Bob Dylan turns The Beatles on to cannabis

On 28 August 1964 Bob Dylan introduced The Beatles to cannabis.

The two parties were introduced by a mutual friend, the writer Al Aronowitz, at New York's Delmonico Hotel. Upon arriving at The Beatles' suite Dylan asked for cheap wine; Mal Evans was sent to get some, and during the wait Dylan suggested they have a smoke.

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...'"

The Love You Make
Peter Brown

Some of The Beatles had actually been introduced to cannabis in 1960, but the drug had made little impression.

We first got marijuana from an older drummer with another group in Liverpool. We didn't actually try it until after we'd been to Hamburg. I remember we smoked it in the band room in a gig in Southport and we all learnt to do the Twist that night, which was popular at the time. We were all seeing if we could do it. Everybody was saying, 'This stuff isn't doing anything.' It was like that old joke where a party is going on and two hippies are up floating on the ceiling, and one is saying to the other, 'This stuff doesn't work, man.'
George Harrison

After the hotel room was secured, Dylan rolled the first joint and passed it to Lennon. He immediately gave it to Starr, whom he called "my royal taster". Not realising the etiquette was to pass it on, Ringo finished the joint and Dylan and Aronowitz rolled more for each of them.

I don't remember much what we talked about. We were smoking dope, drinking wine and generally being rock'n'rollers and having a laugh, you know, and surrealism. It was party time.
John Lennon

The Beatles spent the next few hours in hilarity, looked upon with amusement by Dylan. Brian Epstein kept saying, "I'm so high I'm on the ceiling. I'm up on the ceiling."

Paul McCartney, meanwhile, was struck by the profundity of the occasion, telling anyone who would listen that he was "thinking for the first time, really thinking." He instructed Mal Evans to follow him around the hotel suite with a notebook, writing down everything he said.

I remember asking Mal, our road manager, for what seemed like years and years, 'Have you got a pencil?' But of course everyone was so stoned they couldn't produce a pencil, let alone a combination of pencil and paper.

I'd been going through this thing of levels, during the evening. And at each level I'd meet all these people again. 'Hahaha! It's you!' And then I'd metamorphose on to another level. Anyway, Mal gave me this little slip of paper in the morning, and written on it was, 'There are seven levels!' Actually it wasn't bad. Not bad for an amateur. And we pissed ourselves laughing. I mean, 'What the fuck's that? What the fuck are the seven levels?' But looking back, it's actually a pretty succinct comment; it ties in with a lot of major religions but I didn't know that then.

Paul McCartney

Evans kept the notebooks until his death in 1976, when they were confiscated and later lost by Los Angeles police.

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20 responses on “Bob Dylan turns The Beatles on to cannabis

  1. J.M.

    Yes, Bob Dylan introduced pot to the Beatles, and the Beatles popularized pot, for the world….but dig deeper…. Canadian country music singer Ian Tyson, in the CBC documentary, Songs from the Gravel Road, claims that HE introduced pot to Bob Dylan, who is an old friend.

    So, a country singer from the Canadian province started it!

  2. Von Bontee

    Hm, I don’t think the Beatles were popularizers, particularly, no more than any other popular musicians of the time – it’s not as though they went around advertising it! At least not until that ’67 pro-legalization newspaper advert, by which time the stuff had become popular enough on its own.

  3. John

    Alistair Taylor, (who may not be a credible source, given his account of Raymond Jones), in his 2003 biography ‘With the Beatles’, casually remarks that “The Beatles rolled a joint or three” in the car after their gig at East Ham Granada, which was on 9 November 1963!
    Can that be right?

    1. Joe Post author

      Sounds like nonsense to me. I haven’t read Taylor’s book, but all other accounts suggest The Beatles were completely naive about cannabis prior to August 1964.

      1. mr. Sun king coming together

        I heard they tried it Hamburg but didn’t like it then. Alistair Taylor is a lying, idiot who claims to be this great player in their history. He was a fail.

    2. Ed Rudy

      The Beatles were quite familiar with various recreational drugs long before arriving in the USA.
      Liverpool was far from a drug free zone for young people, especially musicians, and their gig in Germany was often fogged with various drugs.

    1. Joe Post author

      Ah, so it does! But only inasmuch as they may have smoked it once in the early 60s but it didn’t seem to have had much effect. I think it’s still the case that Dylan turned them on to it, after which they became massive stoners.

  4. Pedro J Villanueva

    I’m sure the facts are as they’re told here, but cannot agree with the date at all! It must have been when The Beatles made their two first appearances at the Ed Sullivan Show. (First one on 9th February. They also gave concerts Washington Coliseum 11th, Carnegie Hall, New York 12th, etc. That is, between the 8th and 16th February 1964.
    They were in London on the 28th! There were new releases and they also made their “Fron Us To You TV show that day.

    1. -May-

      I think you’ve misread the date in question. (perhaps you were high?) The toke-up is believed to have happened on the 28th of August, 1964. Whereas the “From Us To You” program you referred to (2nd edition) was recorded on the 28th of February, 1964.

  5. Trace

    I just read Victor Maymudes book ANOTHER SIDE OF BOB DYLAN. Of course, in that book, Victor’s the center of everything. According to him, HE had the pot, and when he got to the room, Dylan drank a couple of drinks and passed out. Maymudes says he had the pot, and he rolled all the joints, handed them out ,etc. Also, he said that, while Dylan slept, that the beatles one by one sat by him and asked him all kinds of questions. Dylan remained asleep the whole time. Then the next morning when Dylan’s entourage left, Paul went up to Victor, hugged him for ten minutes, (sic), and said “Its your fault that now I love this stuff”. Obviously this Victor guy was lying. He even says in the book, that the beatles were all in their matching collarless grey suits, when they got to the hotel room. This was a huge disappointment to me, cos any extra info on this occasion is worth knowing about. (ps. Victor Maymudes also claims to have turned Dylan onto LSD. As if.)

  6. adri

    I wonder what the atmosphere like when that meeting took place. It is like a meeting of six biggest oil companies CEOs.. But of course, with that smoke-filled room , I mean not the usual cigarette smoke, it must be a sublime event. I could imagine how mr Starr simply wouldn’t pass the joint to the other. and mr McCartney, the prolific one, come up with ideas during the trip. I think the Beatles working as a team, and Dylan has always been the lone ranger one. Artistic people…There must be someone out there try to figure out how to make those talents becoming more receptive with the other and work like machine. I bet venture capitalists already work things out how to gather a bunch of talented people and make them work together sustainably by minimizing that superstar syndrome in them.

  7. David

    And… thanks to the Jester… The Beatles and their collective psycho-maturity begins the swirl around around and down… This means that their humanity song writing reached its peak in August 1964… until it gets serious in effects with the introduction of LSD in 1966 – JL especially loses his ability to just be a man with artistic creative talent but becomes a ‘mind man’ only – unable to confront basic living things and skills and deal rationally with relationships – this would eventually ruin his marriage, his group, his income, his happiness, and his music. Pot is harmful, LSD 10x’s worse. and there are some effects that never wear off.

    1. Darth Cthulhu

      You better just you better just cancel your interest in the band then mate; they were drinking copious amounts & popping prellies by the fist full before the Decca tapes!

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