Recording "The Inner Light"

Friday, January 12, 1968 • For The Beatles

Album Songs recorded during this session officially appear on the Lady Madonna / The Inner Light (UK - 1968) 7" Single.
Studio:
EMI Recording Studio, Bombay, India

Songs recorded


1.

The Inner Light

Written by George Harrison

Recording • Take 1


2.

The Inner Light

Written by George Harrison

Recording • Take 2


3.

The Inner Light

Written by George Harrison

Recording • Take 3


4.

The Inner Light

Written by George Harrison

Recording • Take 4


5.

The Inner Light

Written by George Harrison

Recording • Take 5

Staff

Musicians

Hanuman Jadev:
Shehnai
Hariprasad Chaurasia:
Bansuri
Mahapurush Misra:
Pakhavaj
Rijram Desad:
Harmonium
Ashish Khan:
Sarod

Production staff

George Harrison:
Producer
JP Sen:
Engineer, Recording engineer
SN Gupta:
Engineer, Recording engineer

About

This was not the usual Beatles session, as only George Harrison attended, and the EMI studio used on this day was located in Bombay, India.

George was in India, to record the soundtrack for the film “Wonderwall“. During those sessions, he took time to record some extra stuff, included a track that would become a Beatles song and be named “The Inner Light“.

According to Mark Lewisohn, the precise credits for Indian players are not known, but it would have been a selection of the following musicians who played on the “Wonderwall” soundtrack:

  • Ashish Khan (sarod),
  • Mahapurush Misra (tabla and pakavaj),
  • Sharad Jadev and Hanuman Jadev (shanhais),
  • Shambu-Das, Indril Bhattacharya and Shankar Ghosh (sitar),
  • Chandra Shakher (sur-bahar),
  • Shiv Kumar Sharmar (santorr),
  • SR Kenkare and Hari Prasad Chaurasia (flute),
  • Vinayak Vohra (taar shehnai)
  • Rijram Desad (dholak, harmonium and tabla-tarang).

According to Peter Lavezzoli (author of “The Dawn of Indian Music in the West“, 2006) and Kenneth Womack (in “The Beatles Encyclopedia: Everything Fab Four“, 2014), the line-up was:

  • Ashish Khan (sarod)
  • Hanuman Jadev (shehnai)
  • Hariprasad Chaurasia (bansuri)
  • Mahapurush Misra (pakhavaj)
  • Rijram Desad (harmonium)

From Wikipedia:

Having used London-based Indian musicians from the Asian Music Circle on “Love You To” and “Within You Without You”, Harrison recorded “The Inner Light” in India with some of the country’s foremost contemporary classical players. In early January 1968, he travelled to HMV Studios in Bombay to record part of the score for Wonderwall, much of which would appear on his debut solo album, Wonderwall Music. The day after completing the soundtrack recordings, on 13 January, Harrison taped additional pieces for possible later use, one of which was the instrumental track for “The Inner Light”. Five takes of the song were recorded on a two-track recorder.

The musicians at the sessions were recruited by Shambhu Das, who had assisted in Harrison’s sitar tuition on his previous visit to Bombay, in 1966, and Vijay Dubey, the head of A&R for HMV Records in India. According to Lavezzoli and Beatles biographer Kenneth Womack, the line-up on the track was Aashish Khan (sarod), Mahapurush Misra (pakhavaj), Hanuman Jadev (shehnai), Hariprasad Chaurasia (bansuri) and Rijram Desad (harmonium). In Lavezzoli’s view, although these instruments are more commonly associated with the Hindustani discipline, the performers play them in a South Indian style, which adds to the Carnatic identity of the song. He highlights the manner in which the sarod, traditionally a lead instrument in North India, is played by Khan: staccato-style in the upper register, creating a sound more typical of acoustic guitar. Similarly, the pakhavaj is performed in the style of a South Indian tavil barrel drum, and the sound of the double-reed shehnai is closer to that of its Southern equivalent, the nagaswaram. The recording includes tabla tarang over the quiet, vocal interludes.

Author Simon Leng refutes the presence of the oboe-like shehnai, however, saying that this part was played on an esraj, a bow-played string instrument. Citing Khan’s recollection that he only worked with Harrison in London, Leng also says that the sarod was added to the track later. Rather than esraj, which Leng gives for “The Inner Light” and for Wonderwall tracks such as “Crying”, Harrison used the bow-played tar shehnai during the Bombay sessions, played by Vinayak Vora. As with the Wonderwall selections recorded at HMV, Harrison directed the musicians but did not perform on the instrumental track.

Work on “The Inner Light” would continue in London on February 6, 1968.

Last updated on August 5, 2021

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