They never stood out for drug-related scandals as notorious as those of the Rolling Stones or The Who and of course, judging by the faces of good children they brought, especially in their early days, and by those somewhat innocent lyrics, no one would have It was said that the Beatles boys were the kind who knew how to roll their joints with their eyes closed.
However, it is by all known that many of its most popular songs refer to drugs or that in some of its more mystical marijuana was an element present in his compositions. At what point did this transition to the exploration of cannabis culture occur? It seems that Bob Dylan was responsible for the Liverpool quartet discovering the benefits of marijuana and its properties to blow the mind and the imagination.
A trip that was to go down in history
It happened in 1964, a truly intense year for the Beatles. The already popular British band was about to mark a milestone in international music history with the start of their first tour of the United States.
It was also the year the Beatles would embark on a hectic world tour (32 concerts in just 19 days) and, most important of all when it comes to marijuana, the year they would meet in first person to another great music star: Bob Dylan.
A date between artists at the Hotel Delmonico
The Beatles had already been in New York for a few days after having performed in cities such as Cincinnati, Los Angeles, Denver, Vancouver, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Los Angeles or Seattle and coincidentally Bob Dylan was also in the city. The journalist Al Aronowitz, one of the most popular names in the world of rock, saw the opportunity to bring these two icons of the music of the moment together very clearly and did not hesitate to organize an appointment for the Beatles and Bob Dylan to meet in person.
In the afternoon of August 28, 1964 what was produced for many has been a musical milestone that, although at first it was not strictly related to music, would radically change the way of composing of the participants in that very special meeting.
What happens when big stars of the music of the moment coincide can be something unpredictable, but it seems that when there is marijuana involved, everything ends up being laughter and good vibes. It is also noteworthy that the mutual admiration between the Beatles and Bob Dylan was prior to that meeting and that cannabis only strengthened the bonds of a friendship that was to occur at any time.
But without a doubt what is most curious about this meeting between artists at the Hotel Delmonico is what Paul McCartney himself would confess half a century later during an interview: it was during this meeting that the band truly entered the cannabis culture.
They weren’t a foursome of dupes
Contrary to what has been speculated for a long time, the Beatles did not come to America as souls virginales in the use of marijuana. Lenon himself recognized on numerous occasions that the use of these substances was already widespread among jazz musicians and Liverpool bars and that they had probably smoked it without even knowing what they were using.
However, the fact that one of the first things Dylan did after meeting them on that date at the Delmonico Hotel was to invite them to yerba caught them by surprise. The Minnesota singer-songwriter had presented himself as a very straightforward fellow, subtly declining the invitation to French champagne and instead preferring that they order cheap red wine from the one he usually drank (young Dylan, it turns out, did not have as much taste for wine as for make songs). And a few minutes after getting a little intimate, he encouraged them to try the tasty marijuana he had on him.
It is known that the now Nobel Prize winner in Literature has always been a fan of cannabis (for this he has more palate than for wine, it seems) and his invitation was a way to strengthen relationships with his idols and break the ice in one night who was very creative. What was new to the Beatles was not the fact of using drugs., because they had already flirted with other psychotropics (in fact there are those who tell this story assuring that one of the members of the band offered Dylan amphetamines, and this somewhat scandalized pointed out that he had always preferred to get high with natural products, from mother earth) . The novel thing is that for the first time they were going to learn that the consumption of cannabis in company also has certain rules of protocol.
Roll the joint (something that Dylan was not exactly an expert in, despite being a regular consumer), pass it on, share it, talk, laugh … The experience of that night must have penetrated very deeply in the members of the British quartet because from from then on, marijuana became one more element of his creative process, of his compositions and also of his moments of relaxation.
It seems that Dylan did not discover them in a strict sense the use of cannabis, but he did how to take advantage of it creatively and also in a personal way. And of course the Beatles needed something to disconnect from fame, fans and the already somewhat unreal universe in which artists sometimes live.
If it hadn’t been for marijuana, there wouldn’t have been a record like Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, McCartney acknowledged in an interview. And it is not the only work in which the band alludes to drugs, as it already happens in other popular songs such as Lucy in the sky with diamonds, Got to get you into my life O Day tripper.