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George Harrison wanted a version of ‘What Is Life’ to sound like a Beatles song

Strangely, George Harrison wanted a version of “What Is Life” to sound like a Beatles song, given that he had recently left the famous group. However, he once admitted that he did, at least on this particular version of the song.

By the time George recorded the version on Everything must passall trace of his old band was gone.

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George Harrison wanted a version of ‘What Is Life’ to sound like a Beatles song

In 2000, George spoke to Billboard about the remastered first edition of his now multi-platinum triple album, Everything must pass. The reissue comes with five bonus tracks, including an instrumental version of “What Is Life”.

George said on this particular version, he wanted “What Is Life” to sound like “Penny Lane” by The Beatles.

“When we were going through all the tapes, I just found this version which was like a rough mix [at Trident Studios in London on August 9, 1970] which I tried to get this piccolo trumpeter like the guy who played on ‘Penny Lane.’

“It wasn’t really the same guy but I wanted that sound. So I had an oboe and a piccolo trumpet and I wrote that part for all of them but they couldn’t play it the same way; they couldn’t do that kind of ‘hush’ phrase, and they played it very staccato like a classical player.

“So I had to record them on it, then mix it down rough, then drop it. And like I said earlier, most of it was live. I hadn’t done the vocal overdub because I play the part guitar fuzz that runs through the whole song.

“So all I could do on the [initial] take was to give the band the cue line — the first line of each verse — and then start playing that riff again. So this rough mix without the vocals – I forgot everything – was a novelty that I found.

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George wrote ‘What is life’ in about 15 minutes

In his 1980 memoir, I am mineGeorge wrote that he wrote “What Is Life” in about 15 minutes.

“‘What Is Life’ was written for Billy Preston in 1969,” George said. “I wrote it very quickly, maybe fifteen minutes or half an hour, on my way to Olympic Studios in London while I was producing one of his albums. Due to the situation at the session, it seemed too difficult to go in there and say, “Hey, I wrote this catchy pop song,” while Billy played his funky stuff.

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The former Beatle recorded many versions of his songs

Everything must pass came during a dualistic period in George’s life. According to the album’s producer, Phil Spector, George took forever to do so. Spector thinks it was OK with George because he was hesitant to release the album from the start.

Another reason why the triple album took so long to make and why George recorded multiple versions of the tracks was because he was meticulous. Spector said George would record a song and edit it a million times, constantly dissatisfied that it wasn’t good enough.

The producer said perfectionist was not the word for George. Thus, several versions of his songs could be hidden in the depths of his home and studio in Friar Park. The latest 50th anniversary reissue of Everything must pass is the proof.

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