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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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.

Strange/Unusual Find of the Month – George Harrison’s ‘Poor Little Girl’ Promo

Paid a visit this week to a new and second-hand record/book store we’d not visited before. It’s called Title, and they specialise in music, books and film.

One item in their “1/2 Price” sale bins caught our eye: 

It is a 12″ promotional-only single from Brazil containing two versions of a rare George Harrison solo song from 1989 called ‘Poor Little Girl’. Oddly enough the flip side of the disc is Rod Stewart singing a Tom Waits-penned song, ‘Downtown Train’:

Harrison’s ‘Poor Little Girl’ was only ever released on a 1989 compilation called The Best of Dark Horse 1976-1989, and it looks like this promo disc was issued to promote that album. The 12″ promo contains two versions of the song – an edited version that runs 3:25, and the LP version with a running time of 4:32.

As you can see, there was not great attention to detail by whoever prepared both the cover and label as they misspell George’s surname both times in the songwriting credits.

Strange to have come across this 12″ tucked away in the inner Sydney suburb of Surry Hills – but that’s sometimes the way record collecting goes…..

As usual, click on the images above to see larger versions.

The Beatles ‘Hard Day’s Night’ Mystery Chord Revealed

Sum of All Parts is an ABC Radio podcast here in Australia.

The show recently examined (from a mathematical perspective!) the famous opening chord of The Beatles’ song, ‘A Hard Day’s Night’:

The podcast episode is called ‘The Magical Mystery Chord’.

Using the research and insights of mathematician and Beatle fan Professor Jason I. Brown, and personal experiences at Abbey Road Studios by Canadian musician Randy Bachman, the podcast un-picks just how The Beatles (with producer George Martin) achieved a chord that has tantalised musicians now for over fifty years…..

There is also a very short Sum of All Parts “bonus” episode, ‘Slow Down, George Solo-son’. Also well worth a listen.

Two New George Harrison Vinyl Collection Box Set Videos

The George Harrison Vinyl Collection box set is now accompanied by a short promo film showing some behind-the-scenes factory footage detailing the actual manufacture of the records and album covers that make up the set:

Also, Paul Sinclair from the great Super Deluxe Edition site has uploaded a good quality “unboxing” video:

George Harrison Vinyl Box Set Hits Stores

George Harrison’s big vinyl box set containing every solo studio album, plus the double LP Live in Japan and two picture disc 12″ singles, has at last been released.

Some fans have got their copies already and some “unboxing” videos are beginning to appear online, including this one from an excited Vinyl Collector James, who goes into some detail on the box itself as well as its contents:

Universal Music has also used the occasion of the box set release (and George Harrison’s 74th birthday) to upload a series of interesting articles on various aspects of his life and career.

Written by Richard Havers, these cover off George Harrison in 20 Solos:george-in-20-solos-header George Harrison: Humanitarian:george-and-ravi-at-concert-for-bangladesh-press-conference

George Harrison: The B Sides:george-b-isdes

The Sweet Success of “My Sweet Lord”:george-my-sweet-lord

and George Harrison’s Beatle Songs:george-the_beatles_-_last_photo_session

Also, don’t forget Universal’s series of articles on Harrison album-by-album.

There are Harrison and Beatle Turntables

There was a fair bit of interest last week in the George Harrison Pro-Ject Essential III turntable, announced in conjunction with the big vinyl box set out on 24 February. It will retail for £429.00:harrison-turntable-1harrison-turntable-2-2

However, there was less of a hullaballoo just last December when Pro-Ject also announced a similar Beatle-themed turntable – a decorated Debut Carbon Esprit SB retailing in the USA, only at Best Buy stores, for US$599.00 (that’s about £483.00):beatles-turntable-1beatles-turntable-2-2

The general consensus online is that the Beatle artwork used for this one is fairly drab. It’s meant to commemorate the historic 1964 U.S. tour, with ticket stubs from the legendary tour dotted across the plinth.

By the way, the Pro-Ject Essential III in non-Harrison form sells for a suggested retail price of £279.00, and you can read more about its features here.

The Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Esprit SB in non-Beatle form sells for around £449.00, and you can read more about its features here.