McCartney Times

City boy’s take on Liverpool lads

City boy’s take on Liverpool lads

City boy’s take on Liverpool lads
March 15
12:29 2018

Calcutta: The Beatles had landed in India in 1968 in Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s Rishikesh ashram from the psychedelic zone of their fame, in a haze of drugs, looking for a spiritual fix and also to make new music.

One outcome of their visit was the allegations against the Maharishi. Another, their break-up, which followed soon after their return.

In the 50th year of their visit comes Ajoy Bose’s Across the Universe: The Beatles in India, a kind but clear-eyed account of the group’s passage to India. “It is a paradox that the Beatles arrived in India to discover ancient wisdom when we were looking at them as figures of modernity,” Bose said before the launch of his book at Dalhousie Institute in the city on Monday. He was in conversation with singer Usha Utthup and Centre for Studies in Social Sciences chairman Jawhar Sircar. Utthup entertained the audience with a robust rendition of Beatles numbers.

A senior journalist from Delhi, Bose, originally from Calcutta, said he grabbed the offer from Penguin-Random House to write the book on the Beatles, for the group was not just about music. They had spelt rebellion. The length of young Bose’s hair, inspired by the world’s most famous pop group then, was strongly disapproved by his father.

The Beatles’ India trip is well-documented, said Bose, often in their own words. When the Beatles came here, they were still very young, vulnerable, at the height of their fame and trying to cope with the death of their manager, Brian Epsetin, who had been like a father. And there was the drug problem.

Author Ajoy Bose at the launch of the book.
Picture by Sanat Kr Sinha

John Lennon was the most tormented. “He was deepest into the hardest drugs.” Plus there was personal turmoil. His wife Cynthia was at the ashram, as were the partners of the other Beatles, but Yoko Ono was writing him letters.

At the Maharishi ashram, all the four Beatles had different trips. Some of them must have had their minds blown. “Maybe this was the first time they were thinking of themselves as individuals.” Ringo Starr left first, after two weeks, because of a stomach condition, Paul McCartney after one-and-a-half months. Then a friend of the Beatles called “Magic Alex” turned up, and so did the allegations against the Maharishi of sexually molesting white women, and at the end of two-and-a-half months, John left with George Harrison in a huff. John was perhaps already thinking of himself as a former Beatle.

Back home, the Beatles wrote the song Sexy Sadie about the Maharishi, which was released in a gentler version. By 1970, the group broke up.

But India had not happened suddenly to the Beatles. There had been signs. During the shooting of the film Help! (1965), which featured a wacky eight-armed Indian goddess, George had discovered a passion for the sitar within himself. Then he discovered Ravi Shankar. George’s wife Patty had introduced the Beatles to the Maharishi in London.

George was influenced most by India: he considered himself a Hindu.

Patty, George and some others later said the charges against the Maharishi were baseless.

In all this talk of scandal and drugs, what gets obscured is the music, Bose said. “At the ashram they wrote about 30 to 40 songs, including Ob La Di Ob La Da and Back in the USSR, most of which got into The White Album’and some into Abbey Road.”

The most obvious India songs, however, Norwegian Wood and Across the Universe, were written before the Beatles dreamt of coming to India.

Source: City boy’s take on Liverpool lads

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Martin Nethercutt

Martin Nethercutt

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