On 17 June 1967 Life magazine published an interview with Paul McCartney in which he admitted having taken LSD. Two days later, following intense press attention, he gave an interview to Independent Television News in which he discussed his use of the drug and the media reaction.
I remember a couple of men from ITN showed up, and then the newscaster arrived: ‘Is it true you’ve had drugs?’ They were at my door – I couldn’t tell them to go away – so I thought, ‘Well, I’m either going to try to bluff this, or I’m going to tell him the truth.’ I made a lightning decision: ‘Sod it. I’ll give them the truth.’
I spoke to the reporter beforehand, and said, ‘You know what’s going to happen here: I’m going to get the blame for telling everyone I take drugs. But you’re the people who are going to distribute the news.’ I said, ‘I’ll tell you. But if you’ve got any worries about the news having an effect on kids, then don’t show it. I’ll tell you the truth, but if you disseminate the whole thing to the public then it won’t be my responsibility. I’m not sure I want to preach this but, seeing as you’re asking – yeah, I’ve taken LSD.’ I’d had it about four times at the stage, and I told him so. I felt it was reasonable, but it became a big news item.
The Beatles’ use of LSD decreased after the 1967 Summer of Love. On 26 August that year they publicly renounced the use of drugs, pledging their belief in Maharishi Mahesh Yogi‘s system of Transcendental Meditation instead.
Although their attempts at sobriety were short-lived, among John Lennon‘s reasons for his declining use of LSD was the number of bad trips he experienced, along with a gradual diminishing of his ego.
I had many. Jesus Christ. I stopped taking it ’cause of that. I mean I just couldn’t stand it. I dropped it for I don’t know how long. Then I started taking it just before I met Yoko. I got a message on acid that you should destroy your ego, and I did. I was reading that stupid book of Leary’s and all that shit. We were going through a whole game that everybody went through. And I destroyed meself. I was slowly putting meself together after Maharishi, bit by bit, over a two-year period. And then I destroyed me ego and I didn’t believe I could do anything. I let Paul do what he wanted and say, them all just do what they wanted. And I just was nothing, I was shit. And then Derek [Taylor] tripped me out at his house after he’d got back from LA. He said, ‘You’re alright.’ And he pointed out which songs I’d written, and said, ‘You wrote this, and you said this, and you are intelligent, don’t be frightened.’ The next week I went down with Yoko and we tripped out again, and she freed me completely, to realise that I was me and it’s alright. And that was it. I started fighting again and being a loud-mouth again and saying, ‘Well, I can do this,’ and ‘Fuck you, and this is what I want,’ and ‘Don’t put me down. I did this.’
Lennon Remembers, Jann S Wenner
By the time of his death in 1980 Lennon had stopped taking LSD, but nonetheless defended it against common public perception of its effects.
A little mushroom or peyote is not beyond my scope, you know, maybe twice a year or something. But acid is a chemical. People are taking it, thought, even though you don’t hear about it anymore. But people are still visiting the cosmos. It’s just that nobody talks about it; you get sent to prison…
I’ve never met anybody who’s had a flashback. I’ve never had a flashback in my life and I took millions of trips in the Sixties, and I’ve never met anybody who had any problem. I’ve had bad trips and other people have had bad trips, but I’ve had a bad trip in real life. I’ve had a bad trip on a joint. I can get paranoid just sitting in a restaurant. I don’t have to take anything.
Acid is only real life in Cinemascope. Whatever experience you had is what you would have had anyway. I’m not promoting, all you committees out there, and I don’t use it because it’s chemical, but all the garbage about what it did to people is garbage.
All We Are Saying, David Sheff