Side Two starts off sounding for all the world like… I don’t know… Brewer & Shipley, or Stealer’s Wheel, or some other mid-level mellow 70s band. Then George comes in, singing

Now the Lord loves the one that loves the Lord
And the law says if you don’t give
Then you don’t get loving
Now the Lord helps those that help themselves
And the law says whatever you do
Is going to come right back on you

You can see why people got tired of his sermonizing, especially when it was punctuated by occasional dips into the coke bag for a little pick-me-up. (The only thing worse than getting cornered by a Hare Krishna is getting cornered by a Hare Krishna fortified by Bolivian marching powder.) But that was what set George apart from his peers, for better or worse.

Because it is against my religion to pass up an opportunity to reference the National Lampoon’s Lennon parody “Magical Misery Tour,” let’s hear what John thought — and this is more or less a verbatim quote:

Next up is “Be Here Now,” which takes its title from the best-selling book by Ram Dass (nee Richard Alpert). Says the Wikipedia:

Be Here Now is one of the first guides for those not born Hindu to becoming a yogi. For its influence on the hippie movement and subsequent spiritual movements, it has been described as a “countercultural bible” and “seminal” to the era. In addition to introducing its title phrase into common use, Be Here Now has influenced numerous other writers and yoga practitioners, including the industrialist Steve Jobs, the self-help author Wayne Dyer, and the poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

Ram Dass was part of Timothy Leary’s circle, which raises the question of just how full of shit he was. But on balance it seems R.D., who died in 2019, was probably trying to help people. Let’s leave it at that.

Of his song George said, “I was almost falling asleep. I had the guitar in bed and the melody came fast.” It’s a nice, simple, straightforward tune.

Not so “Try Some Buy Some,” one of George’s more enigmatic compositions. Is it a song about coke?

Way back in time, someone said try some
I tried some, now buy some, I bought some

Is it a love song? A religious song? All of the above? George himself didn’t really know, or so he claimed.

“Try Some” was written during the All Things Must Pass sessions and in 1971, George gave it to Phil Spector to cut as a single for his wife Ronnie. This was a spectacularly poor decision: “TSBS” is long and ponderous, and though it’s an interesting song on its own terms, nothing about it says “hit.” The single tanked, damaging both Ronnie’s career and Phil’s already-precarious mental health.

As a footnote, one of those who did buy the “Try Some Buy Some” single was David Bowie, who released a cover — clearly based on the Spector version (he claimed never to have heard George’s) — on Reality in 2003. (Though sincerely meant, it is not great.)

George got cute with the title of “The Day the World Gets Round,” which I (presumably as intended) initially read as a misprint for “The Day the Word Gets Round.” But no: it’s “The day the world gets ’round/To understanding where it is” or “…where it’s gone.” Clever.

It’s a pretty song, well played and arranged, clocking in at an economical 2:53. If it caught me in the right mood, I can imagine being transported by it. That’s not happening today, but maybe tomorrow?

A footnote there too: In 2008 Klaus Voormann teamed up with Yusuf (The Artist Formerly Known as Cat Stevens) Islam to cut a version of “The Day the World Gets Round.” (Also sincerely meant, and… fine, I guess?)

OK, take a deep breath, because we have finally arrived at the last song on Living in the Material World. Before we go there, can I mention that my appreciation of this album is complicated by the fact that I can’t read its title without hearing Madonna’s voice in my head? It’s a problem, but there’s nothing to be done.

A lot of words have poured forth from this blog over the last couple days, so I think I will let George have the final say. The album closer is appropriately titled “That Is All;” after clicking Play, I recommend you close your eyes, put your feet up for three and three-quarters minutes, and let the man do his job.

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