to be swept up in Beatlemania, have endless pressures for singles, albums and films, and, for all intents and purposes, be more popular than Jesus is through their songs. After The Beatles split up, the Fab Four went their separate ways, and all carved out inspiring solo careers, proving that they were just as gifted as expected. Despite this success, there was always an underlying feeling of resentment surrounding the band’s break up.
This resulted in the group laying down some not so sweet songs about their charmed life within the biggest band in the world. While Lennon and McCartney chose pop songs to take potshots at one another, Harrison was also famed for his caustic lyrics, which often lamented his role within the band as the third chair to the squabbling maestros. But, there were the odd occasions that the group did pay their respects to the band that more them so many riches.
Though the band remained friends, leaning into the bond that held them all together, they rarely connected as a whole, at least in any public sense. That changed after the tragic murder of John Lennon outside his Dakota building home in New York City. Approached by Mark Chapman, posing as a fan, Lennon turned to his murderer to be struck by a fatal bullet. It would send shockwaves around the world and devastate those who knew him and those that adored him.
Of course, George Harrison, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr were left open-mouthed and utterly shocked by the incident. McCartney made sure that Lennon’s family were fine while the rest of the group scrambled for a grip on the mind-altering experience. A year later, when the dust had somewhat settled, Harrison parcelled up his feelings on the Fab Four and, more specifically, Lennon and headed for the studio.
What would transpire was the song ‘All Those Years Ago’, a track so rooted in the happenings of The Beatles and Harrison’s relationship with Lennon that it seemed only fitting that McCartney and Starr should also join in on the tribute. Released as part of Harrison’s album Somewhere in England, the track is a sincere and heartfelt reflection of one of the most iconic men in music history.
Starr was, naturally, on the drums for the recording while McCartney, with whom Harrison had shared a fractured relationship, contributed backing vocals accompanied by Linda McCartney and Denny Laine. It was the first time The Beatles had appeared on the same song since the recording of ‘I Me Mine’ in 1970. While it is sad that it took Lennon’s death to reunite The Beatles, there’s a special sonic feeling that comes with knowing they came together at this moment to share a piece of themselves and a tribute to their friend.
‘All Those Years Ago’, released in May 1981, six months after Lennon’s tragic murder, was Harrison expressing his sadness at losing not only a mentor and a bandmate but one of his best friends. It’s an authentic moment of emotional expression that lives on today, some 40 years later, as vibrantly as when it first hit the airwaves.