Ravi Shankar is credited with the introduction of Indian sitar into western rock music. Most notably George Harrison of the Beatles studied in India, and brought back the unique exotic sound for Rubber Soul’s “Norwegian wood.” Actually Harrison klearned about the sitar from David Crosby of the Byrds. As far back as 1964, the Yardbirds tried an Indian sitar player for “Heart full of Soul,” but in the end Jeff Beck stood fuzz-pedaled the now famous riff.
The Byrds utilised sitar on their trippy Eight Miles High while Richie Havens applied this cumbersome instrument to the twang of Joan Baez’ Dylan repertoire “Love Minus Zero” / “North Country Blues” and “Love is Just a Four Letter Word”.
Beach Boy Brian Wilson strongly influenced by Spector’s ‘Wall of Sound’ introduced sitar into his conceptual Pet Sounds. The Rascals entered flowerpower with full saffron and bead adornment tainting their underrated See album with spotted tablas and sitar on “Stop And Think.” Even the conservatives played the incense game, namely B.J. Thomas on Mark James’ “Hooked on a Feeling” and Donovan with Shaun Phillips on sitar (full version of “Sunshine Superman”) The Grassroots now separated from the talents of Sloan & Barri pounded into the charts with the evangelical “Glory Bound” (Price / Walsh), a windswept anthem swaddled in sitar. Even Lee Dorsey joined the intrigue while the Boxtops added it to “Cry Like A Baby”. The Move silted the awesome “Lightning Never Strikes Twice” with Sitar that blasted from the B- side of the bass pumping “Brontosaurus”. The Doors also created a haunting sitar atmosphere with “The End” soaked in the Nam forests of Apocalypse Now. Many of us will not forget Canned Heat’s sitar intro “On The Road Again”. His majesty, Prince Jones, gave the Stones powerful inroads into the hippie culture with “Paint it Black” and “Mother’s Little Helper”, while Traffic sitar obsessive Dave Mason gave the band it’s first two singles, “Paper Sun” and “Hole in my Shoe”. Indian sitar could be sourced in Kaleidoscope and Chris Farlowe’s rendition of Jon Hendricks’ jazz standard “Moanin” and “What Have I Been Doing?” (1967). And don't forget Scott McKenzie's hippie anthem “San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair).”