Lost Psychedelic Tune Featuring Two Beatles Members Uncovered

Stephen Andrews
17 Nov 2021

More than a half-century later, the golden age of psychedelics continues to surprise us with precious relics. In 1968, George Harrison and Ringo Starr used session breaks from recording Hey Jude, to play the guitar and drums for a song called Radhe Shaam. Unheard until now, the lost recording was dug out from a loft in a house in Birmingham.

Radhe Shaam was penned and produced by broadcaster and journalist Suresh Joshi in 1968 for the documentary film title East Meets West. The recording reportedly happened at Trident Studios in London, where the two musicians were working on Hey Jude with the rest of the band, and they accepted playing their instruments for Joshi.

The song was first played at BBC Merseyside and features Hindi-language vocals by Aashish Khan. Harrison delivers a brilliant guitar riff solo, and Star adds his addictive drum rolls and fills. 

The lost record was rediscovered at Joshi's home at the start of the pandemic. "It was lost and found many times ... suddenly the lockdown was a blessing in disguise," he told BBC Merseyside. 

Joshi said he met Harrison at the studio and the two of them "started talking about philosophy in general."

Harrison's interest in Indian culture was spurred after a trip to the country earlier in 1968. All four Beatles would study transcendental meditation during their stay in Rishikesh, a city in the foothills of the Himalayas in the north of India, where the band journeyed. A year later, the band would split. 

While we cannot know if Harrison and Ringo were under the influence of any substance during the recording of Radhe Shaam, one can be confident the bandmates experimented and tried various drugs.

In the early days of their career, the Beatles' drug of choice allegedly was amphetamine, which helped them stay energetic during live gigs. It's considered they tried cannabis in Hamburg in 1960 but unsurprising for first-timers, they didn't feel much of the effect. "This stuff isn't doing anything," said the bandmates, according to accounts from George Harrison. 

It is well-known that the Beatles' relationship with pot changed after they met with Bob Dylan in 1964. The Liverpool four were introduced to the American singer and songwriter thanks to a mutual friend. The meeting happened on August 28, 1964, in New York's Delmonico Hotel. They ordered some drinks, and Dylan proposed they also light up grass. 

The boys were with their manager, Brian Epstein, and they admitted they've never tried marijuana before, to which Dylan replied: "What about your song? The one about getting high?"

This surprised the Beatles, but this is where we learn Dylan got the lyrics of the band's first American number-one hit all wrong. They sing in I Want to Hold Your Hand, "I can't hide, I can't hide..." but Dylan had misheard it as "...when I touch you, I get high, I get high..." A nice way to start a smoking session, anyway!

Before the Beatles and Dylan proceeded with smoking marijuana that evening, they secured the hotel room by putting towels under the door and drawing tight the drapes. Dylan rolled the first joint and passed to Ringo Star; the rule of the day was that drummers go first. 

Ringo was unaware of the sharing etiquette and smoked the whole thing by himself. Dylan laughed and was supposedly quick to roll a few more. The Liverpool men apparently enjoyed themselves, and after that evening with Dylan, every time they would want to get high, they would say: "Let's have a laugh."

Whether they had a laugh around the time Ringo and Harrison joined forces for Radhe Shaam remains a mystery.

What's known for sure is, that same year, in 1968, John Lennon and his spouse Yoko Ono were caught by police for possession of marijuana. Lennon pled guilty to absolve Yoko, who was pregnant at the time.

In 1970, John Lennon claimed that the four of them smoked marijuana in the bathroom at Buckingham Palace when they visited to receive distinctions as Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. However, George Harrison wrote in his Anthology years later that the smoke had been nothing stronger than a normal cigarette. 

"What happened was we were waiting to go through, standing in an enormous line with hundreds of people, and we were so nervous that we went to the toilet,’ he said. ‘And in there we smoked a cigarette – we were all smokers in those days. Years later, I’m sure John was thinking back and remembering, “Oh yes, we went in the toilet and smoked,” and it turned into a reefer. Because what could be the worst thing you could do before you meet the Queen? Smoke a reefer! But we never did," Harrison revealed.

The Beatles however, repeatedly created cannabis-centered lyrics in the years after their pot-influential encounter with Bob Dylan. "I get high with a little help from my friends" is an obvious giveaway in the tune With a Little Help from My Friends. Joe Cocker's take on this song eventually became an anthem for the Woodstock era. The Beatles version of the tune topped the charts in the UK, Belgium, and Switzerland when initially released in 1967.  

Another example is Got to Get You Into My Life; an "ode to pot" in the words of Paul McCartney, just "like someone else might write an ode to chocolate or a good claret."

If you dig in more Beatles history, certainly, many more stories about their use of grass will quickly pop up. The magical plant influenced their lifestyle and the music they created. 

Back to Radhe Shaam, the song is planned to be released as a charity. And oh boy, it feels good to have something back from those days.

Stephen Andrews