George Harrison Snapped at a Journalist Looking for an Autograph: ‘He Was Glowering At Me’
In 1976, George Harrison was in India, and a local journalist set out to interview him — and score an autograph for a friend. After much searching, the journalist, C.Y. Gopinath, managed to track Harrison down. He had no interest in giving an interview, though. When Gopinath asked for his autograph, Harrison responded sourly.
The Beatles visited India in 1968
After many exhausting years of touring and recording music, The Beatles took a trip to India to study Transcendental Meditation.
“The weeks the Beatles spent at the ashram were a uniquely calm and creative oasis for them: meditation, vegetarian food and the gentle beauty of the foothills of the Himalayas,” photographer Paul Saltzman wrote, per Rolling Stone. “There were no fans, no press, no rushing around with busy schedules, and in this freedom, in this single capsule of time, they created more great music than in any similar period in their illustrious careers.”
Of the band members, Harrison and John Lennon were most committed to meditation.
“John and George were [finally] in their element [at the ashram],” Lennon’s wife Cynthia said. “They threw themselves totally into the Maharishi’s teachings, were happy, relaxed and above all found a piece of mind that had been denied them for so long.”
George Harrison grew frustrated with a journalist who tried getting an autograph
Several years later, in 1976, Harrison returned to India, and Gopinath’s editor instructed him to find the musician. With the help of his friend Cynthia, a phone operator, Gopinath called every musician he knew in Calcutta, to no avail. After taking a break for lunch, a colleague told Gopinath that Uday Shankar, Ravi Shankar’s brother, had a foreign visitor. Gopinath assumed, correctly, that the guest was Harrison.
He decided to stop by Shankar’s home, and Cynthia asked if he would ask Harrison for his autograph as a reward for her help. When Gopinath arrived and claimed to have an appointment with Shankar, Harrison immediately left the home. “Clearly,” Gopinath wrote for Reader’s Digest, “being discovered by the press was his favorite nightmare.”
Gopinath quickly turned around and followed Harrison out the door, and they waited for the elevator together. As they waited, Gopinath noted that “he was glowering at me. His lips were tight; he looked very ticked off.”
“I looked at him. He scowled at the trellis door,” Gopinath wrote. “He was dressed in pajamas and a kurta; his hair flowed long behind him. I was absolutely certain of one thing: There was going to be no scoop interview.”
Remembering Cynthia, Gopinath asked Harrison for his autograph.
“‘I thought you were from the Press, man!’ he snapped, and turned away,” Gopinath explained. “And those were the only words George Harrison ever spoke to me. The lift arrived, I departed, and the legend went back into the house.”
Luckily, Cynthia got a happy ending, even if it wasn’t an entirely truthful one.
“As for Cynthia, she got her George Harrison autograph,” Gopinath wrote. “To this day, she believes that George signed it.”
George Harrison did not like it when people demanded his autograph
Harrison complained about people asking for his autograph long before this moment. It was one of his biggest problems with the parents of American fans. He recalled one man approaching him outside of a restaurant.
“This is the way he did it: ‘I have two teenage children who listen to your records. God only knows why. I wouldn’t. But they are going all day long in my house. So sign this,'” he wrote, per the book George Harrison on George Harrison.
He had a similar experience on an airplane.
“It was the same in the plane coming down here,” he said. “The first-class passengers asked for so many autographs you might have thought they were going into the business of selling them. One man wanted 13 of each. They talk about teenagers, but some of the so-called adults could take a few lessons from their kids in the case of manners.”