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”.

Advertisements

Beasts Bounding Through Time

 
 

“Van Gogh writing his brother for paints
Hemingway testing his shotgun
Céline going broke as a doctor of medicine
the impossibility of being human
Villon expelled from Paris for being a thief
Faulkner drunk in the gutters of his town
the impossibility of being human
Burroughs killing his wife with a gun
Mailer stabbing his
the impossibility of being human
Maupassant going mad in a rowboat
Dostoevsky lined up against a wall to be shot
Crane off the back of a boat into the propeller
the impossibility
Sylvia with her head in the oven like a baked potato
Harry Crosby leaping into that Black Sun
Lorca murdered in the road by the Spanish troops
the impossibility
Artaud sitting on a madhouse bench
Chatterton drinking rat poison
Shakespeare a plagiarist
Beethoven with a horn stuck into his head against deafness
the impossibility the impossibility
Nietzsche gone totally mad
the impossibility of being human
all too human
this breathing
in and out
out and in
these punks
these cowards
these champions
these mad dogs of glory
moving this little bit of light toward
us
impossibly”

Charles Bukowski

You Get So Alone at Times That it Just Makes Sense

1986

Stardust

Stardust is an American popular song composed in 1927 by Hoagy Carmichael with lyrics added in 1929 by Mitchell Parish. Carmichael first recorded the song, originally titled “Star Dust”, at the Gennett Records studio in Richmond, Indiana. It is “a song about a song about love”, and it’s played in an idiosyncratic melody in medium tempo. It became an American standard, and is one of the most recorded songs of the 20th century, with over 1,500 total recordings.

According to Carmichael, the inspiration for Stardust came to him while he was on the campus of his alma mater, Indiana University, in Bloomington, Indiana. He began whistling the tune then rushed to the Book Nook, a popular student hangout, and started composing. He worked to refine the melody over the course of the next several months, likely in Bloomington or Indianapolis (sources cite various locations, and Carmichael himself liked to embellish the facts about the song’s origins).

Isham Jones‘s recording became the first of many hit versions of the tune. Young baritone sensation Bing Crosby released a version in 1931, and by the following year, over two dozen bands had recorded Stardust. It was then covered by almost every prominent band of that era. Versions have been recorded by Artie Shaw, Billy Butterfield, Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck, (on the 1956 album Dave Brubeck Quartet) Tommy Dorsey, Tex Beneke with The Glenn Miller Orchestra, Frank Sinatra, Doris Day, Jan Garber, Fumio Nanri, Dizzy Gillespie, Nat King Cole (considered by many to be the best), Mel Tormé, Connie Francis, Jean Sablon, Keely Smith, Terumasa Hino, Harry Connick Jr, Hank Crawford, Ella Fitzgerald, Olavi Virta, The Peanuts, Django Reinhardt, Barry Manilow, Art Tatum, John Coltrane, Earl Grant, Willie Nelson, Billy Ward and His Dominoes, George Benson, Mina, Ken Hirai, Al Hirt, and many others.

 
 

Stardust, Jean-Michel Basquiat, 1983

 
 

Sometimes I wonder why I spend
The lonely nights dreaming of a song
The melody haunts my reverie
And I am once again with you

When our love was new
And each kiss an inspiration
Ah but that was long ago
Now my consolation is in the stardust of a song

Beside the garden wall
When stars are bright, you are in my arms
The nightingale tells his fairy tale
Of paradise where roses grew

Though I dream in vain
In my heart it will remain
My stardust melody
The memory of love’s refrain

 

To listen to Nat King Cole and John Coltrane´s versions of this song, please take a gander at The Genealogy of Style’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Genealogy-of-Style/597542157001228

The Little Man Who Wasn’t There

Photo by Chema Madoz

 
 

ANTIGONISH

Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there.
He wasn’t there again today,
I wish, I wish he’d go away…

When I came home last night at three,
The man was waiting there for me
But when I looked around the hall,
I couldn’t see him there at all!
Go away, go away, don’t you come back any more!
Go away, go away, and please don’t slam the door…

Last night I saw upon the stair,
A little man who wasn’t there,
He wasn’t there again today
Oh, how I wish he’d go away…

Hughes Mearns

 
 

Inspired by reports of a ghost of a man roaming the stairs of a haunted house in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada, the poem Antigonish (also known as The Little Man Who Wasn’t There) was originally part of a play called The Psyco-ed which Mearns had written for an English class at Harvard University about 1899. In 1910, Mearns put on the play with the Plays and Players, an amateur theatrical group and, on 27 March 1922, newspaper columnist FPA printed the poem in The Conning Tower, his column in the New York World.

In 1939, Antigonish was adapted as a popular song titled The Little Man Who Wasn’t There by Harold Adamson with music by Bernie Hanighen, both of whom received the songwriting credits. A 12 July 1939 recording of the song by the Glenn Miller Orchestra with vocals by Tex Beneke became an 11-week hit on Your Hit Parade reaching #7. Other versions were recorded by Larry Clinton & His Orchestra with vocals by Ford Leary, Bob Crosby & His Orchestra with vocals by Teddy Grace, Jack Teagarden & His Orchestra with vocals by Teagarden, and Mildred Bailey. Mearns ‘ Antigonish has been used numerous times in popular culture, including Velvet Goldmine (Todd Haynes, 1998) often with slight variations in the lines.

Similar lyrics can be heard in the song The Man Who Sold the World by David Bowie:

“We passed upon the stair
We spoke of was and when
Although I wasn’t there
He said I was his friend…”

I’m Dreaming of a Black Christmas

I’m Dreaming of a Black Christmas, Richard Hamilton, 1971

 
 

Richard Hamilton made his first etchings and drypoints as a student in the late 1930s. Throughout the following decade he continued to use etching, drypoint and aquatint and experimented with lithography, but it was the influential screenprints incorporating photographic and hand-drawn stencils made in the 1960s which brought him international acclaim as a printmaker. The use of photography has long been an integral part of Hamilton’s working process.

 
 

This work was based on colour cine-film frames from the Bing Crosby movie Holiday Inn (Mark Sandrich, 1942) . The work was printed by E H Schrieber, Stuttgart, H P Haas, Stuttgart and Dietz Offizin, Bavaria and published by Petersburg Press, London in an edition of 150.