July 14, 2024

How George Harrison’s 1973 Album ‘Living in the Material World’ Went From Reviled Dud To Sleeper Masterpiece

Spoiler: it involves indie-rock hipster reappraisal, but also the fact that the songs are awesome

IN 1973, THE world saw George Harrison as the Beatle who was winning the break-up. He became a solo superstar with All Things Must Pass, his big triple-vinyl extravaganza, then his noble and star-sudded Concert For Bangla Desh. He’d finally broken free of the Fabs and gotten everything he’d ever wanted. Right? Well, not exactly. George stripped it all down for his sleeper masterpiece: Living In The Material World, released 50 years ago at the end of May 1973. It’s the most profoundly weird album of his life.

Over the years, Living in the Material World got a bad reputation as a preach-and-screech mess. Like Paul McCartney’s Ram, which was universally despised for decades, Material World was sitting on the rubbish heap until modern indie-rock hipsters discovered it and realized it was genius. Time has finally caught up with it.

It doesn’t have the uplifting appeal of All Things but that’s the point. All Things is an Ex-Beatle making a Big Spiritual Statement. Material World is the album of a very confused, prematurely bitter, slightly deranged dude about to turn 30, wondering why his life is no fun after his success. He sees betrayal and paranoia all around him. No wonder it sounds realer than ever in 2023.


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