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Beatles 50th Blog

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: April 14, 1968

Leaving India... While waiting for their taxis to arrive, Lennon wrote the song "Maharishi", which was later renamed "Sexy Sadie" because Harrison advised Lennon that was potentially libellous. In a 1974 interview, Lennon said that they were convinced that the delay in the taxis' arrival was orchestrated by locals loyal to the Maharishi, and this paranoia was exacerbated by the presence of "the mad Greek". According to Cynthia Lennon, when the group walked past the Maharishi on the way to their taxis, he looked "very biblical and isolated in his faith". Jenny Boyd later wrote: "Poor Maharishi. I remember him standing at the gate of the ashram, under an aide's umbrella, as the Beatles filed by, out of his life. 'Wait,' he cried. 'Talk to me.' But no one listened.

After leaving the ashram, the taxis kept breaking down, leading the Beatles to wonder if the Maharishi had placed a curse on them. The car that the Lennons were in suffered a flat tyre and the driver left them, apparently to find a replacement tyre, but did not return for hours. After it grew dark, the Lennons hitched a ride to Delhi. They then took the first available flight back to London, during which John drunkenly recounted a litany of his numerous infidelities to Cynthia. Harrison was not ready to return to London and face running Apple and the band's other commitments. In her autobiography, Boyd writes: "Instead, we went to see Ravi Shankar and lost ourselves in his music." Harrison said when he got dysentery in Madras that he thought it might have been due to a spell cast by the Maharishi, but he recovered after Shankar gave him some amulets.

Cooke de Herrera, who remained a lifelong devotee to TM and an instructor to many celebrities, felt the contract with Four Star and presence of the film crew was the reason for the sudden departure of Harrison and Lennon. According to Chopra, the departure was at the request of the Maharishi, due to his disapproval of the Beatles and their entourage taking drugs: "[The Maharishi] lost his temper with them. He asked them to leave, and they did in a huff."

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: April 13, 1968

Top 20 Song Chart for April 13, 1968

1. Honey - Bobby Goldsboro
2. Cry Like A Baby - The Box Tops
3. Young Girl - The Union Gap Featuring Gary Puckett
4. Dance To The Music - Sly & The Family Stone
5. Lady Madonna - The Beatles
6. La-La Means I Love You - The Delfonics
7. Playboy - Gene And Debbe
8. (Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay - Otis Redding
9. Valleri - The Monkees
10. Scarborough Fair (/Canticle) - Simon & Garfunkel
11. (Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You've Been Gone - Aretha Franklin
12. 12 Mighty Quinn (Quinn The Eskimo) - Manfred Mann
13. Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In) - The First Edition
14. Summertime Blues -Blue Cheer
15. A Beautiful Morning - The Rascals
16. If You Can Want - Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
17. Cowboys To Girls - The Intruders
18. Love Is All Around - The Troggs
19. I Got The Feelin' 17 -James Brown And The Famous Flames
20. Jennifer Juniper - Donovan

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: April 12, 1968

John Lennon and George Harrison leave Rishikesh

After nearly two months in Rishikesh, India, studying Transcendental Meditation with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, John Lennon and George Harrison left the camp. Also with them were Cynthia Lennon, Pattie Harrison and their friend 'Magic' Alex Mardas. They had decided to leave after Mardas convinced the others that Maharishi had attempted to gain sexual favours from female meditators at the camp.

A couple of weeks before we were due to leave, Magic Alex accused the Maharishi of behaving improperly with a young American girl, who was a fellow student. Without allowing the Maharishi an opportunity to defend himself, John and George chose to believe Alex and decided we must all leave. I was upset. I had seen Alex with the girl, who was young and impressionable, and I wondered whether he - whom I had never once seen meditating - was being rather mischievous. I was surprised that John and George had both chosen to believe him. It was only when John and I talked later that he told me he had begun to feel disenchanted with the Maharishi's behavior. He felt that, for a spiritual man, the Maharishi had too much interest in public recognition, celebrities and money. (Cynthia Lennon)

Mardas arranged taxis to take them to Delhi. They planned to stay the night there, but managed to catch an overnight flight back to London.  There was a big hullabaloo about [Maharishi] trying to rape Mia Farrow or trying to get off with Mia Farrow and a few other women, things like that. And we went down to him and we'd stayed up all night discussing, was it true or not true. And when George started thinking it might be true, I thought, 'Well it must be true, 'cause if George is doubting it, there must be something in it.' So we went to see Maharishi, the whole gang of us the next day charged down to his hut, his very rich-looking bungalow in the mountains. And I was the spokesman - as usual, when the dirty work came, I actually had to be leader, whatever the scene was, when it came to the nitty gritty I had to do the speaking. And I said, 'We're leaving.'

'Why?' Hee-hee, all that shit. And I said, 'Well if you're so cosmic, you'll know why. He was always intimating, and there were all his right hand men intimating that he did miracles. He said, 'I don't know why, you must tell me.' And I just kept saying, 'You know why' - and he gave me a look like, 'I'll kill you, bastard.' He gave me such a look, and I knew then when he looked at me, because I'd called his bluff. And I was a bit rough to him. (John Lennon)

Lyrics for The Beatles' song Sexy SadieAs he waited to leave, Lennon began writing the song that would become Sexy Sadie.That was written just as we were leaving, waiting for our bags to be packed in the taxi that never seemed to come. We thought: 'They're deliberately keeping the taxi back so as we can't escape from this madman's camp.' And we had the mad Greek with us who was paranoid as hell. He kept saying, 'It's black magic, black magic. They're gonna keep you here forever.' I must have got away because I'm here. (John Lennon)

Lennon began singing the song as he and George Harrison drove to Delhi. John had a song he had started to write which he was singing: 'Maharishi, what have you done?' and I said, 'You can't say that, it's ridiculous.' I came up with the title of Sexy Sadie and John changed 'Maharishi' to 'Sexy Sadie'. John flew back to Yoko in England and I went to Madras and the south of India and spent another few weeks there. (George Harrison)

George and Pattie Harrison, plus her sister Jenny, visited Ravi Shankar in Madras, where they stayed until 21 April 1968.

George didn't want to go straight from two months of meditation into the chaos that was waiting for him in England - the new business, finding a new manager, the fans and the press. Instead we went to see Ravi Shankar and lost ourselves in his music. (Pattie Boyd)

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: April 11, 1968

On the night of 11 April, Lennon, Harrison and Mardas sat up late discussing their views of the Maharishi and decided to leave the next morning. In Brown's description, the discussion resembled an argument, with Harrison "furious" at Mardas' actions and not believing "a word" of the allegations. In the morning, the Beatles and their wives packed hurriedly, while Mardas went to Dehradun to find taxis. Lennon was chosen to speak to the Maharishi.

Lennon described the exchange in his 1970 interview with Jann Wenner of Rolling Stone, later published as the book Lennon Remembers. When the Maharishi asked why they were leaving, Lennon replied, "If you're so cosmic, you'll know why." Paul Mason, a biographer of the Maharishi, later interpreted Lennon's statement as a challenge to the Maharishi's claim of cosmic consciousness. In his Rolling Stone interview, Lennon said that his mind was made up when the Maharishi gave him a murderous look in response.

According to Mardas' 2010 statement: "John Lennon and I went to the Maharishi about what had happened ... he asked the Maharishi to explain himself"; and the Maharishi answered Lennon's accusation by saying, "I am only human." Lennon said he was "a bit rough to him" and the Maharishi responded by saying "I don't know why, you must tell me." According to Harrison, it was only himself and Lennon who met with the Maharishi, and Lennon "had wanted to leave anyway", to see Ono, and now had a "good reason to get out".

With regard to his own position, Harrison said that he had already told the Maharishi that he would be leaving before the course relocated to Kashmir, because he was due to participate in the filming of Raga, a documentary about Ravi Shankar, in the south of India.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: April 10, 1968

A couple more days in India

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: April 9, 1968

Before George and John left India, Mia Farrow told the Beatles that the Maharishi had made a pass at her. Ned Wynn, one of Farrow's childhood friends, wrote in his 1990 memoir that she had told him in the early 1970s that the Maharishi had definitely made sexual passes at her. In her 1993 autobiography, Cooke de Herrera wrote that Farrow had confided to her, before the arrival of the Beatles, that the Maharishi had made a pass during a private puja ceremony by stroking her hair. Cooke de Herrera wrote that she told Farrow that she had misinterpreted the Maharishi's actions. Farrow's 1997 memoirs are ambiguous, describing an encounter with the Maharishi in his private meditation "cave" when he tried to put his arms around her. She reports that her sister Prudence told her that it was "an honour" and "a tradition" for a "holy man" to touch someone after meditation.

In Pattie Boyd's account, it was allegations of the Maharishi's sexual impropriety that caused events at the retreat to go "horribly wrong". Lennon became convinced that the Maharishi, who said he was celibate, had made a pass at Farrow or was having relations with other young female students. According to Mardas, an American teacher named Rosalyn Bonas had told him and Lennon that the Maharishi had made "sexual advances" towards her. However, Cynthia Lennon said she thought Mardas had put the "young and impressionable" girl up to it. Brown recalls that Mardas told him that a young blonde nurse from California had said she'd had a sexual relationship with the Maharishi. Mardas arranged to spy on the Maharishi when Bonas was with him, and said that he saw the two of them in a compromising position. At the same time, many of the people who were there, including Harrison, Horn, Cooke de Herrera, Cynthia Lennon and Jenny Boyd did not believe that the Maharishi had made a pass at any woman. According to Cynthia, Mardas' allegations about the Maharishi's indiscretions with a female gained momentum "without a single shred of evidence or justification". Pattie Boyd also expressed doubt regarding the truth behind Mardas' claims, but in this atmosphere of suspicion, she had a "horrid dream about Maharishi" and, the next day, told Harrison that they should leave.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: April 8, 1968

Working on the White Album

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: April 7, 1968

Working on the White Album

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: April 6, 1968

Top 20 Song Chart for April 6, 1968

1 Young Girl - The Union Gap Featuring Gary Puckett
 
2 Dance To The Music - Sly & The Family Stone

3 Honey - Bobby Goldsboro

4 Lady Madonna - The Beatles

5 La-La Means I Love You - The Delfonics

6 Cry Like A Baby - The Box Tops

7 Valleri - The Monkees

8 (Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay - Otis Redding

9 Mighty Quinn (Quinn The Eskimo) - Manfred Mann

10 (Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You've Been Gone - Aretha Franklin

11 The Ballad Of Bonnie And Clyde - Georgie Fame

12 Playboy 7 - Gene And Debbe
 
13 If You Can Want - Smokey Robinson & The Miracles

14 Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In) - The First Edition

15 Summertime Blues - Blue Cheer

16 Scarborough Fair (/Canticle) - Simon & Garfunkel

17 I Got The Feelin' - James Brown And The Famous Flames

18 Rice Is Nice - The Lemon Pipers

19 Love Is Blue (L'amour Est Bleu) - Paul Mauriat And His Orchestra

20 Cab Driver -The Mills Brothers
 

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: April 5, 1968

While in India, Lennon also wrote songs including Mean Mr Mustard, Cry Baby Cry, Polythene Pam and Yer Blues. I'm So Tired, meanwhile, was written during the beginning of The Beatles' stay, when Lennon - free of drugs for the first time since 1964 - found himself unable to sleep.

John Lennon - "I'm So Tired was me, in India again. I couldn't sleep, I'm meditating all day and couldn't sleep at night. The story is that. One of my favorite tracks. I just like the sound of it, and I sing it well."

Although Lennon had told his wife Cynthia that the trip to India would bring them closer together, she found him becoming increasingly distant.

Cynthia Lennon - "I was not having the second honeymoon I'd hoped for. John was becoming increasingly cold and aloof toward me. He would get up early and leave our room. He spoke to me very little, and after a week or two he announced that he wanted to move into a separate room to give himself more space. From then on he virtually ignored me, both in private and in public. If the others noticed they didn't say so.

I did my best to understand, begging him to explain what was wrong. He fobbed me off, telling me that it was just the effect of the meditation. 'I can't feel normal doing all this stuff,' he said. 'I'm trying to get myself together. It's nothing to do with you. Give me a break.'

What I didn't know was that each morning he rushed down to the post office to see if he had a letter from Yoko. She was writing to him almost daily. When I learned this later I felt very hurt. There was I, trying to give John the space and understanding he asked for, with no idea that Yoko was drawing him away from me and further into her orbit."