Saturday, February 09, 2008
Nothing's Gonna Change My World
The evening before the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi passed, the song "Across the Universe" (the superior Take 2 as it appeared on Anthology 2) was beamed by NASA toward the star Polaris, a journey that will take over 400 years to complete. I found it more than fitting that this song began a journey across the universe as the Maharishi left his earthly form, some 40 years after the song was originally written and recorded. The circumstances seemed as mysterious and as mystical as the origin of the lyric itself. According to Lennon, the song forced itself upon him--he didn't want to write it, but the phrase "pools of sorrow, waves of joy" would not stop running through his head in the middle of the night. Earlier that evening, John and his wife Cynthia had argued, and as John lay in bed unable to sleep, the lyrics came to him: "It drove me out of bed. I didn't want to write it. I was just slightly irritable and couldn't go to sleep" (Turner 177).
Lennon often referred to the creative process as something mystical, as if he and McCartney were conduits of a sort of divine inspiration, or in Pythagorean terms, receptive to "the music of the spheres." "Across the Universe" remained a favorite lyric of Lennon's, yet he was never satisfied with its recording. In fact, John accused Paul of "sabotaging" the recording by inviting two young fans to sing back up on the "nothing's gonna change my world" refrain. Their vocals appear on the World Wildlife Fund LP version but was (thankfully) mixed out by Spector for inclusion on Let It Be.
The phrase "Jai Guru Deva, OM" relates to the Maharishi's own Guru Dev--"All praise to Guru Dev" followed by the sacred syllable of Brahman. The first photo above is of John Lennon's bracelets bearing this phrase, now in possession of Julian Lennon. The other photos appeared in Beatles Monthly editions, accompanying Mal Evan's account of their spiritual retreat.
I feel that the trip to Rishikesh was a pivotal moment in the Beatles' lives--a certain boost to their creativity and closeness, yet at the same time, John was experiencing great internal conflict. It was during this time he realized that he was irrevocably drawn to Yoko Ono and that separation from his wife Cynthia was imminent. While there he became disillusioned with the Maharishi based on what were probably false claims made by hanger-on Magic Alex. Yet to John, it seemed like another in a long line of father figures was letting him down--just as his own father, his uncle George, and manager Brian Epstein had done through either abandonment or death. Disappointment had occurred so frequently that it was very easy for John to believe that the Maharishi was deeply fallible, a mere con artist.
Some of John's most beautiful songs were written in Rishikesh and were eventually featured on "The White Album." As you know, my pseudonym originates from my favorite unreleased Lennon song, written in Rishikesh and inspired by a Maharishi lecture. I wish Apple would see fit to officially release the entire Kinfauns and Kenwood demos in pristine quality, directly from George and John's tapes. I'd venture to say they are probably my favorite bootlegged tracks. The joy was still there at this time, and if it could have only remained throughout the White Album sessions. Those tapes reflect a beautiful day in George's bungalow, with everyone gathered around introducing their songs and playing together. It was probably never quite that way again.
(Notice in the above photos how Paul is wearing the hand-painted shirt he created for the Our World broadcast...it was later stolen.)
Reference: A Hard Days Write by Steve Turner
Yesterday, I received an email about an upcoming event at Stanford University. I certainly wish I could attend, but I'd like to pass this information on to my readers on the West Coast--perhaps you could attend. If anyone does, please let me know and I'd love to post your observations and reviews here.