First use of sitar on a Beatles track?
The first time George Harrison saw a sitar was on the set of Help in April 1965. A group of Indian musicians had been recruited to add an authentic Indian ambience to the restaurant scene. They played a a Beatles medley ('Another Hard Day’s Night') using sitar, flute, tabla, ghunghroo and tanpura.
These session musicians performing Beatles songs in an Indian style were also being employed for comic effect but to his surprise, Harrison found himself entranced by the sound. ‘George was fascinated by the instruments they used,’ John Lennon later reported. He wanted to hear more and over the next few months Harrison began researching traditional Indian music.
The Beatles guitarist discussed his new interest with David Crosby, who toured the UK with The Byrds in August 1965. Crosby told him about Ravi Shankar, then virtually unknown outside India. Crosby also lent Harrison a Shankar LP that he ‘carried in his suitcase’.
It was love at first listen for Harrison, who immediately ordered his own sitar and began experimenting with it, approaching the challenge of learning a completely different musical tradition with the same determination that characterised his mastering of the guitar.
At the time, Harrison's passion for all things Indian was assumed to be a passing one. In fact, it would stay with him for the rest of his life. Musically he began to work towards creating music that could genuinely claim to be in the Indian classical tradition.