The Beatles in India

Something of a Beatles and India theme has emerged in 2018, with this year marking the 50th anniversary of the time the band spent six weeks in an ashram in Rishikesh learning about Transcendental Meditation (TM), and along the way writing a prolific amount of fabulous songs.

Last week the George Harrison estate announced the creation of a new record label to mine the rich Harrison archives and re-issue many of George’s musical projects with Indian artists. His visits to that country changed his life and his art forever.

Prior to that announcement there was the release in February of a beautiful book (in three different editions) called The Beatles in India

These books are to be followed up with a documentary film bearing the same name later this year.

There’s also another book called Across the Universe: The Beatles in India by Ajoy Bose:

And a further book, Maharishi and Me – Seeking Enlightenment with The Beatles’ Guru, by Susan Shumsky:Let’s look at each of these releases in some more detail.

The Beatles in India. The books. These are a photographic record of the time a 23 year-old Canadian, Paul Saltzman, traveled to India in search of himself. To his great surprise he discovered that The Beatles were also in India, studying at the same ashram in Rishikesh. Saltzman spent a magical week with them, learning meditation and hanging out with John, Paul, George and Ringo. Fifty years later, the photos he took at the time are being published once again* in a book called The Beatles in India. It is available in three versions: as a standard hardback (see cover image above); as a special limited edition (signed and numbered and only 1968 copies produced): 

And in a larger format super deluxe edition (signed and numbered and only 350 copies produced):

* It should be noted that is is not the first time that Saltzman has published these photographs. He first released them along with his memories in a book called The Beatles in Rishikesh, published by Viking Studio in 2000. So, what you get here isn’t totally new information.

The Beatles in India. The film. This is a documentary also being made by Paul Saltzman, who is now an Emmy Award-winning Toronto-based director-producer of over 300 film and television productions. As we already know from his books, in 1968 he learned meditation at the Maharishi’s ashram in India, an experience that changed his life. There, he photographed The Beatles, Jane Asher, Cynthia Lennon, Pattie Boyd Harrison, Maureen Starkey, Mia Farrow, Donovan, Mal Evans and Mike Love. The film will detail “….Saltzman’s return journey to India, The Beatles stay and the songs they composed at the ashram, as well as meditation as it applies to creativity, the divine inner journey and the healing power of love and music.” No release date has yet been announced. You can read the press release for this one here.

Across the Universe: The Beatles in India. “What we do know is that their stay in Rishikesh resulted in an astonishing creative burst of song-writing – the most prolific in their entire career.”

Ajoy Bose was a teenage fan when The Beatles visited India. His book is an in-depth celebration of what it meant, especially the creative impact their stay had on the band: “I believe that the real reason why they managed to write so many songs in India was because it was the first time since they became the Beatles they were allowed to be individuals and not just a band that needed to perform or record in the studios.”

“So a sabbatical did change the Beatles, at least temporarily, and particularly the songs they wrote in the ashram, because these were all individual pieces and were not created with an album in mind. That is why the ‘White Album’, which contains most of these songs, is considered so unique in the Beatles discography,” says Bose.

Amazon has a ‘Look Inside‘ link for more, and you can read a lovely review of the book here.

Maharishi and Me – Seeking Enlightenment with The Beatles’ Guru. Author Susan Shumsky lived and studied in the Maharishi’s ashrams for 22 years, and she served on his personal staff for seven of those years. Many books have been written about the guru, and (as we’ve seen above) about the time The Beatles travelled to India, but this is the only one to offer an insider’s view of what it was really like to live in Rishikesh. Yes, it includes chapters about the time that John, Paul, George and Ringo came to learn at the feet of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. But this book is about much more than that.

Shumsky says that it’s “….a way of sharing a few glimpses into my spiritual journey, and hopefully will help you make your own spiritual connection.” There’s a lot more information here about TM, what it actually is, and it’s impact not only on The Beatles but on people seeking spiritual enlightenment across the west.

Shumsky has some very good detail about how The Beatles found out about the Maharishi, how they first got into TM in London and Wales, and how as a result of a Beatle connection the rest of the world found out about TM too. She also writes in detail, across a number of chapters, about the India visit in early 1968. Here we discover what the day-to-day life and activities for the band would have been like.

On the way to the ashram, George Harrison told a reporter, “A lot of people think we’ve gone of our heads. Well, they can think that—or anything they like. We’ve discovered a new way of living.” But, as we know, it all ended badly, with The Beatles leaving the ashram disillusioned – especially with the Maharishi. Shumsky has a theory as to why this occurred, and devotes a chapter to the falling out. It makes for interesting reading.

If you’d like to get a taste of Susan’s story there’s also a ‘Look Inside‘ link on the Amazon site. Marharishi and Me is published by Skyhorse Publishing.

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An Interesting and Informative McCartney Podcast

Just in the past week we’ve come across another Beatle-related podcast that we’d have no hesitation in recommending.

Take It Away – The Complete Paul McCartney Archive Podcast is produced by Ryan Brady and Chris Mercer, two fans (from Los Angeles and Chicago) who really know their stuff.

The aim is to examine in detail every single Paul McCartney release, from 1970 to the present day. Episode 0 is a brief introduction to what it is they want to achieve and what the show is all about. You can hear it on their website, or just have a listen here:

This podcast series not only contains a wealth of information, it has really high production values as well as the guys deftly mix in short extracts of the songs they’re knowledgeably deconstructing. These illustrative flourishes really bring alive the discussion and help you to hear exactly what it is they are talking about. They’ll often contrast and compare demo versions with the finished product and, where it will help, they’ll include short interview extracts with McCartney and other spoken word content.

Mercer and Brady are working their way through McCartney’s recorded output chronologically. They’re currently into Season 3, and up to 1993’s Off The Ground. Occasionally they’ll also feature an interview with key players in the McCartney solo story – like Laurence Juber and Denny Laine.

The Take It Away podcast. Very much worth checking out.

George Harrison Estate Launches New Record Label

The estate of George Harrison has just announced a new record label which will be dedicated to re-issuing some of the Indian classical and World music that George so dearly loved.

The label, called HariSongs, is kicking off by making two titles available to stream or download: In Concert 1972, featuring virtuoso’s Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan recorded live at New York’s Philharmonic Hall; and Chants of India, another Ravi Shankar project dating back to 1997. So far there is no talk of any physical product being made available, but there is a brand-spanking and comprehensive new website to go along with the new label.

In Concert 1972 was originally released on the Beatles’ Apple Records label in 1973, and was mixed and edited by George Harrison (with Zakir Hussain and Phil McDonald).

Chants of India, produced by George Harrison, was originally released in 1997 on the Angel Records label (formerly a classical music division of EMI). It was recorded in Madras, India, and at Harrison’s Friar Park home at Henley-on-Thames in the UK.

Both titles are recently out-of-print, and have never before been available via streaming platforms. In Concert 1972 is also available in Hi-Res 96/24 and 192/24 formats.

You can read the full details of George’s dedication to and delight in Indian classical music, plus the new record label and releases in the press release issued by the George Harrison Estate here.

Brilliant New Beatle Book – Visualizing The Beatles

They say there are four basic types of learners: those who like to listen (auditory); those who like to take notes and read (reading/writing); those who like to be hands-on (kinaesthetic); and those who prefer to see the information in order to visualise the relationships between ideas (visual).

Well, if you fall into the visual camp, then you’re going to love this new Beatle book because on each of its 276 pages it packs a huge amount of data told in a truly unique way: using fantastic infographics.

Even if you’re not a “visual” person you’ll love this book for the breadth of the information it contains, and the fun, innovative way it tells the Beatle story anew. There’s really nothing else like it on the market:

The book is called Visualizing The Beatles – A Complete Graphic History of the World’s Favorite Band. Not only does it mange to squeeze three US spellings into it’s title, it crams a truly amazing amount of facts, figures, maps, history, stories and information between it’s covers – all told using infographics. Because of this the book forces you to think about the band we all know so well in very different ways, often bringing new understanding to how four young musicians from Liverpool had such an impact on the world.

Authors John Pring and Rob Thomas organise their information in a fairly standard fashion – each album in the order it was released, starting with Please Please Me and ending with Let It Be – but the way they go about deconstructing each has a unique telling. As they say in their introductory note: “It is by no means a definitive history of The Beatles. Instead, it is an attempt to create something beautiful, vibrant, and original from the data their music left behind. It is an attempt to present the facts in a way you haven’t seen them before, so you can spot, in an instant, the patterns, anomalies and changes.”

There are infographic pages for each LP detailing (amongst many other things):

  • An album overview
  • A song lyrics “word map”
  • Composer
  • What keys the songs were in
  • Instruments used
  • Album design details
  • Track lengths + original work v. covers
  • Who took lead vocals?
  • Success of the album – and any singles released

By way of example, here are a couple of pages. The first visually represents the many instruments used – and who played what – on Abbey Road, released in September, 1969:

As usual, click on these images to see larger versions. This next page covers off songwriting duties for the 1967 album Magical Mystery Tour

And this page shows the song titles – and the musical keys for each – on Rubber Soul from 1965:

Slowly, as you flip through the book, these images build to reveal a unique way of looking at the band’s output. Additionally, there are pages graphically representing things like all their US releases and the chart positions each achieved; a Beatle filmography; there are timelines detailing what else was happening in the world at the time of each album release; what the Beatles were wearing and their hairstyles through each phase of their career; where each album was recorded; tour maps; and key places of interest in the cities they lived in and visited, and much, much more.

One particularly interesting map page shows the city of Liverpool with flags dotted across it marking where the band lived in relation to each other; the locations of places like Strawberry Field and Penny Lane; schools and key performance venues from the early days. It is simple, but instantly gives a whole new context by visually representing basic facts from the Beatle story in a brand new way.

Visualizing The Beatles by John Pring and Rob Thomas is published by Dey Street Books. It goes on sale in the USA on May 1st. [FYI the book was originally published as Visualising the Beatles in the UK in 2016].

You will definitely learn things you didn’t know about the Beatles. Highly recommended.

Strange/Unusual Finds of the Month – Nowhere Man and Double Fantasy

Every couple of months the Lifeline organisation (which offers a free phone crisis and suicide prevention counselling service in Australia) holds a huge fundraising book fair. They always have, as a side note, lots of second-hand CDs, and usually a few records too. These are usually placed in one corner and any Beatle titles would be scattered in amongst hundreds of other artists.

However, the Lifeline book fair last month had its very own Beatles section!

Obviously someone had donated a large collection and the volunteers had hived off a dedicated section of the tables just for Beatle stuff. There were books, a small selection of LPs and CDs, plus a very large stack of 45 singles. By the time we got through the door though another collector was well into sifting through the 45’s and so we had to wait patiently by for him to finish. Sadly (for us) he took just about all of them, and we were left to pick over the remains.

Much to our delight though we discovered a very clean copy of a Beatle EP that had been missing from the collection – one that is now considered rare and fetches hefty prices on eBay. It’s the Australian pressing of the band’s Nowhere Man EP, released on November 3, 1966:This one has the flipback tabs on the rear cover, and the early black and yellow Parlophone label with the Northern Songs royalty stamps included:We’d been looking for a copy of this EP for ages, so to find a copy in good condition was a real bonus. It completes a full set of all the Beatles’ Australian EP releases.

While biding time waiting for the other collector to sift through the stack of 45’s we checked out the books and the small number of Beatle albums on offer. Amongst these was this LP: This is the rarer Half-Speed mastered pressing of the John Lennon/Yoko Ono disc Double Fantasy. It is on the Geffen/Nautilus Superdisc label and dates from 1982. This limited edition release should come with a poster and a lyric sheet insert. Both these are missing, but it does have the original Nautilus ‘blue disc’ poly inner “Super Sleeve”:So, another strange/unusual find on what turned out to be a pretty good day.

More McCartney Coloured Vinyl To Be Issued

Capitol Records is following up last year’s coloured vinyl Paul McCartney releases with four more titles. These will be available on May 18 (fingers crossed, given the delays experienced last time!) and they are the albums NEW; Thrillington; Wings Greatest; and Chaos and Creation in the Backyard

As you can see, NEW is to be on pink vinyl, Thrillington on what looks to be a marbled red/black, Wings Greatest is on blue, and Chaos will be on gold coloured vinyl.

As they were last time each title will also be issued on black vinyl, and as single CD’s in the digipak format. Every release is supervised by Paul himself, who oversees all aspects of each and every title. See the official McCartney site for more details.

Strange/Unusual Find of the Month – Vintage Beatle Sheet Music

Aren’t friends kind when they remember your passion for collecting Beatle stuff, and out of the blue they give you something that is really worth adding to your collection?

That’s what happened the other day when a very dear family friend told us she had embarked on a month-long challenge.

To live more simply (and to create more space in her apartment) every day for a month she was going to throw out anything not used or looked at for years. However, and here’s the big challenge, the number of things going out each day had to correspond with the date of the month. So, for example, on day one she’d be dispensing of one item, but by the end of the month (in this case January) she had to come up with thirty-one items – to bin or pass on to some more deserving person!

My friend used to play the viola and also a little bit of piano back in the day, and therefore had a big stack of sheet music in her house. In amongst these were two original vintage Beatle music books – one for Revolver, and the other for Let It Be

They’re both made and printed in Australia, and are in very good condition. Here are the rear covers:

From the Revolver LP you get the music for eight of the fourteen songs (on the UK/Australian release), including ‘Yellow Submarine’, ‘Eleanor Rigby’, ‘Here, There and Everywhere’, ‘Got To Get You Into My Life’, ‘For No One’, ‘I’m Only Sleeping’, and this George Harrison composition:

From the Let It Be LP you also get eight songs (out of the original thirteen tracks on the record): ‘Let It Be’, ‘I’ve Got a Feeling’, ‘Dig a Pony’, ‘One After 909’, ‘Two of Us’, ‘Across the Universe’, ‘The Long and Winding Road’, and this one with a song-writing credit to the whole band, ‘Dig It’: As the old saying goes: “One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.”