Editor’s Note: This is a little taste of our upcoming virtual debut of Meeting the Beatles In India, part of our series, The Screening Room. Info on purchasing tickets follows, so hope you’ll join us!
After several punishing years, both on the road and in the studio (ALWAYS in the studio), the Beatles’ trip to India in 1968 was meant to be a quiet “bonding” time.
It had the opposite effect.
In August 1967, the group lost their longtime manager, Brian Epstein, to a tragic suicide. For years, he’d held them together and kept them on course. Now they were on their own. On paper, that might have seemed liberating, but it set up a series of events that drove the group members in their own directions. For one, Paul’s early idea for the Magical Mystery Tour project was picked up and moved forward.
While some of the songs on the album were well-regarded (“The Fool On the Hill,” “I Am The Walrus”), the film was largely panned. The somewhat disorganized approach to recording the album, as well as Paul’s push to become “executive producer” of future film projects, put more stress on an exhausted, grieving band.
The trip to Rishikesh in 1968 to further their study of transcendental meditation would plop them in a jungle area of northern India for three weeks. That might have been an opportunity to rest and reconnect with each other and the love of music that had brought them together, but…
Think of it: they were putting long hours each day into meditation, a very solitary practice. They had lots of time to be alone with their thoughts. In short, they were spending more time with “themselves” than they’d been able to for years.
[Meeting The Beatles In India will have a “virtual premiere” on 10/9 Click here to purchase tickets.]
Their time in India resulted in the seeds of The White Album, with many of the songs written while there. Once the Beatles reconvened at Abbey Road to record it, the double-album sounded like a bunch of little “solo” albums. George called in a nervous Eric Clapton (who didn’t want to intrude on the Fab legend) to perform on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”; John showed his disgust with the Maharishi’s purported advances on female ashram members on “Sexy Sadie”; Paul did his “Paul” thing on songs like “Mother Nature’s Son,” while Ringo showed off a song he’d originally begun in the early ‘60s, “Don’t Pass Me By.” And there were many more little snapshots of emerging individuality.
While Beatle fans rightfully love The White Album, there’s no doubt that it reads like a distinct “collection” of songs more than a cohesive piece. It’s evident that the members of the Beatles were heading in different directions. Their time in India had inspired not just greater spiritual awareness, but a greater interest in being more than just one of the “Fabs.”
[Learn even more about this turning point for The Beatles. Meeting The Beatles In India will have a “virtual premiere” on 10/9 — John Lennon’s birthday! – with audience interaction, merch, and much more. Click here to purchase tickets.]
-The CS Team