The following in an excerpt taken from the December 2012 issue of Guitar World. For the full story, as well as features on the Kirk Hammett, Maroon 5, Bring Me the Horizon and more, pick up the issue on newsstands now, or in our online store.
With nothing to do, the Beatles wandered in ways only the very rich can. They rented a boat and sailed up the coast of Athens, shopping for an island on which they could plant themselves and their growing commercial empire. “We’re all going to live there,” Lennon said. “It’ll be fantastic, all on our own on this island.”
The idea came to nothing. Adrift in the Summer of Love, they dropped acid, and lots of it, particularly Lennon and Harrison. Late in the first week of August, Harrison and his wife, Patti Boyd, traveled to San Francisco, drawn by the news of the burgeoning hippie scene in the Haight-Ashbury district. The experience was disheartening.
Harrison thought he’d find a community of doe-eyed enlightened beings. Instead, he encountered young dropouts who were constantly on drugs. “That was the turning point for me,” he said. “That’s when I went right off the whole drug cult and stopped taking the dreaded lysergic acid.”
Indian culture and mysticism held a growing fascination for Harrison. Seeking a release from drugs, he turned to meditation. Through a friend, he learned that Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the leader of the Transcendental Meditation movement, would be speaking at the Hilton Hotel in London on August 24.
He decided to go and picked up tickets for his bandmates, in case they wanted to come along. In the end, all but Ringo Starr attended.
“We went along, and I thought he made a lot of sense,” McCartney says. “I think we all did, because he basically said that, with a simple system of meditation—20 minutes in the morning, 20 minutes in the evening, no big sort of crazy thing—you can improve the quality of life and find some sort of meaning in doing so.”
Immediately after the presentation, Harrison, Lennon and McCartney had a private audience with the Maharishi. At his request, they agreed to travel with him on the following day to Bangor, Wales, for a seminar and retreat. Photos from the Bangor event show all four Beatles, clad in psychedelic finery, sitting on a dais with the Maharishi, who was clearly reveling in the attention that the group was bringing to his movement.
“I was really impressed with the Maharishi, and I was impressed because he was laughing all the time,” Starr recalls. “And so we listened to his lectures, and we started meditating. We were given our mantras. It was another point of view. It was the first time we were getting into Eastern philosophies.”
But while the Beatles were achieving a higher level of consciousness in Wales, their world was falling apart back in London. On August 27, as they meditated with the Maharishi, their manager Brian Epstein died from an accidental overdose of sleeping pills.
“That was kind of stunning,” McCartney says. “’Cause we were off sort of finding the meaning of life, and there he was—dead.”
Both friend and business manager to the Beatles, Epstein had worked tirelessly to secure a recording contract for them back in 1962. His efforts had landed them an audition with George Martin, who subsequently signed them to EMI’s Parlophone Records. Since then, Epstein had overseen their growing empire, leaving the Beatles’ free to focus on their music. Harrison said of his passing, “It was a huge void. We didn’t know anything about, you know, our personal business and finances. He’d taken care of everything… It was chaos after that.”
For the complete story, pick up the December 2012 issue of Guitar World now in our online store.