The famous sitar that George Harrison dearly loved that he used on the Beatles song, “Norwegian Wood,” has been sold at auction in the United States for the tidy sum of $62,500. The Beatles were the first Western rock band to employ a sitar for a commercial song, and Harrison first discovered this instrument when The Beatles were busy working on their second film Help!
George Harrison recalled that the beautiful song, “Norwegian Wood,” was lacking something that would give it the really special feel that he wanted, but once he picked up the sitar, he knew that this was the sound he had been looking for on the song.
“We’d recorded the Norwegian Wood backing track and it needed something. We would usually start looking through the cupboard to see if we could come up with something, a new sound, and I picked the sitar up – it was just lying around; I hadn’t really figured out what to do with it.”
According to the BBC, Harrison played an impromptu piece and the uniqueness of the sitar affirmed his belief that it was needed on the track.
“It was quite spontaneous: I found the notes that played the lick. It fitted and it worked.”
After “Norwegian Wood,” George Harrison decided that his skills on the sitar were “really rudimentary,” and he wanted to learn how to properly play the instrument. To do this, Harrison traveled to India and apprenticed himself to Ravi Shankar. Despite how groundbreaking the sitar sound was to those who hadn’t heard it before in Western music, Shankar once commented that when he originally heard the song, he was not overly impressed with it.
“I couldn’t believe it. It sounded so strange. Just imagine some Indian villager trying to play the violin when you know what it should sound like.”
While George Harrison didn’t disagree with Ravi Shankar’s assessment of his skills on the sitar, he asserted that his natural and unassuming style was all part of the Beatles sound, where everybody was open to new ideas and styles.
“I didn’t know how to tune it properly, and it was a very cheap sitar to begin with. But that was the environment in the band, everybody was very open to bringing in new ideas.”
Pattie Boyd had said that after she and George Harrison were married in January 1966, George played “Norwegian Wood” for her on their honeymoon in Barbados while they were staying in her friend George Drummond’s home, as Broadway World report.
“During the days Pattie sunbathed and George practiced on his sitar. George even had a better sitar flown to Barbados for him, and when it arrived he gave his old one – probably the one he had bought from Indiacraft – to Drummond as a gift.”
George Harrison’s sitar had been handcrafted in Calcutta and was sold with letters of authenticity from both its makers and George Drummond, who was the last owner of the instrument before it was sold at auction through Nate D. Sanders.
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