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Beatles 50th Blog

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: February 25, 1968

George's birthday in Rishikesh

 In February 1968, the Beatles travelled to Rishikesh in northern India to attend an advanced Transcendental Meditation (TM) training session at the ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. John with Cynthia, George with Pattie and Jenny Boyd arrived on 15 February. Paul with Jane Asher, Ringo and Maureen arrived four days later.
A few days after their arrival was George’s birthday and they had a party.

The Maharishi celebrated George’s 25th birthday and Harrison played sitar. He gave Harrison an upside-down plastic globe of the world and said: “George, the globe I am giving you symbolizes the world today. I hope you will help us all in the task of putting it right.” Harrison immediately turned the globe to its correct position, shouting, “I’ve done it!”

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: February 24, 1968

The Beatles are in India

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: February 23, 1968

The Beatles in India

Among others in a group attending the retreat in India around that same time were: American actress Mia Farrow (soon to be divorced from Frank Sinatra); Mia’s sister, Prudence Farrow; Mia’s brother John; Paul Horn, jazz flautist; Lewis H. Lapham, journalist, Paul Saltzman, film-maker (and later, author of The Beatles in Rishikesh), Scottish singer-songwriter Donovan of “Sunshine Superman” fame (1966); American actress Candice Bergen; Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones; British singer Marianne Faithfull; Mike Love and Al Jardine of the Beach Boys; John Densmore and Ray Manzarek of The Doors; and Patti Harrison, Jane Asher, and a number of others.

The gathering in India, with all its high-powered celebrity, attracted a press following and a share of newspaper and magazine stories, a number of which appeared in the U.S., the U.K., and elsewhere. The Saturday Evening Post, for example, ran a featured cover story on the trip in its May 4th, 1968 edition, having sent a reporter to go with Beatles to Rishikesh. “Here’s the Scene:,” began the headline on the Post’s cover story. “The Beatles, Mia Farrow and a Post Reporter All Gather in India to Meditate with The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.” This was actually a two-part story, with the conclusion running in the Post’s May 18th edition.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: February 22, 1968

The Beatles are still in India today

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: February 21, 1968

Soon after the Beatles' arrival, the Maharishi arranged for a group photo of all the students. In Lapham's description, the Maharishi began preparing for the shot early one morning and approached the task as if "the director on a movie set". Instructing his assistants, he oversaw the assembly of a platform of risers, the precise placement of flowers and potted plants in front of the raised stage, and the seating allocation for each of the students from his hand-drawn diagram. The students were then called down to take their allocated seat, surrounding the Maharishi; each member was dressed in traditional Indian attire and adorned with a marigold garland of red and orange. The Maharishi had a large picture of Swami Brahmananda Saraswati – the guru evoked by Lennon in "Across the Universe" – placed behind him.

The photo took half an hour to complete while the participants sat facing the bright morning sun. In 2009, The Hindu described the result as "one of the most iconic photographs in the history of rock 'n' roll". For the Beatles' public image, their attire contrasted with the modern, psychedelic clothing they had worn on arrival from London. The photo and others from the shoot were used in Lapham's cover article for The Saturday Evening Post, a magazine that, although in decline by 1968, was influential among America's suburban middle class. Saltzman, a Canadian filmmaker who was visiting the ashram after completing film work elsewhere in India, was one of the photographers at the session. His shots from this time were compiled in his book The Beatles in Rishikesh, published in 2000.

 

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: February 20, 1968

Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr arrive in Rishikesh, India

The arrival of Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr in Delhi was quite different from the journey taken by John Lennon and George Harrison a few days earlier.

The world's press was now aware of The Beatles' presence in India, and cameramen and reporters were on hand as they disembarked. The flight from London had lasted 20 hours, and the group was understandably exhausted upon their arrival.

They were met in Delhi by their assistant Mal Evans, and Raghvendra from Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's ashram in Rishikesh. Garlands of red and yellow flowers were placed around the visitors' necks.

Starr was suffering pain in his arm following inoculation injections, and the party set off for a hospital. Their driver, however, lost his way and drove down a dead end in a field, along with the press convoy. One local reporter eventually led them to the hospital.

Afterwards they began the 150-mile journey to Rishikesh. The Academy of Transcendental Meditation was situated 150 feet above the Ganges, and was surrounded by mountainous jungles.

There was an Indian driver and Raghvendra from the camp in front and me and Jane Asher in the back and it was long and it was dusty and it was not a very good car and it was one of those journeys, but great and exciting. I remember these Indian guys talking in what was obviously an Indian language and I was starting to doze off in the car in the back because once you were two hours into the journey the tourism had worn off a little. It was fascinating seeing naked holy men and the kind of thing you just don't see unless it's late-night Soho, and the ones you tend to see in Soho tend to be covered in shit and very drunk. I slipped into sleep, a fitful back-of-the-car sort of sleep. It was quite bumpy, and the guys were chattering away, but in my twilight zone of sleeping it sounded like they were talking Liverpool. If you listened closely, it so nearly slid into it. There was like a little segue into very fast colloquial Liverpool. And I was thinking, Uh, where the fuck am I? What? Oh, it's Bengali, and I would just drop off again. 'Yabba yabba, are yer comin' oot then, lad?' It was a strange little twilight experience. It was a long journey. (Paul McCartney)

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: February 19, 1968

Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr fly to India

Paul McCartney, his partner Jane Asher, plus Ringo Starr and his wife Maureen, flew from London Airport on this day. They were bound for Delhi, India, where John Lennon and George Harrison had arrived three days earlier.

On the flight over, we, Paul and I, decided to go the whole way, and become vegetarians. I shall still eat eggs, but that's it. That's about all in that line. I suppose it would be better to call us 'fruit-atarians' than anything else. We all think it is a lot healthier than eating meat, anyway. (Ringo Starr)

The 20-hour flight lasted through the night, and they touched down in Delhi early on 20 February.

Usually, I tell people I want to get somewhere quietly, and it turns out that everyone knows. A hundred people are in on the secret. I know what it is; the airline likes to get you photographed with the name. This time, we just drove into Delhi, got a ticket, and that was it. We stopped off in Tehran and this blog from the airline came up and said, 'Excuse me, are you one of The Beatles?' So I said, 'No,' and he just walked away and that was that. I guess we're not too big in Tehran. (Ringo Starr)

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: February 18, 1968

The Beatles arrived in India in February 1968, along with their wives, girlfriends, assistants, and numerous reporters. They joined a group of 60 people who were training to be TM teachers, including musicians Donovan, Mike Love and Paul Horn, and actress Mia Farrow. While there, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Harrison wrote many songs, and Ringo Starr finished writing his first. Eighteen of those songs were recorded for The Beatles ("the White Album"), two songs appeared on the Abbey Road album, and others were used for various solo projects.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: February 17, 1968

The Beatles visiting India…

The Beatles travelled to India to stay and study Transcendental Meditation at the ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in Rishikesh. In its effect on Western spirituality, this was probably ‘the most momentous spiritual retreat since Jesus spent those forty days in the wilderness.’

 

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: February 16, 1968

John Lennon and George Harrison arrive in Rishikesh

John and Cynthia Lennon, and George and Pattie Harrison arrived in Delhi at 8.15am, having flown overnight from London Airport.

They were met in Delhi by The Beatles' assistant Mal Evans, who had arrived there on 14 February, and Mia Farrow.

Evans had organised three taxis to take the group from Delhi to Rishikesh, where they were to study meditation with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It was a journey of some 150 miles.

Our arrival at Delhi went very much unheralded. We were bundled unmolested and travel-weary into three battered, ancient Indian taxis without all the usual fuss and frantic rush. It was wonderfully refreshing and stress free. After alighting from the taxis, we were shown to our living quarters. They consisted of a number of stone-built bungalows, set in groups along a rough road. Flowers and shrubs surrounded them and were carefully tended by an Indian gardener whose work speed was dead slow, and stop. (Cynthia Lennon)