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When a ‘heartbroken’ backpacker met The Beatles in India

When a ‘heartbroken’ backpacker met The Beatles in India

When a ‘heartbroken’ backpacker met The Beatles in India
September 15
14:52 2020

A Canadian backpacker’s meeting with The Beatles in a spiritual retreat In India half a century ago is the subject of a new documentary. For filmmaker Paul Saltzman it was a “life-changing” experience.

When a 23-year-old Canadian man arrived at an ashram near India’s holy city of Rishikesh in 1968 to meditate, he was told the place was out of bounds because The Beatles were living there.

Paul Saltzman had been backpacking in India when news arrived from Montreal that his girlfriend had moved on.

Heartbroken, he had travelled by train, boat and taxi to the retreat, run by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, one of the most flamboyant of the self-styled gurus to emerge from the era of hippiedom. The plan was to meditate and “cure my broken heart,” as Saltzman says.

After many hours of persuasion, the helpful ashram attendant had let Saltzman in.

He had headed straight into an hour-long meditation session, and come out feeling better. “The agony of heartbreak had gone. I stepped out into the woods to see the place,” Saltzman told me in a phone interview.

There he spotted The Beatles for the first time.

John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison, wearing traditional Indian dress, were sitting at a long table near a cliff. Some of their wives and girlfriends were there, as were actress Mia Farrow, Mike Love of the Beach Boys, and folk singer Donovan. They planned a three-month-retreat at the sprawling 18-acre estate.

Saltzman asked if he could join. McCartney drew up a chair.

Saltzman took this photo of Lennon and McCartney singing a song
Saltzman took this photo of Lennon and McCartney singing a song

“I sat down and I heard a scream in my head: Eeeks, they are The Beatles!” says Saltzman, now 78 and an Emmy-award winning director.

Four years before, in 1964, Saltzman had joined 18,000 shrieking fans to watch them live at the Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. He didn’t remember much more.

Now, in a stroke of serendipity, he was now standing in front of the world’s most-celebrated band.

The Beatles had been basking in the success of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, their 1967 iconic album, and were beginning to write songs for the next, which would become known as the White Album.

Source: When a ‘heartbroken’ backpacker met The Beatles in India

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Martin Nethercutt

Martin Nethercutt

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