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With the Beatles – Book

With the Beatles – Book

Halfway between the summer of love and the Tet offensive, the Beatles went to India to study with the Maharishi—and Lewis Lapham, esteemed Harper’s editor and award-winning writer, was there. WITH THE BEATLES is a remarkable book of cultural commentary on that seminal ’60s moment.

The ashram in Rishikesh, India was the ultimate ’60s scene: the Beatles, Donovan, Mia Farrow, a stray Beach Boy and other ’60s icons gathered along the shores of the Ganges—amidst paisley and incense and flowers and guitars—to meditate at the feet of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The February 1968 gathering received such frenzied, world-wide attention that it is still considered a significant, early encounter between Western pop culture and the mystical East. And Lewis Lapham was the only journalist allowed inside.

And what went on inside the compound has long been the subject of wild speculation and rampant rumor. The Beatles said they wrote some of their greatest songs there . . . and yet they also came away bitterly disillusioned. In WITH THE BEATLES, Lewis Lapham finally tells the whole story.


John Grey says:

between love and war Lapham’s account of his time in India is a great read–and funny too. What seems most important about the book is that it contextualizes the ’60s zeitgeist for all things Eastern within the period’s real political significance. 1967 brought the summer of love, and it was in ’68 that the Beatles went to India to search for transcendence within their own minds. Lapham shows that many of those who went to India were confused about the search, a confusion shared by the fab-four. The war in Vietnam is somehow always in the background here, and Lapham sensitively investigates the meaning of Transcendental Meditation–TM–in both the political and cultural contexts. The title of the book is quite playful, since Lapham was “With The Beatles” while never really getting one-on-one interviews with them. He does, however, speak with them often, and what he observes in India turns out to be both an intimate portrait of the band and the larger cultural moment.

Neal Hemphill "jackfreedom" says:

Lapham’s Slight Coat-tail Report I just finished the book…and I am extremely disappointed and somewhat angry with it.The Maharishi and his followers come off as rather silly, which is perhaps very accurate. But the main portrayal of them is as sycophants – the Maharishi’s followers and their vapid adoration for him, and the Maharishi’s courting and over-praising of celebrities. There is an implication that celebrity-followers of the Maharishi meant a lot of money would come his way.But I must question whether or not Lapham is engaged in exactly the same thing. All of the Beatles come off quite well, but hardly anyone else does. There is very little contact between Lapham and the Beatles, and virtually nothing of substance in the book about the Beatles and the meaning and consequences of their involvement with the Maharishi. There is very little about the Beatles themselves, but there is a lot of revealing table-setting.However, the book is called “With the Beatles”, and it features a rather extraordinary cover with each of the Beatles and the Maharishi in lotus position floating over flowers. And it is never clear in the book how Lapham sees or feels about the Beatles and their involvement with the Maharishi.But the presentation and subject of the book clearly link Lapham to the Beatles and the Maharishi. It sheds very little light, and it is for sale. Is Lapham selling out his connection in the same way most of the characters in the story are doing?It certainly seems that way to me. VERY DISAPPOINTING. I almost purchased the book, but got it from the library instead. I’m very glad I didn’t spend money on it.

C. Cleveland says:

more illuminating than books 10 times its length This book does a number of things with grace. To my taste, the most important thing it does is to capture the moral and cultural confusion, doomed innocence, and lively idealism of the cusp of the 1960’s. Lapham’s prose is lapidary: clear, precise, vivid, dryly witty. And his mind has the same qualities as his prose. He does not make snap judgments, or wild accusations. His fairness is a moral quality, and so he never calls the Maharishi Yogi a charlatan, because he was not. Lapham was present in Rishikesh at the moment when the forces of good, as exemplified in Eastern spiritual consciousness, attempted to convert the world to peace and sanity via a Western cultural and musical phenomenon called the Beatles. Lapham observes closely and judges charitably, and freely admits that he plumbed no mysteries. But the scrupulous care with which he reports the scene at Rishikesh and the personalities he became slightly acquainted with sheds more light on what happened there than three hundred hours of taped interviews would have. In a brief afterward, he says “The scene retains its force because I now know that it occurs at almost the precise moment, late in February 1968, at which the flood tide of generous thought and optimistic feeling that formed the promise of the 1960’s turns on the ebb–toward the assassination on Martin Luther King in April, followed by the assassination of Bobby Kennedy in June, in July by the riots engulfing the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.”It’s a small book, beautifully designed, with very good photographs which capture the sadness of Cynthia Lennon, the increasingly absent presence of her husband, the gayety of the Maharishi, the good cheer of Paul McCartney, the sanity of Ringo Starr, and the dignity and humor of George Harrison. Every important personality reported on in the book retains his or her separateness and complexity and individuality. Lapham is a grown up reporting on grown ups, even when they behave like exotic species of animals, as a few of them do.This book is highly recommended for students of the 1960’s, or of the Beatles, or of life in general.

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