As each year winds to an end we often look for some words of inspiration. Generally, the simpler the better. These were the pearls offered by George Harrison back in 1974:
“Ring out the old, ring in the new”
“Ring out the false, ring in the true”
A rather modest but still essential resolution (even more so, one might say, in present times).
And that’s it, that was basically the whole song (unless you count the titular repeated chorus of “Ding-dong, ding-dong,” sung as to imitate the sound of a chiming clock).
Where, in turn, did mystical George find such simple wisdom? Why, hidden in plain sight in his own house, of course. In 1970 Harrison had purchased the 33-acre Friar Park estate in Oxfordshire, England, once belonging to an eccentric Victorian lawyer named Frank Crisp (subject of the All Things Must Pass song ‘Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp’) who had inscribed various homilies and aphorisms around the property. There it was, in the house’s drawing room, carved just to the left of the fireplace: “Ring out the old, ring in the new,” with a matching set immediately to its right, “Ring out the false, ring in the true.” And thus these words would become captured as lyrics in Harrison’s simplest-ever composition, from engravings done 70 or more years before (and only after George had already lived there with them for over four years).
**George’s unassuming tune did actually contain one additional distinct set of lyrics, comprising what’s known as the song’s “middle eight”: “Yesterday, today was tomorrow / And tomorrow, today will be yesterday” – a line also arising from a Friar Park etching, this one an inscription carved in stone around two matching garden building windows**
Harrison later described the song as “very optimistic,” and suggested “Instead of getting stuck in a rut, everybody should try ringing out the old and ringing in the new. People sing about it, but they never apply it to their lives.”
George is right. How about we try listening to the quiet Beatle. Enjoy this festive video, which features Harrison at Friar Park miming the track while dressed in a succession of Beatles-era costumes. And then call it a year. Turn a fresh page.
Ring out the old, ring in the new. Ring out ‘21 and ring in ‘22.