As our time in India draws to a close, I have found myself longing for peace and quiet. For six weeks we have been on this wild ride, moving from one chaotic place to the next, places where I have hardly been able to hear myself think. I have thought of what it must have been like to be in Rishikesh with the Beatles, learning Transcendental Meditation with the Maharishi. Spending a month just meditating, chilling in beautiful stone cottages, basking in quiet privacy. We could have done something like that, but we would have missed out on so much of what India has to offer, and our sight seeing here was absolutely worth the daily struggles (although I am never riding on another sleeper bus, AC or not). Instead of meditating, I’m Ubering around the noisy streets of Mumbai, blasting the White Album in my earbuds as we traverse from spot to spot. Music can sometimes be the only escape from the honking and the crowds, the only thing that can keep me sane.
Despite the majority of the 30 tracks being written while they were in India, this Beatles album might be the most diverse in its sound and quality. Starting off with “Back in the U. S. S. R.”, McCartney’s Beach Boys parody, and finishing off with a Lennon lullaby sung by Ringo, with pretty much every other genre the Beatles ever touched falling in between. Many of the tracks reference inside jokes, quotes or references other works, or serve as metaphors that the listener has to piece together, but in the end all that really matters is that the songs are written by some of the greatest musicians of all-time. “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, “Happiness Is a Warm Gun”, and “Blackbird” are my three standouts on the record - lower tempo and more restrained, these tracks encapsulate what the Beatles were at the time. They were at the very height of their individual songwriting prowess, but tensions between the band was at some of its worst and members each found themselves on completely different pages creatively.
The album isn’t perfect - I’ve really never cared for songs like “Helter Skelter” or “Revolution 9”, even if Charles Manson decided they were secret prophecies about a coming race war. They never really fit with my image of the Beatles and always felt too raw for such polished musicians, but I can respect trying new approaches. If there is one thing that is consistent throughout the whole Beatles discography, it is that they weren’t afraid to branch out and try new things. India has encouraged us to do the same, and I look forward to continuing to grow in different ways throughout the rest of our journey through Asia. Hopefully with a little more peace and quiet.