Twist and shout: The Beatles in India
A conversation between Philip Norman and Ajoy Bose at the Jaipur Literature Festival 2018 threw up some interesting nuggets about the pop band that continues to have a fan following 50 years on.Updated: Jan 25, 2018 19:57 IST
Philip Norman, who has written three books on the band from Liverpool that still entrances music fans, regrets he pronounced that John Lennon represented “three quarters of The Beatles” in ‘Shout!’, his 1981 Beatles biography. “It was not a good thing to have written,” he says during a conversation with Ajoy Bose at the Jaipur Literature Festival 2018.
“It was a stupid thing to say. And my biography of Paul McCartney is an effort to make amends,” says Norman. He reveals that McCartney and Lennon were in a way, complete opposites, but their creations were symbiotic. “If one couldn’t finish writing a song, the other would do it for him.”
Still, Norman’s liking for Lennon hasn’t changed.
“What makes The Beatles so special that even today we are sitting and discussing the band?” asked Ajoy Bose, a political commentator whose retrospective account of the band’s trip to India, will be released next month.
Norman’s answer is simple. “Their ability to make everything happy.”
The band’s 1965 song ‘Help’ instantly comes to mind. There is some speculation that Lennon was suicidal when he wrote the lyrics: “Help I need somebody/ Help, not just anybody/ Help, you know I need someone, help”. Still, it was idiosyncratically Beatlesque to juxtapose morose lyrics with peppy music.
But back to the band’s time in India. Norman says that, contrary to popular belief, the band’s breakup had actually been delayed by their visit to Rishikesh 50 years ago. On George Harrison’s insistence on exploring spirituality, the band stayed a month at Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s ashram in Rishikesh. The visit ended abruptly amid rumours of sexual harassment of one of the women in the party by the guru. There were accusations that the spiritual leader had misused the band’s name for publicity. Lennon’s relationship with Yoko Ono is also cited among the many reasons for The Beatles abrupt departure from India. “It’s basically a mystery,” says Norman, who has also authored biographies of Elton John, Mick Jagger and Rolling Stones.
Bose had an interesting anecdote to add. Apparently, the band believed the Maharishi had cursed them because their car kept breaking down while they were hurrying away from Rishikesh to Delhi and their flight from India!
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