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The Definitive List of Great Orchestral Sample Libraries for Producers [Strings / Brass / Choir / Percussion / Cinematic & Trailer SFX]
One of the most common questions on Reddit, when it comes to Orchestral Music Production, is:
What are the best orchestral libraries for Strings / Brass / Perucssion / Woodwinds / Cinematic & Trailer SFX?Another is:
What are the best orchestral libraries to get if you're tight on money, but still want something that sounds great?I also get these questions on a daily basis on my YouTube channel, where I teach people how to compose orchestral music by ear, so I finally decided to answer them once and for all by creating a resource that people can check when they have such questions:
I took a couple days to make a huge video where I talk at length about my favorite orchestral libraries as a professional composer, showing examples of how I used them in context of full songs, listing their pros & cons and sharing information about their prices.
The text list is split into sections for each main instruments, and comes in two parts.
I wrote timestamps and prices, so you can skip to whatever library you might be interested in and see their cost straight away.
- Part 1 - This part contains all my personal favorite sample libraries, which are the ones I talk about in the video. The details about them are in the video.
- Part 2 - This part contains all the other amazing, universally acclaimed libraries I heard a great deal about, but which aren't among my favorites (or which I simply don't own). These aren't in the video, so I wrote info about their pros, cons, and prices inside the list.
Lastly, if you want to know more about a specific library, I recommend you to go on its website and listen to the demos.
Now, let's get into the list!
PART 1 - MY ALL-TIME FAVORITES
BUDGET LIBRARIES & RECOMMENDATIONS FOR BEGINNERS:
- 02:09 - EastWest Composer Cloud ($30+)
- 03:22 - Native Instruments THE GIANT ($99)
- 05:34 - OrchestralTools Metropolis Ark 1 (€549)
- 08:24 - Audio Imperia Jaeger ($599)
- 13:46 - OrchestralTools Berlin Orchestra Inspire (€399)
- 15:56 - Cinematic Strings 2 ($299)
- 17:48 - CineSamples Tina Guo Acoustic Cello Legato ($99)
- 20:14 - CineSamples CineStrings Solo ($399)
- 22:04 - OrchestralTools Metropolis Ark 1 [Brass Demonstration](€549)
- 22:29 - 8Dio Century Brass Ensemble ($398)
- 25:54 - Performance Samples Oceania ($269)
- 27:01 - Strezov Sampling StormChoir II: Core ($329)
- 28:40 - Impact Soundworks Vocalisa ($129)
- 30:14 - CineWinds CORE ($349)
- 32:14 - Heavyocity DAMAGE ($299)
- 36:34 - Rhapsody Orchestral Percussion ($199)
- 38:10 - 8Dio The New Epic Toms & The New Epic Dhol Ensembles ($99 / $99)
- 40:01 - Impact Soundworks Juggernaut ($139)
- 42:35 - BOOM Library Cinematic Trailers Designed (€99)
- 43:27 - AVA Instinct ($59)
- 44:24 - Audio Imperia Scenes From The Multiverse Vol.01 ($59)
- 46:15 - 8Dio Hybrid Tools Vol.02 ($249)
- 47:20 - Audio Imperia Shredders Vol.01 ($65)
OTHER ALL-IN-ONE BUNDLES:
- Spitfire Albion ONE (€449).
GREAT Sound, All-In-One Orchestral Library with Strings, Brass, Woodwinds, Percussion & Synths. Not as loud as Metropolis Ark 1, but more dynamic.
- EastWest Hollywood Orchestra (Usually on sale at $499)
Has Strings, Brass / Woodwinds / Percussion and contains an incredible variety of articulations for each. A bit of an old library, sounds less mind-blowing out of the box compared to its competition.
- 8Dio Majestica ($599):
A larger than life Orchestral Library. Same concept as Metropolis Ark 1, but differently from it, it doesn't contain any choir. I personally prefer the sound of Metropolis Ark 1 big time.
- Metropolis Ark 2 (€599):
The opposite of Ark 1: dynamic and deep sounding orchestra. Not very loud, but it works for calm and intimate moods. Less unique than Ark 1 and 3 in my opinion.
- Metropolis Ark 3 (€399):
Orchestral Clusters / Percussion & Rhythmic Clusters on steroids. Incredible quality, very useful if you write music for film, can't think of another use for it however as I have the impression it's mostly cluster notes which you wouldn't hear outside of soundtrack for films.
- Cinematic Studio Strings ($399):
The "sequel" to Cinematic Strings 2.
- Cinematic Studio Strings Solo ($299):
Like Cinematic Studio Strings, but with soloist Strings instead.
- OrchestralTools Berlin Strings (€840):
Heard a great deal about this one, and the rest of the Berlin Series, they're expensive but are among the best Orchestral Libraries at the moment.
- Audiobro LASS 2.5 ($499 / $1399 - Sometimes in sale for less):
Great "dry" and clean sound. Extensively programmed.
- Native Instruments Symphony Series Strings ($449)
- CineSamples CineBrass CORE & PRO ($399 / $399):
Quite old but still pretty great. The "Twelve Horns Patch" in CineBrass PRO is an all-time favorite between composers.
- OrchestralTools Berlin Brass (€799):
Supposedly one of the best Brass Libaries ever made, but quite expensive at that, too.
- Native Instruments Symphony Series Brass ($449)
- 8Dio Lacrimosa ($599):
An "Epic Choir" library from 8Dio. Fairly new, but from all I heard, I prefer the sound of Metropolis Ark 1's Choir, which, considering is just a little part of the entire library, is also way less expensive than Lacrimosa.
- 8Dio Insolidus ($599):
Lyrical / Gregorian Chant type of choir, most dynamic and fluent choir I ever heard, but very soft too. It works well as a quiet choir, but I'm not sure if it can get loud and epic like Metropolis Ark 1 or Lacrimosa.
- Strezov Sampling ARVA / FREYJA / WOTAN / RHODOPE ($329 - $429):
Very particular kind of choirs, ranging from Children, Ethereal Women Choir, "LOTR" Men Choir or Ethnic Bulgarian Choir.
- OrchestralTools Berlin Woodwinds (€649):
Supposedly one of the best Woodwinds Libaries ever made, but quite expensive at that, too.
- 8Dio Claire Virtuoso Bundle ($688)
- Native Instruments Symphony Series Woodwinds ($449)
- OrchestralTools Berlin Percussion (€499)
- StrikeForce Cinematic Percussion ($389):
A ground-breaking Hybrid Percussion library, the one true heir of Heavyocity DAMAGE, it seems. Endorsed by the man himself, JunkieXL. Definitely getting this one someday.
- Native Instruments Action Strikes ($299)
A percussion library of various percussive kits, each geared with tweakable cinematic loops, but can be used without loops too.
- Native Instruments Symphony Series Percussion ($449)
- Spitfire Hans Zimmer Percussion (€399):
No need to tell why this library is acclaimed worldwide!
- SonicCouture The Hammersmith (€199)
- Spectrasonics Omnisphere 2 (€449):
Impressive standalone library full of all sorts of instruments, pads, synths, fx, percussion, you name it.
- Heavyocity GRAVITY ($449):
This one is all about cinematic motion pads & atmospheres, but it also has risers, stringers and hits. In my opnion, not as fundamental as the libraries I mentioned in my video for Trailer Music.
- Native Instruments Rise & Hit (€149):
Amazing library for building your own trailer / cinematic hits, woshes and risers.
That's all, folks!
I want to keep this list updated, so if you have recommendations on great libs to add, feel free to contribute in the comments, we'd all be grateful for it!
And a massive thank you to all the developers who make it possible for us to write awesome music with their products. You guys rock.
- Alex (http://youtube.com/c/AlexMoukala)
edit: added Omnisphere, Spitfire Hans Zimmer Percussion, Metropolis Ark 2, SonicCouture The Hammersmith and the Symphony Series libraries.
Dead People With Something To Say 0.9: John Lennon
Who Are TheyThis instalment of Dead People With Something to Say is partially poignant due to its timeliness.
Today’s subject would have been 80 years old this very month and much of today’s post will be detailing the many reasons this man could not be with us here today.
You cannot not know him, of course ladies and gentleman I’m talking about possibly one of the dead people with the most to say, none other than Mr John “Winston Boogie” Lennon.
What did they sayJohn Winston Lennon was born on the 9th of October 1940 art Liverpool Maternity Hospital in the United Kingdom to a working class family. He spent the first five years of his life living with his maternal parents but in 1945, after his farther had dishonourably abandoned his military service, he began to live with his Aunty Mimi.
His time with Mimi would be the happiest of his childhood and whilst he got along with the local children he became to be known and the local trouble maker, the boy the other children’s parents warned them not to play with.
This didn’t stop John becoming popular with the people with his high-school drawings making it into the daily school paper “The Daily Howl”. Despite these glimmers of happiness at Aunt Mimi’s a tragic moment would go on to form the thematic basis for Lennon’s entire career.
On the 15th of July 1958 Julia Lennon, John’s mother, was struck by an oncoming off duty police car and passed away instantly.
John’s instant response to this tragic event was to sink into a denial fuelled raged that caused him to hit the bottle. He’d go on to be thrown out of the academic institutions in his life and was “cited” by his peers at the time as “being content to drift. By this time John’s group The Quarrymen were making waves in the local skiffle scene.
Skiffle can be defined as the wave of music in-between early 20th century American Blues and Folk music craze and Rock and Roll.
The first wave occurred in mid 1920’s and the craze spread through the Western World petering out by the late 50’s. What was unique about skiffle bands is that they performed using an array of rather… basic instruments shall we say.
Washboards, milk jugs, tea-chests, cigar boxes, bath tubs and combs were all used by skiffle groups across the ages to fill out the sound any way they could.
This improvisational attitude also manages to spread into the music and some of the early skiffle music is some of the most spirited this author has had ever pleasure of listening to.
It was at one of these early Quarrymen performances that John was introduced by one of his friends to a gentleman called Paul McCartney.
The two had been aware of one another prior to meeting and struck a chord right away with Lennon asking McCartney to join the Quarrymen and despite their guardians respective disapproval of the other the two got along famously and began to write original songs independently at first and then over time brought the other in to help accordingly.
This quickly led to a collaborative relationship that would go on span the next two decades. Paul would in turn invite the slightly younger George Harrison to the mix as the lead guitarist which allowed Paul and John to focus on songwriting and showmanship.
They went through a flurry of names after The Quarrymen but by 1960 they finally settled on The Beatles.
Their relative location fame had enabled them to book a 48 date tour in Hamburg but they were missing an essential part of the band, a drummer.
This led to them bringing in local drummer Pete Best as a last minute fill in.
Their stint in Hamburg acted as the first foray into adulthood whisking the boys away from small town Liverpool and emerging them in a world of nightlife, narcotics and lust.
That is to say they played all day and all night, took amphetamines to stay awake and slept with all the young ladies of the night they could. Due to George’s young age and their promiscuous behaviour the boys were sent home early by deportation all but John.
During this period John played with local German groups and returned home on his own without altering the others to his immediate arrival.
This was due to John’s emotions at the time.
His time in Hamburg had opened his eyes to the reality of the entertainment industry and its pitfalls and tendencies to promote sinful behaviour. He debated whether or not this life was for him.
As we all know John continued on with his efforts in the musical field but this brief moment of self awareness would speak multitudes about his attitude to come. By this time around 62-63 the Beatles had taken steps to move up the ladder of the British music industry.
During this period of time they had acquired a manager by the name of Brian Epstein and a new drummer by the name of Ringo Starr, lost a bass player by the name of Stuart Sutcliffe and Lennon and McCartney’s songwriting ability had come on leaps and bounds.
Starting out on the first couple of albums writing fairly simplistic pieces entirely from their imaginations, Johns work especially had began to take on a more self aware tone.
A song like “I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party” is hugely indicative of Lennon’s attitude at the time because of one is to ponder upon the lyrics one will see that whilst Lennon feels discontent regarding the actions of his peers at said party, he is still displaying typical British politeness by saying “I’d hate my disappointment to show”.
He is still uneasy when it comes to speaking his own truth that is to say.
By 1964 they had begun appearing in their own motion pictures which led to what we all now know as “Beatlemania”. This growing notion within Lennon would grow to become the entire emotional basis for his creative output in the latter half of the 60’s and early 70’s. Although it would not peak for another few years a stark change in Lennon’s creative tone comes with creation of the album “Help” in 1965.
It is probably worth at this juncture talking about the operations of the Beatles camp in their formative years and the background and relationship between each camp.
The key players, and by key players I am referring to individuals that have influence over what The Beatles was I. The eyes of the general public, are in 1965:
- The 4 Beatles themselves
- The Girlfriends of each respective Beatle at any time.
- George Martin
- Jim McCartney
- Brian Epstein
- Geoff Emerick and the Abbey Road Techs
- Derek Taylor
- Mal Evens
- Dick James
- Neil Aspinall
The Sputnik Crisis
All one must do if they want an overview of Britain’s place on the world stage prior to the 20th century is to read our post on Mr John Dee. But to put it simply, by establishing the Commonwealth around the globe over the centuries that comprised the second millennium, The British Empire established themselves as the main global superpower and it wasn’t until the westernisation of the Americas that this crown would be knocked so to speak.
A large portion of the UK’s national pride still lies upon the idea that we won World War 2, showed those Jerries who’s boss and resolidifed our place as the dominating force we had become known as but let’s take a look at the facts.
- America came in to “help” the allies in the last years of the war.
- German technological advancements were trumping that of our own especially when it came to artillery, rocketry and aircraft.This was enabled by the slave labour that was being conducted at the concentration camps.
- In the aftermath of WW2 Russia and America swept up the available assets of the fallen Nazi Party what was known as The Soviet Alsos and Operation Paperclip in each country respectively leaving Britain in the dust.
- These technological advancements led to the subsequent “Space Race” in which Britain was not really a part of.
In short this crisis came from the general public in response to the 1957 launch of the Soviet satellite known as Sputnik. This was the first launch of its kind and had beaten the American efforts by nearly a year.
This led to a sort of national panic in the UK because news publications and national propaganda had led the masses to believe the UK were still the global power they once were prior the the wailed warfare. The problem being was that the war had taken its toll on the economy and this author is willing to bet that with the VE Day celebrations the British general public would have been incredibly disheartened after 6 years of intense rationing and banding together to make do and mend. The publicised “win” for the United Kingdom is till held in a position of intense pride to this day with annual “reenactment fairs” and “air shows” displaying the wears of our great triumph but it only takes a quick glance at modern culture to see that the global stage was much more influenced by the Germanic advancements that anything coming out of Royal Britannia.
It is this pomp that still exists to this day in the form of things like the Brexit debacle and thegrowing discontent in the British people and the growing minority populations that have gathered here since the advent of WW2.
So getting back to The Fab Four, there was a great divide happening amongst the young liberal minded people of the world and the old guard of conservative voters that resided in Britain’s more rural areas. Typically in Britain if you are working class you vote Labour and if you are middle or upper class you vote conservative.
Red or blue.
Left or right.
There are third party parties but non get taken seriously.
Splitting the key members of the Beatles camp into ideological groups allows one to notice some peculiar, not telling observations.
￼Splitting the key members of the Beatles camp into ideological groups allows one to notice some peculiar, quite telling observations.
This chart shows roughly where the important members of the Beatles operation sat ideologically, with obviously wiggle room here and there as nothing is this easily generalisable.
|Lennon (see parental situation)||Paul McCartney||Bill McCartney|
|Harrison (passive in attitude)||Ringo Starr||George Martin|
|Brian Epstein (gay in 1960’s Britain||Derek Taylor||Geoff Emerick|
So by 1965 the Beatles are a worldwide phenomenon and are filming their second film “Help”named after the Lennon composition that’d he’d penned earlier that year and in the same spirit as the songs listed earlier, Help carried on the theme of self-awareness with Lennon evenciting Help as the “first time I was consciously writing, and the first thing I said was Help! And I meant it”.
This humble cry for help was a stark difference to the tough macho bravado Lennon had become to be known for.
An example of this bravado would be at Paul McCartney’s 18th birthday where a good friend of the Beatles insinuated that due to Lennon’s closeness to Brian Epstein he must be a homosexual like Brian.
This led to Lennon brutally beating the man with a shovel with members of the party having to physically remove John from the fight.
We now turn our attention to the current public perceptions of John Lennon. On this website itself among many others this author has noticed an increasing opinion that despite his calls for “peace”, Lennon has become known as a sexist, abusive and angry man.
This is due in this authors opinion to:
- the over publication of his political efforts
- the under publication of his efforts to right his wrongs.
- A public discrepancy regarding his personal relationships and the nature of his motives.
- An inability to empathise on the part of the general public.
- An active campaign by several world governments to silence his morally admirable efforts.
- Would be the subject of several songs.
- You will have an effect on their everyday headspace therefore affecting other compositions not entirely about them as an individual.
By all accounts Cynthia was a typical British gal who enjoyed art in a very reserved British kind of way akin to John’s sheepish early compositions. Paired with Paul’s girlfriend at the time, actress Jane Asher, the two couples ruled the British tabloids like peas in a pod.
It’s hearing all this jubilance that makes hearing about the cases of domestic abuse that have been levelled against Lennon all the more disheartening.
"It is a diary form of writing. All that 'I used to be cruel to my woman / I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved' was me. I used to be cruel to my woman, and physically – any woman. I was a hitter. I couldn't express myself and I hit. I fought men and I hit women. That is why I am always on about peace, you see. It is the most violent people who go for love and peace. Everything's the opposite.
Detailed in The Beatles song “Getting Better” from 66’s Sgt Pepper, Lennon indeed was known to become violent when intoxicated and let loose the pain he was holding probably dating back to the loss of his mother.
A subconscious love/hate relationship with women.
Not an excuse, simply an explanation.
Each infamous case of Lennon’s dark side will be chronicled here and hopefully by then end of this piece you may be able to find some empathy for the man.
It would be the culmination of these emotions that resulted in the first conscious song from Lennon in his own estimations, “Help”.
In Help, Lennon throws himself at the mercy of his peers by saying
“look I know I’ve been macho and hard to deal with in the past but please, right now, I need help”
The song can be seen as an admittance of guilt and a want for anybody around him to extend a helping hand.
Also transpiring around the release of Help was the groups developing interest in psychedelic substances all thanks to a Mr Zimmerman on their trips across the pond to the might USA.
This inclination for the herb led the outlooks of the Beatles to change somewhat.
Interviews from 65-66 are fairly lucid and relaxed in tone with the boys offsetting the monotonous questions from interviewers with abstract observations that tickled the crowds and rightly so.
Their new attitude could be seen on their next LP “Rubber Soul” which featured the 4 of them stood against a dark green hedge or bush, referencing their newfound love for all things green.
Rubber Soul also featured some of the most introspective songwriting, from Lennon especially, to date.
Girl, In My Life and Nowhere Man all talk brashly about Lennon’s opinions regarding the world around him holding no bars. They are songs that if one reads aloud with no musical backing, may find them quite harsh if not very emotionally real poems.
1965 also saw a new substance make its way into the Beatle world.
Lysergic acid diethylamide or LSD as it had come to be known was synthesised by a Swiss chemist called 1938. He accidentally consumed the substance when trying to come up with a new medicine using ergot.
The Beatles were first introduced to LSD by their dentist of all people. The event is well documented and led them to become very intrigued with the substance influencing their next LP Revolver substantially.
Lennon claimed in the 70’s that he dropped acid over 1000 times and this probably speaks for a large amount of his actions in the late 60’s.
By this time the boys had become poster boys for the “British Invasion”, which referred to the onslaught of British groups trying to “make” it overseas, and had become secondly bored with the British entertainment industry.
They needed away to continue their creative efforts without having to represent the clean cut image they had cultivated over the first half of the decade and on their last trip to the states as a foursome McCartney found a solution.
If they couldn’t be the Beatles anymore they’d just have to start a new band within the pre-existing one. They could develop brand new personas and not have to worry about the expectations of the public.
Quite a novel solution if you ask me.
This line of thinking led to the legendary “Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band” album being released in 1966, marketed as the bands departure from touring and transition into a “studio” band, Sgt Peppers still stands today as one of the most influential albums of all time and with good reason.
Its lyrical content is as poignant as ever with the band being incredible self referential as to their new found personas and Lennon acknowledging his personal downfalls on songs like “Getting Better” and “A Little Help From My Friends”.
It also was recorded at the same time as some of Lennon’s most psychedelic work such as “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” which despite the latter titled NOT being about LSD both featured abstract themes and taking a leaf out of Dylan’s book, nonsensical almost social meaningful statements like “living is easy with eyes closed” and “No one I think is In My Tree, I mean it must be High or Low”.
Peppers also marks the point where George Martin’s contributions to proceedings becomes clear. In this creative time where the boys were moving away from being a live band they were becoming more curious about musical theory.
This was Martin’s speciality, being classically trained so whenever Paul or John had an idea that was a little left of field they would consult George Martin and he would break it down how it would work in the context of their contemporary piece.
We have Mr Martin to thank for orchestral sections in songs like “A Day In The Life” and the traditional instrumentation on “When I’m Sixty Four”.
Undoubtedly this more traditional musical influence juxtaposed against Lennon and McCartney’s developing modern style would form what he know today as “The Beatles Sound” but it would also be indicative of the class separation I spoke of earlier.
Martin’s musical background was rather high class so to speak and this can be heard in his contributions to the records themselves. Just listen to Martin’s suite on the Yellow Submarine record to see how his own personal tastes differed to those say of Lennon’s.
In fact Lennon’s song writing was becoming more refined, simpler and far reaching in terms of subject matter. The purest emanation of this development could be considered to be “All You Need Is Love.
The Beatles had been put in a unique position when it came to the writing of “All You Need Is Love”.
The BBC approached them and asked them to write a song for the worlds first ever colour television broadcast and Lennon took the bull by the horns and wrote a very simple tune for the masses.
It had to be simple to get the message across, they only had 5 minutes or so and didn’t want to confuse anybody so the simple mantra of “All You Need Is Love” suited the occasion perfectly.
This is a good representation of where Lennon’s head was at this point in time and is indicative of where it was going in the years to come.
Simple songs with easy to digest, good for the soul messages.
Paul on the other hand was developing a more musically advanced style, branching off into a more traditional sound not unlike “When I’m Sixty Four”.
This divide would only grow in the coming years and sadly once the gap had become too large, the collaboration would never be the same again.
The tipping point for the Beatles could be seen as the death of their long time and beloved manger Brian Epstein, although a quick note before we tackle that.
Yoko Ono was born on the 18th of February 1933 in Tokyo to a wealthy family. Her family moved to the USA when she was very young and she grew up in New York City. It was there she became a conceptual artist, that is to say she came up with concepts and then presented them in an artistic way (I must say it’s quite an out there idea in 2020 let alone the 1960’s).
Ono traveled to England in 1966 to be part of an art show put on by an artist called Gustav Metzger. She remained in London and began working with the artist John Cage on a book of musicians lyrics which led her to fall into contact with Paul McCartney.
Ono asked for some handwritten lyrics for Cage’s book but McCartney was not into the idea and said that John may be more interested.
Yoko comes from a family that are descended from a long line of samurai’s and was taught traditional eastern religion as part of her upbringing (more on that later).
Eastern religion was still fairly unknown in the UK and whilst the upper echelons of society were privy to a bit of Crowley or Theosophy material, the majority of the public were unbeknownst to this realm of thinking but Yoko was fairly well versed in esoteric literature by the time she hit the UK.
The Beatles too were not unfamiliar with new age works of the time.
Aleister Crowley can be seen on the front of Sgt Peppers, Harrison had become besotted with Indian philosophy and even the prim and proper McCartney had admitted to taking LSD, on national television no less! So it’s fair to say the boys had a healthy interest in all aspects of the unknown by the mid 60’s and this can also be seen in their creative works.
On November 9th 1966 John Lennon met Yoko Ono for the first time at the Indica Gallery in London and was besotted with her piece “Ceiling Painting / Yes Painting” which comprised of a ladder and a magnifying glass that hung from the ceiling that was to be used once the viewer had climbed the ladder to view the words “Yes” written on the ceiling through the magnifying glass.
The optimistic tone of this installation led Lennon to view the rest of the exhibition and ended in the two artists corresponding after the event.
It was at the same gallery that John became aquatinted with a gentleman by the name of Yannis Alexis Mardas who would go on to be known as Magic Alex in the Beatles circle.
Magic Alex is an infamous character within the Beatles community for a few reasons the first of which we will get to now.
In 1964 the Beatles (mainly John) expressed an interest in purchasing a Greek island for the four of them and their entourage to live upon and whilst this never came to be the group in 1967, at the influence of Magic Alex’s father who was well connected with the Greek secret police, did manage to arrange a trip to a small island in Greece and nearly went through with the £90,000 purchase, pulling out at the last second.
John meeting Yoko Ono and Magic Alex would come to be known pivotal events in the timeline of The Beatles musical collaborations.
On the 27th of August 1967, Brian Epstein passed away from a drug overdose. The band at the time were in Wales at a conference for Transcendental Meditation hosted by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The were accosted by press upon leaving the event and footage from the event shows a group of men blinded by grief and camera flashes. Epstein's contributions to the Beatle image were quintessential and he acted as a sort of ringleader or father so to speak to the group.
His passing would significantly change the dynamic of how the group functioned and in Lennon’s own estimations was really the end of the “group” spiritually.
The fact they were at a TM conference is synchronous as this loss of a leader figure would in turn find the band looking for a greater meaning to their creative endeavours.
It is this transpiring of events that lead the Beatles to take their famous trip to India.
In February of 1968 the group headed out to the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s ashram in Rishikesh in northern India to participate in daily meditation and teachings from the Yogi himself.
The groups girlfriends, Magic Alex, Mal Evens, other musicians such as Donovan and Mike Love and many others also attended and the period was highly creative for all involved but not without its turbulence.
It was George Harrison that took to the actual practice of meditation with most success with Lennon commenting that Harrison would “leave here on a flying carpet if he wasn’t careful”. Ringo Starr and his wife left after only 10 days citing a disagreement with the food and an aversion to the local insects although remained faithful to the TM practice.
Paul left in similar fashion in mid March just in time for the arrival of Magic Alex.
John, George and Magic Alex were disheartened with their band mates departures and had started to stray from the Yogi’s intended daily plan, smoking weed, drinking homemade hooch and taking LSD whilst at the ashram.
This led to the famous storm out from Lennon and Harrison.
The actress Mia Farrow had claimed that the Marahishi had made a pass at her during one of their one on one meditation sessions and John and George were starting to question the intentions of the pint sized guru.
The story goes that Magic Alex claimed he saw the Marahishi in a sexual position with a student and after days of insistence this Led Lennon and Harrison to storm down to Marahishi’s private dwelling and announced that they were leaving.
To which the Marahishi said “But why?”, to which Lennon said “If you’re so fucking cosmic you should already know”.
The group hastily left and after a panic trying to find a taxi to which they ascribed to “The Marahishi’s Curse” they managed to get back to the UK in one piece.
As of 2020, multiple parties in attendance at the Ashram say that Magic Alex’s claims were pre-meditated for the purpose of stopping the Marahishi go on to have more influence than him over Lennon and the group in general.
These claims are substantiated in large by Alex’s subsequent contributions to the newly founded Apple Corps.
Which in fact was the entire purpose of the trip to India in the first place.
To fill the gap made by the loss of Brian Epstein.
The fruits of their journey would be what we know as “The White Album)” which would be the groups largest effort to date in terms of material with 2 LP’s worth of material being included. This was due to the influx of creativity garnered from the India experience and due each contributing songwriter having more songs than ever due to this influx.
With Harrison now worth his salt as a songwriter there was now 3 cooks at the table when it came to album contributions and it shows on The White Album.
The result is a musical journey that goes to many different sonic places and this is due to the almost tug of war that was starting to form between the song writing trio.
Upon arriving back in the UK, John contacted Yoko and asked if she would like to come over to his place. Cynthia was conveniently on holiday in Greece with Magic Alex and upon Yoko‘s arrival the atmosphere was slightly awkward so John started to show Yoko, a fellow artist, some of his more abstract tape creations that had been vitoed by The Beatles.
They began to collaborate and the resulting project was entitled “Two Virgins”.
As you can see their collaboration was a fruitful one, physically and emotionally at least, and the resulting fallout from this event would be just the top of the iceberg for what was to come for the Fab Four. The cover actually features a quote from Paul McCartney saying
"When two great Saints meet, it is a humbling experience. The long battles to prove he was a Saint."
And whilst this is a nice sentiment overall the whole thing didn’t go down too well with the boys in the band.
Firstly EMI refused to publish the album due to the cover.
Secondly his bandmates were confused to say the least, with Harrison stating over and over "But why? Why did you do it?!".
Thirdly, whilst this project was being recorded Cynthia unexpectedly came home early from Greece and found the pair half naked together in her own house.
That last point is the main claim that people use to downplay Lennon’s philosophical efforts today and admittedly, the situation could have been handled better on John’s part. But this failure to communicate effectively his emotions to his significant other, from a psychoanalyst’s point of view, would be a symptom of a pre existing emotional issue that John wouldn’t confront for a couple of years yet as we will come to see.
The juxtaposition from Cynthia to Yoko really showcases Lennon's almost wicked ability to offset his surroundings at risk of becoming trapped in a philosophical box.
This incident can be seen as in the same vein as John lashing out after it being implied he was homosexual at Paul’s 18th and in the same vein as violence towards Cynthia in the early stages of their relationship.
It was quite obvious by 1968 that John Lennon had some issues he needed to work out if he was ever going to collaborate with other human beings in any sort of meaningful creative way again.
Following the Two Virgins dispute John hit a sort of spiritual rock bottom. The main propagator of LSD and the psychedelic revolution was a man called Timothy Leary who is known for his translation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead also known as the Bardo Todol.
This compendium of ancient Tibetan knowledge was all the rage during the summer of love and instructed individuals how to go through the psychedelic experience. As this was the first time this material was hitting western audiences certain aspects of the psychedelic experience had not been examined as throughly as it has been in 2020.
This meant that an emphasis on the concept of “Ego Death” was postulated as the goal or aim of a trip. Whilst dissolution of the self is one stage of the psychedelic experience it is not the whole or the goal of the any trip and this miss understanding led to many of the “acid” casualties of the 60’s and 70’s.
This oversight not only affected generations of carless hippies over the years but did quite a number on our poor Mr Lennon.
By 1969 John’s ego, per the account of Mr Derek Taylor, was pretty well cracked into tiny pieces. This was the result of what Lennon claimed in 1980 as “thousands” of experience with LSD over the decade of the 1960’s and it had left him an empty shell of the man he once was. Not having faith in his songwriting ability whilst Paul began to flourish as a multi instrumentalist in his own compositions.) One may also imply that the “macho” bravado that still to this day resides in British culture did nothing to help John’s state of mind. A sort of cynicism exists in the British psyche and is responsible for our trademark brand of sarcastic humour but it also negates the need for empathetic communication especially between members of the same sex and especially in the 1960’s.
The idea of being “real” or sharing your actual emotions was and still is to some extent highly stigmatised within the British general public as something possibly a homosexual man many do, certainly not the tough and brawn British brass that frequent our nations public houses at any rate.
This pre existing social construct certainly contributed to Lennon’s (and any modern day tripper to some extent, why do you think paranoia is listed as one of the main symptoms of psychedelic substances?) astral breakdown and the entry of Yoko and her foreign customs did not help matters.
It took some pep talks by Derek Taylor and Yoko to build John’s ego and confidence back to what it once was, reminding him of which Beatles songs he wrote and pointing out to him that he was an competent, intelligent and articulate musician despite the hearsay of the naysayers.
From here the boys move on to what we now know as the “Get Back/Let It Be” era of the Beatles. The general vibe is that due to all the upset and disruption since Epstein’s death the band should try and “Get Back” to the roots that they started out from. Lennon and Harrison were not too fond of the concept which led to daily heated discussion at the Twickenham recording studio where each days session was being filmed by an entire professional camera crew.
Watching the Let It Be film combined with an in depth analysis of the recorded sessions show a group of musicians half heartedly trying to appease an audience they long stopped catering for.
It’s kind of bittersweet to watch.
There are high points like John and Yoko dancing to “I Me Mine, a stellar rendition of “Across The Universe” and the famous rooftop concert all showcase what was left of 4 young men that had scarcely had time over the past decade to check what condition their condition was in so to speak.
The resulting album from these sessions being titled “Let It Be” instead of “Get Back” is largely indicative of how the sessions went. Listen to any interview where McCartney discusses the writing of Let It Be, the song, and you will hear him articulate the spiritual burnout the 4 were experiencing during the sessions and how despite his efforts to drive the band back to the success they once had, a dream featuring his descended mother inspired him to indeed, let the whole affair be.
This leads us to what is usually considered to be the bands magum opus by the fans, Abbey Road, but a brief look into its inception will show you that it is actually the most hollow Beatles album conceptually due to its purpose.
To end the Beatles.
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