“Yeah, and love can be pretty tough on us, can’t it? John said. We sat quietly together, a moment suspended in time. Then he smiled, almost mischievously , “But the great thing about love, Paul, is you always get another chance.” “For sure,” I said. We were silent again, and after awhile John said, “Off to write me music, then.”
As I spent time with the Beatles, Paul was the most overtly warm and friendly. He was singing a few bars of Michelle when I took this picture from a few feet away. Jane Asher was with Paul in Rishikesh, and he said that she inspired some of his most beautiful love songs.
The Beatles opened a door in my psyche. It was a key moment in my life. John was singing Tomorrow Never Knows, and as the lyrics sank in, I knew they were telling me of a journey I had not yet made—of an internal place that held great love and knowing. I love this picture for John’s intensity, a hallmark of his immense talent.
John and Paul were singing a variety of songs that I recognized as I sat with them.
After snapping the first frame, ‘Jamming’, John began to smile at me. Pulling the focus to Paul was my way to balance the emphasis between these two superstars.
The Beatles in Rishikesh
I’ll always love the Beatles. Not just for their music, and the joy and love they transmitted, encouraged, and heralded, but also, as individuals I had the good fortune to meet and like and enjoy. Thank you John, Paul, George and Ringo.
George spoke softly, “Like, we’re the Beatles after all, aren’t we? We have all the money you could ever dream of. We have all the fame you could ever wish for. But it isn’t love. It isn’t health. It isn’t peace inside, is it?”
John and Paul were strumming their D-28 Martin acoustic guitars, singing fragments of songs, musically meandering through some of my favorites: Michelle, All You Need is Love, Eleanor Rigby, and others. I got my camera and after taking a few pictures through the chain link fence, I opened the gate and joined them.
George first recorded The Inner Light on January 12, 1968, at EMI’s Bombay studios and I couldn’t have imagined that by mid-February my path would unexpectedly cross his, and that of the other Beatles, in Rishikesh.
This Little Piggy
I first saw John, Paul, George and Ringo sitting outside at a long table by the edge of the cliff that overlooked the Ganges and Rishikesh. Somewhat nervously, I walked over. “May I join you?” I asked. “Sure, mate, pull up a chair.” And Paul said, pointing beside him, “Come and sit here.” Taken later, I named this for Paul playing with his baby finger.
I went in search of John, Paul and George and found them sitting at the familiar spot overlooking the river where we’d first met. We said our good-byes and as I started to go John said, “Hey, Paul, send us some of your photos.”
Ringo When I'm 64
Ringo was calm, quiet, almost motionless as I took this. Of the four Beatles, he appeared the most serene, the most grounded, the most at ease with who he was. I find Ringo’s gentle shyness endearingly revealed in this photograph.
British actress Jane Asher was with Paul for 5 years. She was a lovely-hearted woman of beauty and intelligence. Jane and Paul were the most openly demonstrative and affectionate of the Beatles couples.
Food at the ashram was vegetarian. Cigarettes were banned as were drugs and alcohol. Mia and Donovan were the only ones I saw smoking, only occassionaly and usually in the evening.
John laughed heartily. “Good one, mate! How to do good for others and for yourself at the same time. And where’s the line between? I still have that in me head, too.” The key, he said, was whether our ego results in good or in hurt for others. “That’s where you draw the line, mate!”
Like a Footprint
Revisiting the ashram in January 2000, I did a short mediation sitting by the edge of the cliff where I first met the Beatles. As I got up to leave I noticed a single, old rubber sandal in the underbrush. I stepped over it, walking away, until a gentle voice in my head insisted I take this picture. I understood why when I wrote the accompanying text.
Paul was looking down at words he had scribbled on a scrap of paper, sitting one step below, as he and John started to sing. It was the refrain to Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da. They repeated it again and again, and then Paul looked up at me with a twinkle in his eyes and said, “That’s all there is so far. We don’t have any of the words yet.”
‘Mother Nature’s Son’
Paul’s creativity, witnessed while I was with him at the ashram, seems to flow so easily, naturally and abundantly from a magical and deep place within him. So, it feels very right to have this photo named with the title of one of his sweetest songs.
Donovan was soft-spoken and friendly, with a shy, almost internal smile. He and the Beatles were longtime friends and he wrote Sunshine Superman in admiration of them. While he was at the ashram he wrote Hurdy Gurdy Man and Jennifer Juniper, written for Jenny Boyd, Pattie’s sister.
Mia and Arjuna
Mia and I both had come to Rishikesh hoping to heal the pain of heartbreak, each searching for a new self-respect by going within, irrespective of the love of others. This was taken at dusk, with too little light, yet I find the softness of the photo enhances Mia’s quiet, intelligent beauty.
To the Nines
Paul and John had been playing and singing for some time and by then the sun had dropped behind the hills. A gentle aroma of evening jasmine drifted over the grounds and a peacock shrilled off in the woods. Ringo mentioned dinner, and after a while we all headed off to eat.
Here's Looking at You
Paul is a remarkable creative force. Perhaps two elements that serve his creativity well are his very playful side and his lovely, mischievous side. This I experienced with him numerous times, as when he looked over and I took this photograph.
To India’s 1 billion Hindus, the Ganges river is Ganga Ma–or Mother Ganges–the holiest of rivers, making Rishikesh a pilgrimage centre filled with temples and hostels, and a centre for yoga, meditation and philosophical studies. This photograph is taken from the Lakshman Jhoola bridge several kilometers upstream from the ashram.
John and Paul
John was at the ashram for about 7 weeks, as was George. Ringo for 2 weeks and Paul was there for 5 weeks. In their time there John and Paul wrote 48 songs, likely their single most creative capsule of time in their illustrious careers.
This is my all-time favourite shot of Paul. The gentle sensitivity in his eyes, the joyful smile on his lips, even mid-serenade, are part of the enormous playful creativity he embodies.
George and Pattie
It was quite clear as I spent time with George and Pattie that they were very close as a couple and very calm and at ease with each other. Some marriages endure and some don’t, and I was sorry to later hear that they were breaking-up.
Prudence, Mia Farrow’s sister, sits on the left with Ringo and his first wife, Maureen.
John wrote a song at the ashram, Dear Prudence, and it became part of the Beatles’ next album—The Beatles—widely known as The White Album.
Ringo asked me to shoot some film for him using his 16mm camera. When I finished, he handed me a fresh roll of film. “Here Paul, shoot this for yourself and keep it, for the fun of it.” Then he playfully added, in his wonderful Liverpudlian accent, “And who knows, it might be worth some money one day.”
Red Stripe, Blue Stripe
I love this picture: John straightening his hair, striped socks and all; Cynthia and Mike Love chatting and Mal looking at the camera. It was taken during a break in the Maharishi’s ‘official photo’ taking.
George was quiet and self-contained, yet with a depth and a humour that was genuine and delightful. He had true humility. Here, he’s just cracked a joke.
John and Cynthia
John and Cynthia were both bright and friendly with me but distinctly distant and cool with each other. It turned out that Cynthia was hoping to get their marriage back on track while John had already met Yoko and was headed in another direction.
At times, photographers intentionally take photos that are slightly out of focus for the soft effect it creates. In this case, I just missed finding sharp focus, but it has such a gentle and textured feel that it works well for Paul as he’s dreamily strumming.
Rishikesh and the Ganges
Rishikesh is on the Ganges river, 1,220 feet up in the foothills of the magnificent Himalayan mountains. Here I wanted to visually connect the foothills, Rishikesh on the far side of the Ganges, and two temples in the foreground, taken from the roof of one of the temples.
Donovan’s friends, Gypsy Dave and his sweetheart, Yvonne, came to the ashram for a few days to visit Donovan. John and Paul were just finishing playing and we all headed off for dinner.
The sun was setting low and very orange as this sadhu, or religious seeker, was sitting by the Ganges river as I was leaving the ashram in 2000. It was my first visit there since being with the Beatles in 1968.
Washing on the Ghats
The old boatman took me across the Ganges river as I went looking for the Maharishi’s ashram, to learn meditation. I didn’t know the Beatles were even in India. The local women bathe and wash their clothes on the ghats, or steps that lead into the river.
All of our prints are museum quality Chromogenic prints on Kodak archival Endura paper.