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

According to George Harrison, he and John Lennon had decided that the other Beatles should experience LSD, which they had previously taken in London sometime between March and July 1965.

John and I had decided that Paul and Ringo had to have acid, because we couldn’t relate to them any more. Not just on the one level – we couldn’t relate to them on any level, because acid had changed us so much. It was such a mammoth experience that it was unexplainable: it was something that had to be experienced, because you could spend the rest of your life trying to explain what it made you feel and think. It was all too important to John and me. So the plan was that when we got to Hollywood, on our day off we were going to get them to take acid. We got some in New York; it was on sugar cubes wrapped in tinfoil and we’d been carrying these around all through the tour until we got to LA.

Paul wouldn’t have LSD; he didn’t want it. So Ringo and Neil took it, while Mal stayed straight in order to take care of everything. Dave Crosby and Jim McGuinn of The Byrds had also come up to the house, and I don’t know how, but Peter Fonda was there. He kept saying, ‘I know what it’s like to be dead, because I shot myself.’ He’d accidentally shot himself at some time and he was showing us his bullet wound. He was very uncool.

George Harrison

Although McCartney was wary of the experience, Starr embraced it enthusiastically.

I’d take anything. John and George didn’t give LSD to me. A couple of guys came to visit us in LA, and it was them that said, ‘Man, you’ve got to try this.’ They had it in a bottle with an eye-dropper, and they dropped it on sugar cubes and gave it to us. That was my first trip. It was with John and George and Neil and Mal. Neil had to deal with Don Short while I was swimming in jelly in the pool. It was a fabulous day. The night wasn’t so great, because it felt like it was never going to wear off. Twelve hours later and it was: ‘Give us a break now, Lord.’
Ringo Starr

Despite the general party atmosphere, police and security were stationed around the house to keep fans away. In addition, not all The Beatles’ visitors were aware that the group was on LSD.

I was swimming across the pool when I heard a noise, because it makes your senses so acute – you can almost see out of the back of your head. I felt this bad vibe and I turned around and it was Don Short from the Daily Mirror. He’d been hounding us all through the tour, pretending in his phoney-baloney way to be friendly but, really, trying to nail us.

Neil had to go and start talking to him. The thing about LSD is that it distorts your perception of things. We were in one spot, John and me and Jim McGuinn, and Don Short was probably only about twenty yards away, talking. But it was as though we were looking through the wrong end of a telescope. He seemed to be in the very far distance, and we were saying, ‘Oh fuck, there’s that guy over there.’ Neil had to take him to play pool, trying to keep him away. And you have to remember that on acid just a minute can seem like a thousand years. A thousand years can go down in that minute. It was definitely not the kind of drug which you’d want to be playing pool with Don Short on.

Later on that day, we were all tripping out and they brought several starlets in and set up a movie for us to watch in the house. By the evening, there were all these strangers sitting around with their make-up on – and acid just cuts through all that bullshit. The movie was put on, and – of all things – it was a drive-in print of Cat Ballou. The drive-in print has the audience response already dubbed onto it, because you’re all sitting in your cars and don’t hear everybody laugh. Instead, they tell you when to laugh and when not to. It was bizarre, watching this on acid. I’ve always hated Lee Marvin, and listening on acid to that other little dwarf bloke with a bowler hat on, I thought it was the biggest load of baloney shite I’d ever seen in my life; it was too much to stand. But you just trip out. I noticed that I’d go ‘out there’; I’d be gone somewhere, and then – bang! – I’d land back in my body. I’d look around and see that John had just done the same thing. You go in tandem, you’re out there for a while and then – boing! whoa! – ‘What happened? Oh, it’s still Cat Ballou.’ That is another thing: when two people take it at the same time; words become redundant. One can see what the other is thinking. You look at each other and know.

George Harrison

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For much more on this subject, don’t miss Riding So High, the only full-length study of the Beatles and drugs.

The book charts the Beatles’ extraordinary odyssey from teenage drinking and pill-popping, to cannabis, LSD, the psychedelic Summer of Love and the darkness beyond, with a far-out cast including speeding Beatniks, a rogue dentist, a script-happy aristocratic doctor, corrupt police officers and Hollywood Vampires.

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