Friday, September 22, 2006

George Harrison's California Trip

by Neil Aspinall

TUESDAY AUGUST 1 - Today we flew from London to Los Angeles by polarflight jet. We were George and Pattie, our electronic genius-type mate called Magic Alex and yours truly. The Harrisons travelled as "Mr. and Mrs. Weiss" -- which happened to be the name of the man who was going to meet us and look after us in California. I mean Nat Weiss, who manages The Cyrkle and directs the corporation known as Nemperor Artists in New York. First problem on arrival was the lack of one vital Aspinall suitcase, left 6,000 miles behind us in London. You gain time when you fly from Britain to America. We'd set off at lunchtime but it was only early afternoon in Los Angeles when we drove from the airport to the private house we had rented for the week.

It was a smallish, very beautiful, compact place with a little, round swimming pool up in the hills of Hollywood in a street called Blue Jay Way. Don't they have picturesque names? The house belonged to a lawyer who was vacationing in Hawaii. The long flight had left everybody a bit tired but Pattie stayed up long enough to call her sister, Jenny, who was staying in San Francisco just up the West Coast a bit, and she said she'd fly down to join us. And George phoned our good friend Derek Taylor who started writing down the complicated instructions for getting from his place to ours.

The Telephone conversation with Derek provided George with the inspiration to write a song called "Blue Jay Way", he sat there working it out on a mini-organ while he waited for Derek. You'll be hearing "Blue Jay Way" in the "Magical Mystery Tour" TV show if not before.

Wednesday August 2 - Slept late, then I did a bit of shopping, then we all went over to Ravi Shankar's Music School. Sat and watched Ravi teaching this huge class of about 50 people--very mixed crowd with people between the ages of about 16 and 30, all keen students of Indian music. Ravi's tabla drummer Alla Rahka gave a lesson which we watched for a bit before going out with Ravi to have a meal on Sunset Strip.

Thursday August 3 - Early in the morning--well, about eleven you know--George went over to the School with Alex and myself while Pattie and Jenny went sightseeing. Tomorrow night Ravi has his concert at the Hollywood Bowl so this morning he gave a press conference. All the local radio and press people knew George was about and, of course, they swooped on him with all sorts of questions ("What do you think of LSD?"..."Where are you staying, George?") during the conference. In the afternoon George and I went to a shop called Sidereal Time. There and elsewhere we picked up a load of shirts and things plus some moccasin-type boots and groovy posters. In the evening we heard Ravi give a lecture on the history of Indian music and then went over to a Mamas and Papas recording session with Derek Taylor.

One of the session men there had this fantastic new guitar--a first prototype and something quite special. I daren't tell you what's so special about it because I've just arranged to have a couple of them made (one will be a bass guitar version) for the Beatles and it's all supposed to be very secret! Anyway it was now the middle of the night but George couldn't resist having a go on this sshh-you-don't know-what guitar.

Friday August 4 - Tonight at nine o'clock Ravi's 4-hour concert began at the Bowl. With him were a lot of his finest students, a marvellous night of music. First we watched Bismillah Khan and party with Bismillah playing an Indian flute called a shehnai. Whatever he played the rest of the party--students--would try to follow until his music got so advanced that they had to leave it to him! Then came a South Indian drummer playing an instrument known as a mridangam, a sort of old classical drum, which you bang at both ends. Then came Ali Akbar Khan and his son Ashish playing modern little drums they call sarods, each almost "talking" to the other via his drum. Finally, before Ravi himself, came the tabla player and teacher Alla Rahka, Ravi's own drummer, who stayed on stage to accompany Ravi's sitar for the final hour of the programme. I hope I've got all my spellings O.K.--I checked them all over with George when I was writing up this diary, but don't blame him if there are any mistakes because my own handwriting isn't that easy to read back!

Saturday August 5 - This morning we all went along to some recording studios opposite Ravi's school to watch Alla Rahka and a South Indian drummer recording a duet to fill one whole side of an LP disc. A South Indian singer--using his voice just like an instrument--is doing the whole of the second side of the LP. Which reminds me that George has been very pleased to accept an invitaiton to write the sleeve notes for another Indian LP which is being recorded here this week. By Ali Akbar Khans' son Ashish. Later in the day we saw Derek, his wife and his great bunch of kids. Went with them all to the downtown area of Los Angeles to visit Alvera Street, a very historic place. It's been preserved as a tourist attraction--complete with some of California's very earliest brick-built houses. Bands were playing and there were lots of little stalls selling souvenirs made in Hong Kong! We had a Mexican meal in one of the funny little restaurants in Alvera Street and bought a batch of wonderful Mexican pictures, paintings done on velvet. Mine shows a mournful old clown with a battered old hat holding a big flower and pulling the petals off one by one! They were very cheap--just a few dollars each--and yet very large. We also bought a matador one with a big green bull on it. George left Alex and myself buying colourful waistcoasts while he trotted over to Ravi's place to collect a sitar he was buying.

Sunday August 7 - George went off early on his own to see Ashish and talk about the LP sleeve notes and everything. So later on when the rest of us set off for Disneyland, George stayed behind. We didn't stay at Disneyland all that long but it's a fantastic place. We visited "Tomorrowland", "Fantasyland" and a bit of "Frontierland". I got into this telephone booth where you can phone up all the famous Disney cartoon characters. I phoned Pluto but a voice said "Sorry he's busy. This is Goofy,"!! In the evening we all went over to Ravi's house.

Monday August 8 - Today we went up to San Francisco and walked around Haight-Ashbury. Derek came with us. It got a bit bad after a time. There was this ridiculous procession of people following George as if he was the New Pied Piper. But he didn't lead them to the river. Anyway it was a good day, a good scene to see with things we were glad about and things we were sorry about (such as those beggars sitting in the street conning money out of tourists) and it was the first time we'd really looked at San Francisco as a place although we'd been before for Beatles concerts.

Tuesday August 9 - Packing and getting ready for tonight's flight home. Four little fans called at the house but they were O.K. and there wasn't any trouble and George enjoyed seeing them. Oh yes, I forgot to tell you--my case DID arrive from London so I HAVEN'T been wandering round for the last 8 days in the same sticky clothing!!!!

Visit California Today: Book flight + hotel together and save!

No comments: