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Released in 1981

All Those Years Ago

Written by George Harrison

Last updated on January 27, 2020

Album This song officially appears on the All Those Years Ago / Writings On The Wall 7" Single.

Timeline This song was officially released in 1981

Related session

This song was recorded during the following studio sessions:

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From Wikipedia:

“All Those Years Ago” is a song by English musician George Harrison, released in May 1981 as a single from his album Somewhere in England. Having previously recorded the music for the song, Harrison tailored the lyrics to serve as a personal tribute to his former Beatles bandmate John Lennon, following the latter’s murder in 1980. Ringo Starr is featured on drums, and Paul McCartney (along with his Wings bandmates Linda McCartney and Denny Laine), overdubbed backing vocals onto the basic track. The single spent three weeks at number 2 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and peaked at number 13 on the UK Singles Chart. It also topped Canada’s RPM singles chart and spent one week at number 1 on Billboard‘s Adult Contemporary listings.

“All Those Years Ago” was the first recording on which Harrison, McCartney and Starr all appeared since the Beatles’ “I Me Mine” (1970), and their last recording together until “Free As a Bird” (1995). Other musicians performing on the track include Al Kooper and Ray Cooper. The song has appeared on the Harrison compilations Best of Dark Horse 1976–1989 and Let It Roll, and a live version recorded in 1991 with Eric Clapton was included on Harrison’s Live in Japan double album. In 2010, AOL Radio listeners voted “All Those Years Ago” in sixth place on a list of the “10 Best George Harrison Songs”. The track has been featured in the books 1,001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download by Robert Dimery, and Bruce Pollock’s The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944–2000.


Prior to Lennon’s death, Harrison originally wrote the song with different lyrics for Ringo Starr to record. Although he recorded it, Starr felt the vocal was too high for his range and disliked the lyrics. Harrison took the track back and, after Lennon’s death, the lyrics were changed to reflect a tribute to him. In the song, Harrison makes reference to the Beatles song “All You Need Is Love” and the Lennon song “Imagine” (“you were the one who Imagined it all”).

Band line-up

The recording of the song featured all three remaining Beatles (Harrison, Starr and Paul McCartney), though this was expressly a Harrison single. It is one of only a few non-Beatles songs to feature three members of the band. Harrison and Starr recorded the song at Harrison’s Friar Park studio between 19 November and 25 November 1980. After Lennon’s death the following month, Harrison removed Starr’s vocals (but left Starr’s drumming track) and recorded his own vocals with rewritten lyrics honouring Lennon. McCartney, his wife Linda and their Wings bandmate Denny Laine visited Friar Park to record backing vocals. The lineup was rounded out by Al Kooper on keyboards, Herbie Flowers on bass and percussionist Ray Cooper. The album’s liner notes also thank the Beatles’ former producer George Martin and engineer Geoff Emerick. Harrison co-produced the recording with percussionist Ray Cooper.

Music video

The music video features a slide show-type presentation of stills and short archival video clips. The emphasis is on Lennon and, to a lesser degree, Harrison. The post-Beatles stills of Lennon at older ages are countered with stills of Harrison from the same time frame. […]


I'm shoutin' all about love

While they treated you like a dog

When you were the one who had made it so clear

All those years ago

Talkin' all about how to give

They don't act with much honesty

But you point the way to the truth when you say

All you need is love

Living with good and bad

I always looked up to you

Now we're left cold and sad

By someone, the devil's best friend

Someone who offended all

We're living in a bad dream

They've forgotten all about mankind

And you were the one they backed up to the wall

All those years ago

You were the one who imagined it all

All those years ago

All those years ago

All those years ago

Deep in the darkest night

I send out a prayer to you

Now in the world of light

Where the spirit free of the lies

All else that we despised

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

All those years ago

All those years ago

Officially appears on


Live performances

Paul McCartney has never played this song in concert.

Going further

Paul McCartney: Music Is Ideas. The Stories Behind the Songs (Vol. 1) 1970-1989

With 25 albums of pop music, 5 of classical – a total of around 500 songs – released over the course of more than half a century, Paul McCartney's career, on his own and with Wings, boasts an incredible catalogue that's always striving to free itself from the shadow of The Beatles. The stories behind the songs, demos and studio recordings, unreleased tracks, recording dates, musicians, live performances and tours, covers, events: Music Is Ideas Volume 1 traces McCartney's post-Beatles output from 1970 to 1989 in the form of 346 song sheets, filled with details of the recordings and stories behind the sessions. Accompanied by photos, and drawing on interviews and contemporary reviews, this reference book draws the portrait of a musical craftsman who has elevated popular song to an art-form.

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Herbert • 2 years ago

Hey, first line of the lyrics, I think George sings 'love' not 'live'!

The PaulMcCartney Project • 2 years ago

Hi Herbert, thanks for noticing, I've updated the lyrics.

Pat • 1 year ago

Has the Ringo-sung version ever shown up on a bootleg ?

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