Rediscovering George Harrison’s superb ‘Don’t Let Me Wait Too Long’ love song
George Harrison followed up his critically-acclaimed proper solo debut, the triple-LP All Things Must Pass, with yet another number one record featuring the drumming expertise of Beatles compadre Ringo Starr.
Surprisingly, Living in the Material World contains one song that remains largely undiscovered by the general record buying public. “Don’t Let Me Wait Too Long,” recorded at Abbey Road, is a Beatlesque and pop-oriented track deserving of bona fide hit status.
Dropping on May 29, 1973, via the already-in-turmoil Apple Records established by the Beatles just five years earlier, Living in the Material World became Harrison’s second No. 1 in the USA, sitting atop the charts for a solid month — the three-disc live set containing the legendary Concert for Bangladesh stalled just shy of the top position at №2.
Harrison’s solo popularity was always significantly stronger in the nation containing the vast majority of his musical idols. As a result of the goodwill generated by the Bangladesh concert, Harrison donated the royalties for nine of the 11 tunes on his new studio album to his Material World Charitable Foundation.
Only one single was released from the album, and it too became a №1 hit — the slide-guitar driven, universal ode to peace, “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth).” Many fans have wondered in the intervening years why Harrison only allowed one single from the album. For whatever reason(s), he took that secret to his grave.
Perhaps the most commercial number on the album, “Don’t Let Me Wait Too Long” is driven by Harrison’s sublime, multi-layered acoustic and slide guitars, which was a first for the songwriter, as he had previously been more comfortable sharing the six-string spotlight with Eric Clapton and members of Badfinger during the extensive All Things Must Pass sessions. The backing harmonies — also all done by Harrison — are expertly crafted.
Other musicians on the song include the duel drumming of Ringo Starr and Jim Keltner — dig the latter’s kettle drum pounding — Klaus Voorman on bass, and Gary Wright and Nicky Hopkins on keyboards. All of these talented individuals appeared on multiple albums by the singer, with Keltner still drumming for Harrison on his ultimate Brainwashed album.
Harrison produced the song and accompanying album by himself, the first time he produced an album without Phil Spector’s involvement. Yet it’s easy to hear the influence of Spector’s Wall of Sound on the massive, pulsating chorus.
With honest, cutting lyrics like “How I miss you…baby so don’t let me wait too long…’til you’re here by my side, now only you know how to dry up all of those tears that I’ve cried…here with our love,” “Don’t Let Me Wait Too Long” scores as a quintessential Harrison love song à la “Something” or “What Is Life.”
When originally released in 1973, Billboard magazine cited this song and “Living in the Material World” as the best cuts on the album. Furthermore, Stephen Holden of Rolling Stone called the track a “gorgeous, rollicking love song.”
Harrison published his I Me Mine limited edition autobiography seven years later and featured lyrics and commentary for over 80 of his songs. Curiously, “Don’t Let Me Wait Too Long” was not included. And little mention was given to John Lennon, which sadly created a gulf between the longtime friends that was never resolved when Lennon was assassinated.
But the song continues to age well over 40 years later, with critic Bruce Eder of All Music Guide selecting it as one of his favorite three performances on the record. Noted Steve McQueen biographer and Beatles expert Marshall Terrill concurs in an exclusive interview and sheds further light on Harrison’s then-unfulfilling romantic bond with first wife Pattie Boyd.
“I’ve always found ‘Don’t Let Me Wait Too Long’ the most interesting track on Living in the Material World because it’s a bit of an anomaly,” admits Terrill. “Most of the songs on the album are very spiritual and meditative but this is a spiffy, upbeat love song.
“What I find most curious is that George’s relationship with Pattie was in virtual shambles when the album and song came out. He hadn’t met his second wife, Olivia Arias, yet, so it has always made me wonder who the inspiration for the tune was. It’s a shame this wasn’t released as the follow up single to ‘Give Me Love’ given its commercial viability.”
On YouTube, there are 20 fan-uploaded videos featuring Harrison’s performance — not counting cover versions — with a combined 400,000 views. Let It Roll: Songs By George Harrison is the first project thus far to span the artist’s entire solo catalog, yet the compilers inexplicably left “Don’t Let Me Wait Too Long” off the track listing.
Give “Don’t Let Me Wait Too Long” a listen. You won’t be disappointed. And should you happen to be smitten with a breathtakingly unpredictable Aquarius girl and unsure of exactly how to tell her that your long-simmering feelings are true and destined for the long run, consider playing it fortuitously next time you see her — but probably best to wait ’til church lets out with the preacher’s resounding amen. Beyond question, this criminally underrated mini pop masterpiece deserves its rightful place among the top echelon of the quiet Beatle’s songwriting canon.
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