GH: It may sound like a lofty thing to say on VH1, but basically, you know, what are we doing on this planet? I think through the Beatle experience that we’d had, we’d grown so many years within a short period of time. I’d experienced so many things and met so many people but I realized there was nothing actually that was giving me a buzz anymore. I wanted something better. I remember thinking, I’d love to meet somebody who will really impress me. I don’t mean because somebody like you know, Burt Lancaster because he was in a movie. I mean, I met Burt Lancaster and he impressed me on that level, but I meant somebody who could really impress me. And that’s when I met Ravi, which was funny, because he’s this little fellow with an obscure instrument from our point of view, and yet it lead me into such depths. And that’s the most important thing, it still is for me. You know, I get confused when I look around at the world, and I see everybody’s running around. And you know, as Bob Dylan said, “He not busy being born is busy dying,” and yet nobody’s trying to figure out what’s the cause of death and what happens when you die. I mean, that to me is the only thing really that’s of any importance, the rest is all secondary.
Q: Do you think pop musicians are afraid to deal with subjects that are so big, or it just doesn’t occur to them, or do people think, Oh, it’s not commercial enough, who wants to talk about life itself?
GH: I don’t know what anybody else thinks and you know, as the years have gone by, I seem to have found myself more and more out on a limb, as far as, you know, that kind of thing goes. I mean, even close friends of mine, you know, they maybe don’t want to talk about it because they don’t understand it. But I believed in the thing that I read years ago, which I think was in the Bible, it said, “Knock and the door will be opened.” And it’s true, if you want to know anything in this life, you just have to knock on the door, whether that be physically on somebody else’s door and ask them a question, or, which I was lucky to find, is the meditation, is, you know, it’s all within. Because if you think about it, there isn’t anything, I mean, in creation, the whole of creation, that is perfect, you know, there is nothing that goes wrong with nature, only what man does, then it goes wrong. But we are made of that thing, the very essence of our being, of every atom in our body is made from this perfect knowledge, this perfect consciousness. But superimposed on that, is through, if I can use the word, the tidalwave of bullshit that goes through the world. . .
Q: It’s cable, you can say that.
GH: Yeah, so there’s this . . . we’re being barraged by, you know, bullshit. But not only that, the way the world is structured or the way creation is structured, we have duality which says, “Yes no. Good bad. Lost gained. Birth death.” And it’s this circle that you get trapped in, it’s like the “Memphis Blues Again,” and that’s the hardest thing to understand, what is causing both of these things. What’s causing day and night, good and bad, it’s all the cause and this is the effect. So, I mean, we’re getting really transcendental here, but to say that our physical being is really on a very very subtle level, it’s just like the sap in a tree is the sap and it runs throughout all the parts of the tree. Now, it’s like that, our bodies are manifesting into physical bodies, but the cause, the sap, is pure consciousness, pure awareness, and that is perfect knowledge. But we have to tap into that to understand it, and that’s really why for me this record’s important, because it’s another little key to open up the within for each individual to be able to see it, and turn off your mind, relax and float downstream.
Q: Ravi, you said a very beautiful thing a couple years back in an interview. They asked you what it was like for you to become a big rock star, quote unquote, a big pop star as it were, and I recall you saying that it was easier for you because you were older at the time as opposed to someone like George who was in his early twenties when it happened. Do you think that that may be a reason why you found a search for something deeper in life? I think about you embracing Eastern philosophy, I think about Dylan becoming born again. Do you think it drove you to search for something deeper because you were worshipped by millions and why do you think that it drove you to search for something deeper as opposed to someone like Elvis who had a hard time handling it?
GH: Actually, Elvis, I think looked for something deeper too, because I know that he was, you know, at different times he was involved with different organizations. And I mean, it was sad about Elvis, I think compared to the Beatles, Elvis, I always saw the problem for him was that he was the only one who had that experience. Whereas like hippies, you know, so it takes more people to have that, to share the experience. I mean, the four of us all experienced the thing, and in a way, we gained strength and supported each other in the turmoil. But yeah, I think fame is a good thing in terms of giving you heightened experience or at least more experience. But then, it’s what you do with that, or what that uncovers. I think for me, you know, as I say, I realize I just want more. This isn’t it, this isn’t it, you know. Fame is not the goal, money, although money is nice to have, it can buy you a bit of freedom, you know, you can go to the Bahamas when you want, but it doesn’t, it’s not the answer, and the answer, you know, is how to get peace of mind, and how to be happy, that’s really what we’re supposed to be here for. And the difficult thing is that we all go through our lives and through our days and we don’t experience bliss, and it’s a very subtle thing to experience that and to be able to know how to do that is something you don’t just stumble across, you’ve got to search for it.
Q: Did you experience bliss onstage or in the studio? In a way, did performing put you in touch with that bliss?
GH: Well, we had happiness at times, but you know, not the kind of bliss I mean, where like, every atom of your body is just buzzing, you know. Because, again, it’s beyond the mind, it’s when there’s no thought involved. I mean, it’s a pretty tricky thing to try to get to that stage because it means controlling the mind and being able to transcend the relative states of consciousness: waking, sleeping, dreaming, which is all we really know. But there is another state that goes beyond all that and it’s in that state, that’s where, you know, the bliss and the knowledge that’s available is.
Q: When you think about all the talent you assembled and all the money you raised for the album, it was a very controversial thing in Bangla Desh, John Lennon used to get in trouble all the time for his activism, did anyone tell you, you know, look, it’s a little bit hot, don’t go there. Were you discouraged at all by people for pursuing it?
GH: No, not really. I think that was one of the things that I developed just by being in the Beatles was being bold. And I think John had a lot to do with that, you know, because John Lennon, you know, if he felt something strongly, he just did it. And you know, I picked up a lot of that by being a friend of John’s, just that attitude of “well, just go for it, just do it.” Like when Ravi said to me, he wanted me and Peter Sellers to come and introduce the show and he could make $25,000. Straightaway I thought of the John Lennon aspect of it which was, you know, film it and make a record of it and you know, let’s make a million dollars. And you know, I think that boldness was by having that fame by learning through the Beatles, you know, that you get a bit more clout if you’re well known.
Q: Let’s talk about the concert, because it’s just such a great, I mean, it was really, it’s credited as being the first all-star benefit concert, the precusor to Live-Aid and all the benefit concerts of the eighties. How did you go about getting the talent who showed up? Eric Clapton, Ringo, Bob, Billy Preston.
GH: I just got on the telephone in Los Angeles. There was a fellow, there was an Indian astrologer who I’d met in L.A., and so I said to him, “Hey, is there any good particular day to put this concert on?” And he said, August something, August the 1st or August the 2nd. And I thought New York was the best place to put it, just because all the media, and you know, it’s in between Europe and L.A. And I checked Madison Square Garden, I found it was vacant on that day, on August, was it the 1st or the 2nd?
Q: The 1st.
GH: And I just got on the telephone and I started calling people and there was certain people I could really, I knew I could rely on, who was Ringo and Keltner, who were the drummers.
GH: We got Badfinger just to be acoustic guitar players. I was hanging out a lot of the time with Leon Russell and Leon said he’d come and bring Don Preston, and Leon actually was very helpful in the song itself, “Bangla Desh.” I kind of wrote the song, but he suggested to me to put, to write that intro, you know, where it kind of sets up the story.
Q: “My friend came to me. . .”
GH: Yeah, so, and then Leon of course played on the single, we quickly made the single to try and get it out on the radio before the show.
Q: How quick was it?
GH: We did it in one night, I think.
Q: Wrote it, recorded it?
GH: I wrote it, you know, one day, and a couple of days later assembled the people who played on it. And I was calling Eric all the time, Eric was in a bad way at that time, had a slight drinking problem or something, but he managed to make it eventually. But that’s why we ended up with Jesse Ed Davis, because he was around and so we started showing him the songs we were going to do in case Eric never made it. And then Eric came, and we decided to have them both on, because you couldn’t chase Jesse away.
Q: Those three guitarists on one show, it was terrific.
GH: Yeah, Don Preston as well, actually. He was Leon’s guitar player. And then Bob. . .
Q: Now tell me, how did you get Bob? How did you get Bob out of seclusion up in New York state to come up and do the show?
GH: I just asked him really, and I don’t know, my relationship with Bob is, I don’t know, I’ve always just tried to be straight with him, because he’s also been surrounded by a tidal wave of bullshit. And so, I just always tried to be straight with him and you know, he responded. The night before the show though, was a bit tricky, because we went down to Madison Square where they were setting it up and we stood on the stage and it suddenly was a whole frightening scenario. And Bob turned to me and he said, “Hey man, I don’t think I can make this. I’ve got a lot of things to do in New Jersey,” or something like that. And by that time I was so stressed out, because I’d just been on the telephone for like, I think it was three weeks, about three weeks of setting the entire thing up. I’d been on the phone about twelve hours a day. And at that point I said, “Look, don’t tell me about that. At least you’ve been on stage on your own, that’s all you’ve ever done. I’ve always been in a band, I’ve never stood out front and done that . . .”
Q: You had never done a tour before.
GH: “. . . so I don’t want to know about that.” And right up until he came on the stage, I didn’t know if he was going to come.
Q: When the show began, you didn’t know?
GH: Yeah, and I had on a list on my guitar and I had a bit where it said “Bob?” and if you look in the film, I turn around to see if he’s around and he’s so nervous that he’s just coming on, even before I announced him.
Q: He hadn’t been onstage in a long time.
GH: So, he delivered. And that really, I think, you know, it really made the show by having, you know, Ravi and myself is one thing, but Bob just gave it that extra bit of clout.