George Harrison is undoubtedly the coolest Beatle, and we won’t hear anything to the contrary. Yes, John Lennon had the glasses and Paul McCartney the twinkle in his eye, while Ringo Starr was the most affable man on the planet, but there was something intriguing and aloof about George that made him the coolest. But he was also one of the most dryly funny. Growing up in Liverpool had blessed all the members with a caustic, coarse and cracking wit, but Harrison only reserved it for the most enjoyable moments.
One such moment came from the below letter from 1968 when Harrison and The Beatles were at the peak of their powers and on top of the world. Literally. After a fan writes to Harrison asking for money to buy a sitar, Harrison responds with a drawing and a smirking retort. It’s the kind of action that showed off that the Beatles were just four blokes who happened to know their way around a tune underneath it all.
The letter arrived as The Beatles had just released a series of world-renowned records and were in unprecedented demand. Such high demand, in fact, that the group retreated to the Himalayas, namely Rishikesh in northern India, as part of a Transcendental Meditation course with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. During these blissful moments, Harrison received a letter from a fan with a cheeky request, and it received a similar reply.
Curious as it may be to receive fan mail even when seemingly entirely cut-off from the outside world, there may have been a reason for the letter to fall on Harrison’s lap. At the other end of the exchange, the fan was writing for a specific reason; he had by encouraged by The Beatles guitarist to pick up the sitar, an instrument Harrison had begun to admire a few years prior. This association likely drew Harrison’s attention; after all, he had been receiving similar remarks ever since he first played the instrument on The Beatles songs.
The fan, like many others, had been inspired to try out the traditional instrument, but he had one problem, though — money and a serious lack of it. Sitars are expensive things, after all. Despite the cheeky request for $100 to purchase an instrument, Harrison instead saw the funny side of the request and replied in kind with his tongue firmly in his cheek.
Harrison sent back a handwritten letter complete with a one-off ‘original Harrison’ illustration of “Mary.”
In the letter, Harrison explains the drawing, “This is a friend of mine, and I thought you may like to have a look at her. She is called Mary and only comes out during early spring, after the monsoon period. I have just lent her my last $100, so, unfortunately, you are out of luck.” It’s a remarkable piece of memorabilia and likely cherished to this day, if not pawned off to the highest bidder.
It’s a reminder of the people behind the image of The Beatles. Of course, now, we can look back at a fuller picture of events and get a more accurate depiction of what life in The Beatles was truly like. But in 1968, these small glimpses of personality outside of the records and the films and the publicity must’ve been what cemented the band to the hearts and minds of their fans.
This was obviously decades before the advent of social media which meant if a fan wanted to get in contact with their favourite musician they would have to do it the old fashioned way and send a letter.
The chances of them reading it were slim, replying even slimmer, so for one lucky fan, this must have been a dream come true.
Read the transcript of George Harrison’s full letter to the young fan below and then check out an image of the real thing:
This is a friend of mine, and I thought you may like to have a look at her. She is called Mary and only comes out during early spring, after the monsoon period. I have just lent her my last $100, so unfortunately you are out of luck, so you will have to be satisfied with my best wishes.
Keep practising, and the best of luck to your group and yourself.