Wrapped by Indian Culture

“He was searching for something much higher, much deeper. It does seem like he already had some Indian background in him. Otherwise, it’s hard to explain how he got so attracted to a particular type of life and philosophy, even religion. It seems very strange, really. Unless you believe in reincarnation.”

Ravi Shankar

 

Ravi Shankar and George Harrison

 

By the mid-1960s George Harrison had become an admirer of Indian culture and mysticism, introducing it to the other Beatles. During the filming of Help! (Richard Lester, 1965) in the Bahamas, they met the founder of Sivananda Yoga, Vishnudevananda Saraswati, who gave each of them a signed copy of his book, The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga. Between the end of the last Beatles tour in 1966 and the beginning of the Sgt Pepper recording sessions, he made a pilgrimage to Bombay with his wife Pattie Boyd, where he studied sitar, met several gurus, and visited various holy places. In 1968 he travelled to Rishikesh in northern India with the other Beatles to study meditation with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Harrison’s use of psychedelic drugs encouraged his path to meditation and Hinduism. He commented: “For me, it was like a flash. The first time I had acid, it just opened up something in my head that was inside of me, and I realized a lot of things. I didn’t learn them because I already knew them, but that happened to be the key that opened the door to reveal them. From the moment I had that, I wanted to have it all the time – these thoughts about the yogis and the Himalayas, and Ravi’s music.”

By 1965’s Rubber Soul, Harrison had begun to lead the other Beatles into folk rock through his interest in The Byrds and Bob Dylan, and towards Indian classical music through his use of the sitar on Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown). He later called Rubber Soul his “favourite [Beatles] album”. Revolver (1966) included three of his compositions: Taxman, Love You To and I Want to Tell You. His introduction of the drone-like tambura part on Lennon’s Tomorrow Never Knows exemplified the band’s ongoing exploration of non-Western instruments. The tabla-driven Love You To was the Beatles’ first genuine foray into Indian music. According to the ethnomusicologist David Reck, the song set a precedent in popular music as an example of Asian culture being represented by Westerners respectfully and without parody. Harrison continued to develop his interest in non-Western instrumentation, playing swarmandal on Strawberry Fields Forever.

During the Beatles’ American tour in August 1965, Harrison’s friend David Crosby of The Byrds introduced him to Indian classical music and the work of sitar maestro Ravi Shankar. Harrison described Shankar as “the first person who ever impressed me in my life … and he was the only person who didn’t try to impress me.” Harrison became fascinated with the sitar and immersed himself in Indian music. According to Peter Lavezzoli, Harrison’s introduction of the instrument on the Beatles’ song “Norwegian Wood” “opened the floodgates for Indian instrumentation in rock music, triggering what Shankar would call ‘The Great Sitar Explosion’ of 1966–67”. Lavezzoli described Harrison as “the man most responsible for this phenomenon”.

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Living in The Material World

“I’m living in the material world
Living in the material world

can’t say what I’m doing here
But I hope to see much clearer,
After living in the material world

I got born into the material world
Getting worn out in the material world
Use my body like a car,
Taking me both near and far
Met my friends all in the material world

Met them all there in the material world
John and Paul here in the material world
Though we started out quite poor
We got ‘Richie’ on a tour
Got caught up in the material world

From the Spiritual Sky,
Such sweet memories have I
To the Spiritual Sky
How I pray
Yes I pray
That I won’t get lost
Or go astray

As I’m fated for the material world
Get frustrated in the material world
Senses never gratified
Only swelling like a tide
That could drown me in the
Material world

From the Spiritual Sky,
Such sweet memories have I
To the Spiritual Sky
How I pray
Yes I pray
That I won’t get lost
Or go astray

While I’m living in the material world
Not much ‘giving’ in the material world
Got a lot of work to do
Try to get a message through
And get back out of this material world

I’m living in the material world
Living in the material world
I hope to get out of this place
By the LORD SRI KRSNA’S GRACE
My salvation from the material world
Big Ending”

George Harrison

1973

 
 

Photograph of George Harrison chosen for the publicity posters (and for the front cover of the accompanying book) of Living In The Material World. it was taken during the filming for the Beatles movie Help! (Richard Lester, 1965).

In 2007 Martin Scorsese wrote a short cinematographic appreciation of Help! for the book that comes with both the standard and the deluxe DVD box set re-issue of the mentioned film .

 
 

George Harrison: Living in the Material World (Martin Scorsese, 2011) is a documentary film based on the life of Beatles member George Harrison. It earned six nominations at the 64th Primetime Emmy Awards, winning two Emmy Awards for Outstanding Nonfiction Special and Outstanding Directing for Nonfiction Programming.

 
 

The film follows music legend George Harrison’s story from his early life in Liverpool, the Beatlemania phenomenon, his travels to India, the influence of Indian culture in his music, and his relevance and importance as a member of The Beatles. It consists of previously unseen footage and interviews with Olivia and Dhani Harrison, friends, and many others.

After Harrison’s death in 2001, various production companies approached his widow Olivia about producing a film about her late husband’s life. She declined because he had wanted to tell his own life story through his video archive. Upon meeting Scorsese, she gave her blessings and signed on to the film project as a producer.

According to Scorsese, he was attracted to the project because “That subject matter has never left me…The more you’re in the material world, the more there is a tendency for a search for serenity and a need to not be distracted by physical elements that are around you. His music is very important to me, so I was interested in the journey that he took as an artist. The film is an exploration. We don’t know. We’re just feeling our way through.”

Throughout 2008 and 2009, Scorsese alternated working between Shutter Island and the documentary.

To watch the trailer, please, take a gander at The Genealogy of Style‘s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Genealogy-of-Style/597542157001228?ref=hl

A Symbol of Non-Violence Ideology

Man putting flower in National Guard gun

 
 

Flower power was a slogan used during the late 1960s and early 1970s as a symbol of passive resistance and non-violence ideology. It is rooted in the opposition movement to the Vietnam War. The expression was coined by the American beat poet Allen Ginsberg in 1965 as a means to transform war protests into peaceful affirmative spectacles. Hippies embraced the symbolism by dressing in clothing with embroidered flowers and vibrant colors, wearing flowers in their hair, and distributing flowers to the public, becoming known as flower children. The term later became generalized as a modern reference to the hippie movement and the so-called counterculture of drugs, psychedelic music, psychedelic art and social permissiveness.

Flower Power originated in Berkeley, California as a symbolic action of protest against the Vietnam War. In his November 1965 essay titled How to Make a March/Spectacle, Ginsberg advocated that protesters should be provided with “masses of flowers” to hand out to policemen, press, politicians and spectators. The use of props like flowers, toys, flags, candy and music were meant to turn anti-war rallies into a form of street theater thereby reducing the fear, anger and threat that is inherent within protests. In particular, Ginsberg wanted to counter the “specter” of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang who supported the war, equated war protesters with communists and had threatened to violently disrupt planned anti-war demonstrations at the University of California, Berkeley. Using Ginsberg’s methods, the protest received positive attention and the use of “flower power” became an integral symbol in the counterculture movement.

 
 

George Harrison, Pattie Boyd, Derek Taylor and others in San Francisco, 1967

 
 

Hippies in Haight Ashbury

 
 

The iconic center of the Flower Power movement was the Haight Ashbury district in San Francisco, California. By the mid-1960s, the area, marked by the intersection of Haight and Ashbury Streets, had become a focal point for psychedelic rock music. At the end of summer 1967, The Diggers (a street theater group who combined spontaneous street theater with anarchistic action and art happenings) declared the “death” of the hippie movement and burned an effigy of a hippie in Golden Gate Park.

Dark Horse

Dark Horse (1974), front cover

While the term “dark horse” had long been applied to George Harrison due to his success as a solo artist following The Beatles‘ break-up in 1970, commentators recognise the song as Harrison’s rebuttal to a number of possible detractors: those reviewers who criticized the spiritual content of his 1973 album Living in the Material World; his first wife, Pattie Boyd; and his former band-mates John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Harrison also used the title for that of his record label, and his 1974 North American tour with Ravi Shankar would come to be known as the Dark Horse Tour.

 
 

The Tom Wilkes-designed front cover of Dark Horse features a 1956 Liverpool Institute high-school photograph presented inside a lotus flower, behind which a dream-like Himalayan landscape extends to the horizon, where the “deathless Yogi of the Ancient of Days”, Shiv-Goraksha Babaji, sits. While some observers have seen pointed similarities with the Beatles’ iconic Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band cover image, Harrison’s choice of artwork reflected his enduring admiration for Terry Gilliam‘s animation on Monty Python’s Flying Circus. In the photo, a thirteen-year-old Harrison is pictured in the centre of the top row, his face tinted blue; school teachers appear dressed in long-sleeve tops bearing a superimposed record-company logo or Om symbol. Wilkes and Harrison disagreed over the size of the Babaji image, which the designer apparently disliked and wanted to reduce in size.

Inside the gatefold cover, around the edges of a tinted photo of Harrison and comedian Peter Sellers walking beside a Friar Park lake, text asks the “Wanderer through this Garden’s ways” to “Be kindly” and refrain from casting “Revengeful stones” if “perchance an Imperfection thou hast found”, the reason being: “The Gardener toiled to make his Garden fair, Most for thy Pleasure.” A speech balloon over the photograph contains the words “Well, Leo! What say we promenade through the park?” This line was taken from the Mel Brooks movie The Producers, a favourite of Sellers and Harrison.

 
 

Back cover

 
 

On the back cover, Harrison is pictured sitting on a garden bench, the back timbers of which are apparently carved with his name and that of the album. Similar to Harrison’s attire in the outdoor scenes of the Ding Dong, Ding Dong video clip, Leng refers to his appearance here as resembling the Jethro Tull character Aqualung. Terry Doran‘s photo, given the same orange hue as the one inside the gatefold, was also used on some European picture sleeves for the Ding Dong and Dark Horse singles around this time.

Dark Horse ’​s inner sleeve notes were all the work of Harrison himself, written on a plane early in the tour. Along with the first Harrison-album credit for FPSHOT, and the now-familiar “All glories to Sri Krsna” dedication, his purple pen records various in-jokes while listing the many contributing musicians. As well as the confusing inclusion of Boyd and Eric Clapton‘s names (leading to the assumption that they had actually contributed to the track), the song title Bye Bye, Love is juxtaposed with the words Hello Los Angeles, while “OHLIVERE” would appear to be a reference to Harrison’s new lover and future wife, Dark Horse Records secretary Olivia Arias. The latter is also included among the title track’s musician credits – her contribution being “Trinidad Blissed Out”. Under Ding Dong, aside from the appearance of “Ron Would If You Let Him” on guitar, Friar Park’s original owner, Sir Frank Crisp, is credited for providing “Spirit”. Arias’s face, in a photo taken by tour photographer Henry Grossman, appeared on the record’s side-two face label, while a corresponding picture of Harrison appeared on side one.

Attracted to Bebop

“I never know how to describe my work. It’s not always the same thing. It’s like asking Miles, ‘How does your horn sound?’”
Jean Michel Basquiat

 
 

Portrait of Miles Davis, date unknown

 
 

Discography II, 1983

 
 

What attracted Basquiat to bebop is the way it used repetition, reproduction, and improvisation to transform, or “artistically other”, the shape and meaning of somebody else’s originals, and to do so in the name of black protest against the restrictive social structures of American Racism. For LeRoi Jones, what most characterized bebop was its “antiassimilationist sound”, its rapid improvisations, its jagged time shifts, its wild solo flights, its embrace of melodic and rhythmic dissonance-its willfully harsh resistance to being swallowed up into the unisonance of American harmony. Bebop musicians understood the importance of communicating their racial difference from the American mainstream through their music.

While bebop was the music Basquiat inherited from the radical past, it was the radical present of hip-hop that he was born into. Basquiat was coming up as a painter and graffiti tagger on the streets and subways of New York City just as the music culture of hip-hop was being born on the very same streets and on the very same subways. In many ways Basquiat was hip-hop’s first galley artist, the first audiovisual hip-hopper to be legitimized, popularized, and substantively supported by the official New York art world.

The Brit Pack

From left: Stella Tennant in Stella McCartney, Cecilia Chancellor in Luella Bartley, Erin O’Connor in John Galliano, Jacquetta Wheeler in Nicole Farhi, Naomi Campbell in Julien Macdonald, Liberty Ross in Clements Ribeiro, Kate Moss in Hussein Chalayan, Elizabeth Jagger in Russell Sage and Philip Treacy, Jade Parfitt in Paul Smith, Rosemary Ferguson in Markus Lupfer, Jasmine Guinness in Boyd, Lisa Ratcliffe in Sophia Kokosalaki, Karen Elson in Betty Jackson, Georgina Cooper in Antonio Berardi, Alek Wek in Belville Sassoon by Lorcan Mullany, Sophie Dahl in Matthew Williamson, Vivien Solari in Robert Cary-Williams and Jodie Kidd in Vivienne Westwood. Photo by Mario Testino for Vogue, January 2002

Close Connection

 
 

Wayne Mullins gives a pretty good account of Ginsberg-Lennon- Beatles connection in the article – Long John Silver and the Beats. He quotes in part (recalling their very first meeting) Marianne Faithfull‘s account – It’s London, 1965 – «Then Allen Ginsberg came in… He went over to the chair (Bob) Dylan was sitting in and plonked himself down on the armrest…John Lennon broke the silence snarling: “Why don’t you sit a bit closer then, dearie?”, The insinuation – that Allen had a crush on Dylan was intended to demolish (him), but since it wasn’t far from the truth anyway, Allen took it very lightly. The joke was on them, really. He burst out laughing, fell off the arm and onto Lennon’s lap. Allen looked up to him and said, “Have you ever read William Blake, young man?”… And Lennon in his Liverpudlian deadpan said, “Never heard of the man”. Cynthia (Lennon), who wasn’t going to let him get away with this even in jest, chided him; “Oh, John, stop lying.” That broke the ice.»

 
 

as filenameAllen Ginsberg celebrating his 39th birthday in film-maker David Larcher’s Chelsea basement apartment with Miles and Sue Miles.

 
 

Ginsberg with Barbara Rubin, Allen’s 39th birthday party

 
 

There’s also, that same year (on the occasion of that same UK visit, in fact), Allen’s notorious 39th birthday party, attended (a surprise visit, late in the night) by John and Cynthia, George Harrison and Pattie Boyd, (and, fortunately for them, no cameras!). Confronted by an essentially naked Allen (naked, except for a “No Waiting” sign hung around his penis!), Lennon was, apparently, mortified, horrified – “You don’t do that in front of the birds” (the women – sic)”, he allegedly, declared.

Legendary meetings with his heros. In subsequent years, and specifically when John moved to New York City and was politically active in a number of causes, their friendship blossomed. Here’s Allen, from his 1972 PEN Club recommendation (on the occasion of Lennon’s visa-immigration problems), citing him as being, “in the line of descent of (Thomas) Campion, (Edmund) Waller and (John) Dowland fellow language-ayre minstrels celebrated in the great tree of British poesy”. And, again, in a note, written January the following year – “So Lennon’s particularly interesting in English minstrel’s tradition – remember (William) Shakespeare wrote songs, “With a Hey and a Ho and a Hey nonny-o.. with Hey! with Hey! The thrush and the jay”.” “Dull minds observing Lennon transform himself into an angry bodhisattva of song for the masses, have mistaken his verse to be over-simplistic. On the contrary, it’s an ancient perfectly subtle, humble, artful simplicity, the condensation of common social language into hard strong human personal verse”.. “To sum up, Lennon/Ono (Lennon) is a conscious poet coherently adapting traditional poetic song devices to new consciousness, new technology electronic mass ear education; one brilliant development of modern poetry completely realized”.

Finally, this, from a letter (to Barry Miles, circa 1976) – “I was passing by (the) Dakota Apartments last month, phoned upstairs and visited John Lennon and Yoko Ono for an hour. Lennon said he was retired temporarily from the L.A. music scene, staying home with baby and extreme clean diet… Said he was lying sleepless one night listening to WBAI (radio on) earphones and heard someone reciting a long poem, he thought it was (Bob) Dylan till he heard the announcer say it was (Allen) Ginsberg reading Howl…said he’d never read it or understood it before, (he’d eye’d the page but, “I can’t read anything, I can’t get anything from print”), but once hearing it aloud, he suddenly understood, he said, why Dylan had often mentioned me to him, and suddenly realized what (it was) I was doing, and dug it…said he didn’t understand (hadn’t understood) at the time. He’d seen me as some strange interesting American supposed-to-be-a poet hanging around but didn’t understand exactly what my role was. Now he said he understood how close my style was to Dylan’s, and how it influenced Dylan and also dug my voice reciting, the energy…It sure was nice hearing Lennon close the gap, complete that circle and treat me as a fellow artist as he walked me to the door goodbye”.