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The Beatles take LSD in Los Angeles with The Byrds and Peter Fonda

24 August 1965 was The Beatles’ second day off during their five-day break in the 1965 North America tour. They rented a house owned by Zsa Zsa Gabor at 2850 Benedict Canyon, Beverly Hills, where they were visited by a number of people.

This was the day on which John Lennon and George Harrison had their second LSD experience. Ringo Starr tried the drug for the first time, although Paul McCartney did not partake on this occasion.

I had a concept of what had happened the first time I took LSD, but the concept is nowhere near as big as the reality, when it actually happens. So as it kicked in again, I thought, ‘Jesus, I remember!’ I was trying to play the guitar, and then I got in the swimming pool and it was a great feeling; the water felt good.
George Harrison

Beatles fans outside 2850 Benedict Canyon, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles

Among the visitors on this day were Eleanor Bron, whom had appeared with The Beatles in Help!, Roger McGuinn and David Crosby of The Byrds, and Daily Mirror newspaper journalist Don Short.

There were girls at the gates, police guards. We went in and David, John Lennon, George Harrison and I took LSD to help get to know each other better. There was a large bathroom in the house and we were all sitting on the edge of a shower passing around a guitar, taking turns to play our favourite songs. John and I agreed ‘Be-Bop-A-Lula’ was our favourite ’50s rock record.

I showed George Harrison some Ravi Shankar sounds, which I’d heard because we shared the same record company, on the guitar. I told him about Ravi Shankar and he said he had never heard Indian music before.

You can hear what I played him from The Byrds’ song ‘Why’. I had learned to play it on the guitar from listening to records of Ravi Shankar.

Roger McGuinn

Indian music and LSD were key influences in the changes in The Beatles’ music between 1965 and 1968. The drug, in particular, played a pivotal role in the group’s studio experimentation for Revolver and Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

On this day, perhaps the most significant encounter was with the actor Peter Fonda, who attempted to comfort Harrison. The Beatles’ guitarist was having problems with the LSD, and thought he was dying.

I told him there was nothing to be afraid of and that all he needed to do was relax. I said that I knew what it was like to be dead because when I was 10 years old I’d accidentally shot myself in the stomach and my heart stopped beating three times while I was on the operating table because I’d lost so much blood.

John was passing at the time and heard me saying ‘I know what it’s like to be dead’. He looked at me and said, ‘You’re making me feel like I’ve never been born. Who put all that shit in your head?’

Peter Fonda

The Beatles were unaware of the need to take acid in a safe environment. At this time they were still testing the water, discovering that the initial experiences of Lennon and Harrison in London were authentic, and largely unaware of the potential dangers of LSD.

We still didn’t know anything about doing it in a nice place and cool it and all that, we just took it. And all of a sudden we saw the reporter and we’re thinking, ‘How do we act normal?’ Because we imagined we were acting extraordinary, which we weren’t. We thought, ‘Surely somebody can see.’ We were terrified waiting for him to go, and he wondered why he couldn’t come over, and Neil [Aspinall], who had never had it either, had taken it, and he still had to play road manager. We said, ‘Go and get rid of Don Short,’ and he didn’t know what to do, he just sort of sat with it. And Peter Fonda came, that was another thing, and he kept on saying, ‘I know what it’s like to be dead.’ We said, ‘What?’ And he kept saying it, and we were saying, ‘For chrissake, shut up, we don’t care. We don’t want to know.’ But he kept going on about it. That’s how I wrote ‘She Said She Said’

Paul felt very out of it ’cause we were all a bit cruel. It’s like, ‘We’re taking it and you’re not.’ We couldn’t eat our food. I just couldn’t manage it. Picking it up with the hands, and there’s all these people serving us in the house, and we’re just knocking it on the floor – oh! – like that.

John Lennon
Lennon Remembers, Jann S Wenner

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Last updated: 8 February 2023
Day off in Los Angeles
Day off in Los Angeles
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