By Lachman Balani
TORONTO: On arguably music’s greatest day of the year, Ringo Starr, ex-drummer of The Beatles, along with late George Harrison’s wife, Olivia Harrison, and late John Lennon’s wife, Yoko Ono, picked up the long overdue Grammy award on Jan 26, 2014 in recognition of The Beatles lifetime achievement.
Paul McCartney, the other living member, couldn’t make it as he was rehearsing with his band to perform later in the evening at the same show.
It was 50 years ago in 1964, the Beatles arrived from England to set foot on American soil for the first time to perform on The Ed Sullivan Show and the whole music scene was turned on its head. Over 73 million people tuned into the show, an unprecedented number of viewers by a real long shot for those times. Gals and guys went wild! It is definitely an apt anniversary to receive such a grand award that India’s sitar God, Pandit Ravi Shankar, and George Harrison’s sitar mentor, received posthumously last year.
Going back briefly into their past, the Beatles were a formidable phenomenon starting off first with teeny bopper mop top material like “I wanna hold your hand”, “Love ,love me do”, “I saw her standing there” and more. These were original songs written by members John Lennon and Paul McCartney mostly, though George and Ringo occasionally chipped in. This was an unusual practice as at that time most songs would be written by somebody and sung by another. The Beatles were then introduced to marijuana by Bob Dylan and later used more mind altering substances and started producing a cutting edge stream of psychedelic music that defined a whole era.
They stopped performing live in 1966 to concentrate more on studio techniques. This opened up all kinds of opportunities for them to try different recording techniques and experiment in the studio in ways all but unheard of till then. They pioneered things like guitar distortion, overdubbing vocals, multi-track recording, tape loops, and countless other procedures, which are standard today, creating totally new dimensions to music as an art form and giving birth to the legendary Sgt. Pepper’s album that many critics hailed as equivalent or better than Handel , Beethoven, Chopin and all the other classical greats. And this was psychedelic material! But then again, the gurus behind it were the one and only Beatles!
Then came their most prolific time at the ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in Rishikesh, India, where they compiled so many avant-garde songs that were later produced on their double white album named simply ‘Beatles’, ‘Abbey Road’ and ‘Let it Be’. Still to date there are songs from that memorable sojourn that remain unrecorded. One such song was performed at the 2009 team-up of Ringo (who wore a Krishna t-shirt) and Paul at the Radio City Music Hall in New York City. It was called “Cosmically Conscious” echoing Maharishi’s famous lines “Come let’s get cosmically conscious”. Several others still remain unreleased. Hopefully the remaining two Beatles will someday publish them.
Such is their formidable force that bands like Eurhythmics are coming together to perform a tribute to these great guys for a performance that will air on Feb 9 , 2014, 50 years to the day and time the Beatles performed on the Ed Sullivan show. CNN is going to air a special on them this week.
And not to be missed, Nandu Bhende of “Savage Encounter” and “Velvett Fogg’ who gave Mumbai hours and hours of great rock music played note for note, cut for cut, during the 60s and 70s also put together a band called ‘The Nandu Bhende Encounter” to perform a tribute to a full house at the fashionable D’bell club in Mumbai on Jan 24.
As Ringo said when he accepted the award: “It’s a Lifetime Achievement Award, but I feel like we’ve all got a lot more life in us.
The Beatles music is still out there and that’s what I’m most proud of !”
May that forever be so!
READ ALSO: My memories of the day John Lennon died