Something Forever

- Chapter 3 Part 3/5 -

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Music makes the world go round

Music was the foundation and guidance of their affection for each other in the spring of 1969. Beatle Harrison liked the idea of bending Indian mantra songs with electric accompaniment towards East-meets-West world music, to present something new spiritual to the audience spoilt by pop music, and to help the Krishna monks to get their message of loving God a  hearing in this way.

(George Harrison "Gopala Krishna" at YouTube)

Mukunda Prabhu remembered in "Chant and Be Happy" (*) about this event in the spring of 1969, when George invited the Krishna devotees to his house on Claremont Drive, Escher, where he and Patti already had prepared a vegetarian, very tasty menu for their welcoming. After dinner, all sat together and made music, Billy Preston was a guest and played the recently released mini-Moog synthesizer, George was on the guitar, Patti on tambourine, and the devotees played mridanga and cymbals. It was a very enjoyable session, and a successful evening for all participants. Which later culminated that all got involved in the kitchen and created a small night snack while George put on a Lenny Bruce record and, in a good mood,  told jokes about the Beatles and their incredible career.

In his nice book "Here Comes the Sun", Joshua Green tells the story of the afternoon which would change so much in pop history: "We were all sitting on big colorful pillows and talked about the beautiful oil paintings of Hindu deities wherewith the Harrisons had decorated their walls: a dancing Shiva, the elephant-headed Ganesh and the goddess Sarasvati, who played  their Vina, next to them hung framed photos of Georges teachers: of the Kriya Yoga Master Yogananda, Yogananda's guru Sri Yukteshwar and Bhakti Yoga Master Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. George put on an afternoon raga of Ravi Shankar, and all fell into a cheerful mood.

He told that once, on his trip to India in 1966, with Patti in a house boat that was on the Dal Lake in Kashmir at anchor, he had read the book Raya Yoga of Vivikananda, which Ravi Shankar had brought. From the book, he learned what Yoga really is. "True Yoga, wrote Vivikanada, did not depend on whether one was a Christian, a Jew, a Buddhist, an atheist or theist. The benefits of Yoga were open to every human being through daily exercises. Try to practice  in the morning and in the evening, advised Vivikananda. Try not to take in anything, until you have completed the morning yoga.

And try to control your sex drive. If you keep him in check, the sexual energy changes into food for the brain. Without chastity one is losing endurance and mental strength. All the Great in spirit know this secret, he wrote. The main rule however is: Don't do harm to any living being by thoughts, words or deeds. "There is no virtue higher than this," taught Vivikanada.

"Mukunda discovered a harmonium, which is played sitting down and was painted with psychedelic floral patterns, he opened the lid and began to play a melody. George chose one from a dozen guitars, which were lined up on a stand, plugged the cable into a small amplifier. "Here is a little song, on which I am working just now" he said. "It is very easy, and is called,"Something". He cleared his throat, struck the first chord and slowly worked his way through the arrangement that he had completed the night before. He looked up and saw his guest sitting motionless, enchanted by the performance. The guests were silently sitting in the room, touched by the eloquent simplicity that they just heard. "It is incidentally about Krishna," said George, winking with his eyes. "But I could not say 'he'. I had to say 'she', otherwise one would have thought,  I would be gay."

(Shirley Bassey "Something" at YouTube

George didn't talk so much about his work, but rather let the music speak for itself. In many songs however, he had begun to equate the love of a soul to God with the love between man and woman, so often it was difficult to say what he meant. Once a Jounalist noticed that he could not see whether George was singing about Krishna or a woman.

"This is good" entgegenete George. "I like that. I believe the love of the individual is simply a small part of the universal love ..... to sing about the dear Lord or about another person is the same thing, viewed in this light. At some songs I have made it deliberately."

A few days later, George got back to the devotees and suggested them to come to a first recording session at the Trident Studios in St. Anne's Avenue; this studio was located in the notorious red light district of Soho. George and the devotees again practiced some fast-paced  Sanskrit chants, and improved here and there, in their opinion, missing pledges, practiced again and again with Jamuna Devi the vocally suitable melody changes, and George often showed them on the harmonium how he fancied it, and then took accompaniment on the guitar. Indeed, in the evening all were very happy, and Syamasundara Prabhu and Sir George agreed that they were ready now to start the actual recording sessions, which should take place at the better Abbey Road Studio. On the day of recording in Abbey Road Studio, as always besieged by Beatles fans, first some devotees arrived on site in George's white Mercedes 600 Pullman. A group of teenagers became quite excited and began to sing the melody of the Hare Krsna mantra, which was very popular and well known from the rock musical Hair.

(George Harrison "Govindam" at YouTube)

The Mantra Trance Mix

The Abbey Road studios were turned into a small Hindu temple on this memorable day for a short time, all over it smelled of incense and fresh flowers. Then again of tasty snacks of the Far Eastern cuisine. All employees and all musicians  benefited from this very wholesome Ayurvedic temple-food delicacies, for these were sacrificed in the temple to Krishna, were all vegetarian food and had a healthy, cleansing and tasty character. George Harrison was working at full speed on the album's release, which a single should precede. The album and the group was called Radha Krishna Temple, and became so famous with their hit single "The Hare Krishna Mantra" which, after publication in the summer of 1969,  stormed the charts and became an exceptional world music hit that occupied the Top Ten for weeks. After the studio recordings, where Paul McCartney and wife Linda famously were involved on the mixer enthusiastically, George said in wise precognition, "this will certainly become a hit, too", and how right he would prove, should only become apparent weeks after appearance of the Single. In Germany and the Chech-Slovak Republic, the single was a number one hit for several weeks, and in other European countries,  everywhere it was in the Top Ten. The Hare Krishna mantra conquered the Western-oriented world, but also India and Japan, Australia, Mexico and even the United States. Rock-mantra-trance mix, you might say, for it was a small musical revolution in a sense, no one had ever heard of such mantras, but a magic captured the world;  wherever the song was on the radio, people were taken from an idea and somehow touched in their heart.

Once in the studio, Jamuna went around and painted all recording engineers a lucky sign (tilaka) on the forehead. Malati Mataji unloaded some baskets full of delicious prasadam (vegetarian meals, which first have been sacrificed to God) and gave all the sweet laddus, burfis, samosas and pakoras, while other devotees hung pictures of Krishna and inflamed  good-smelling incense. Now, the studio was Krishnaized clearly visible for all.

Paul and Linda McCartney were also impressed with the age-old mantras of the monks, and enthusiastically served the control instruments in the recording room. All worked concentrated, and so in one hour recording time, the first side  of the single was completed. George played the organ and Mukunda an Indian (mridanga) drum. Yamuna Mataji sang the fore-part, and Syamasundara accompanied them, the voices of the other devotees were summed up by George in a choir and formed the background. After the fourth recording of the song, everyone was satisfied, and Malati finally stroke a gong, which represented the end of the song.

(Devotees with George "Govinda jaya jaya", Radha Krishna Temple Album, at  YouTube)

Then they recorded side two, George played the bass here and took some vocals on it. After a day in the recording studio, the devotees, recording engineers and all those involved felt very well. George said, this definitely will be a real hit, I'm 100% sure, and so the old holy Vedic mantras were catapulted into the 20th Century with Beatle power. The two Beatles George and Paul experimented with the then technical capabilities, and there came out songs full of love, harmony and devotion. Here the spirit of the new New Age met with the magic of the ancient sacred origin, in perfect symbiosis the Beatles sound magician created a Far-Eastern sound experience of a very special kind, an anticipated world music album, today one can say with devotion, and how much Sir George's prophecy came true, is generally known. The mantra song of the Beatles exceeded all expectations and immediately landed in all countries in the Top Ten, or at number one.!

(*) Quotations in short excerpts:


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