On this day in 1964, folk hero Bob Dylan seduced The Beatles into marijuana. He entered the elevator of the Delmonico Hotel on New York’s Park Avenue to meet the touring Beatles for the first time. Dylan and his entourage approached the Beatles’ sixth-floor hotel suite while Beatlemania was at its apex, and twenty police officers stood watch in the hallway.
After exchanging pleasantries, Dylan recommended they all smoke some marijuana. He was startled to discover that the Beatles had never used marijuana. Dylan carried a bag of marijuana and attempted to roll a joint. However, Bob was mute, so his driver and close friend, Victor Maymudes, carried out the crime. Blinds were drawn and towels were meticulously positioned in front of locked doors to conceal the odor. Dylan lit a marijuana, and a few minutes later, the entire group was roaring with laughter.
After the first of two shows at Forest Hills Stadium in Queens, the band was eating room service with Brian Epstein (British music entrepreneur who managed the Beatles) and Neil Aspinall to unwind. Taylor welcomed reporters, photographers, and celebrities, including Peter, Paul, and Mary, the Kingston Trio, and radio DJ Murray the K, who were all expecting to meet and maybe party with the Beatles, at the room next door.
The two parties were acquainted at the Delmonico Hotel in New York by their mutual acquaintance, the author Al Aronowitz. Dylan’s tour manager Victor Maymudes drove him away from Woodstock, picking up Aronowitz along the way.
Police barred the trio from using the hotel’s elevators until Mal Evans came to assist them in ascending to the upper floors. The Beatles greeted the American guests with warmth and gave beverages.
Bob Dylan seduced The Beatles while indicated a penchant for inexpensive wine. Epstein apologized, “I’m afraid we only have champagne,” but there were other costly French wines, Scotch, and Coke. The Beatles initiated a request to Evans for inexpensive wine, but Dylan opted for what was available. Dylan and Aronowitz refused his offer of purple hearts and proposed instead that they smoke grass.
Here is part of that evening:
Brian and The Beatles looked at each other apprehensively. “We’ve never smoked marijuana before,” Brian finally admitted. Dylan looked disbelievingly from face to face. “But what about your song?” he asked. “The one about getting high?”
The Beatles were stupefied. “Which song?” John managed to ask.
Dylan said, “You know…” and then he sang, “and when I touch you I get high, I get high…”
John flushed with embarrassment. “Those aren’t the words,” he admitted. “The words are, ‘I can’t hide, I can’t hide, I can’t hide…’”
Paul McCartney subsequently commented, “We were somewhat happy that Dylan introduced us to marijuana.” That was quite an achievement.
Cannabis was very different from the purple hearts and other stimulants the Beatles used to keep up with the late-night nightclub circuit in Germany and the United Kingdom. Marijuana provided a cushioned relief from the odd fishbowl experience — the frantic fans and incessant media attention — that followed their meteoric climb to rock success. From that point onward, the Beatles would regularly ingest cannabis. And if John Lennon wanted to go high, he would exclaim, “Let’s have some fun!”
After participating in grass, the Beatles began to view themselves as artists rather than merely entertainers. The herb induced a burst of inspiration that transformed their approach to songwriting and recording. (“We smoked cannabis for breakfast,” Lennon joked.) Cannabis introduced new aspects to popular music, and the Beatles led the world’s youth through the psychoactive barrier.
Bob Dylan seduced The Beatles into marijuana. Did it also influence the music of the Beatles?
Numerous Beatles songs included subtle and not-so-subtle references to marijuana. “Got to Get You into My Life,” one of numerous drug-inspired songs on the Beatles’ Revolver album, was “totally about dope,” according to Paul McCartney, who confessed that cannabis had a significant effect on the Fab Four in the mid-1960s.
The references to drugs became more clear on the Beatles’ second album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. – Ringo Starr praised “getting high with a little help” from his companions. McCartney “smoked a cigarette” and “into a fantasy.” And Lennon said, “I’d love to get you horny.”
“Do you know Pepper’s cause?” McCartney told a journalist. “In one word, drugs. Pot.”
However, you were not always using it.
“Yes, we were. “Sgt. Pepper was a drug album,” asserted Paul McCartney.
Several songs, including “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” were removed from the BBC’s playlist on the basis that they advocated unlawful drug use. This clumsy attempt to ban the Beatles, who were at the height of their fame, highlighted Britain’s confused — some might say schizophrenic -attitude toward marijuana and its most influential advocates. In fact, the Queen of England had recently recognized the Beatles. Lennon would subsequently claim that they used marijuana in the Buckingham Palace restroom.
Cannabis has been illegal in the United Kingdom since 1928, and recreational use had been limited to Caribbean migrants until flower power bloomed in Merry Old England. The Beatles were at the vanguard of cannabis legalization campaigns. They purchased a contentious full-page advertising in The Times of London in 1967 that denounced Britain’s marijuana restrictions as “immoral in theory and ineffective in practice.”
Now we all know how Bob Dylan seduced The Beatles into marijuana.
In particular, the advertisement urged the British government to:
- Allow scientific study into cannabis.
- Remove cannabis off the list of harmful narcotics and make it punishable by a fine.
- Allow the use of cannabis on private property.
- Release all those incarcerated for marijuana possession.
Sixty-five British celebrities, including two members of Parliament, a dozen notable physicians and pastors, several writers and artists, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, and the four Beatles, signed the advertisement.
The following year, the British Parliament’s Advisory Committee on Drug Dependence published a detailed report known as the Wootton Report, which provoked a major public discussion by essentially handing cannabis a clean bill of health. The advisory council, led by the renowned social scientist Baroness Wootton Of Abinger, decided that “long-term usage of cannabis in modest amounts has no adverse consequences” and that “the ban is socially injurious, if not untenable.”
The Wootton Report said that marijuana is “far less harmful than opiates, stimulants, and barbiturates, and also less deadly than alcohol,” and that the user’s personality, rather than the drug’s qualities, is more likely to lead to advancement to other substances.
Those accustomed to viewing marijuana as a monstrous scourge were appalled by the study. As soon as Baroness Wootton disclosed her study’s conclusions, stodgy British authorities criticized them. For the Beatles and their millions of pot-smoking admirers, it was an ordinary day.
Thanks for joining us for the story of how Bob Dylan seduced The Beatles into marijuana. If you enjoyed this article, you can also try “Why Jerry Garcia Compared The Grateful Dead to Marijuana“.
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