The day after the Beatles' 1965 North American tour ended, and prior to their evening flight back to England, Paul McCartney and George Harrison visited The Byrds in the recording studio.
The Byrds were at Columbia Recording Studio at 6121 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, where they were working on a cover version of Bob Dylan's The Times They Are a-Changin'. The two Beatles had been invited by Derek Taylor, who had previously worked for the group and Brian Epstein, and who was now The Byrds' press officer.
Harrison was the first to arrive, and dodged the fans waiting outside the studio. He entered the studio control room and greeted producer Terry Melcher, then waved to the band through the window. The presence of a Beatle unnerved The Byrds, who were struggling to recording the Dylan song satisfactorily.
During a break in the session, McCartney arrived in a black limousine, pursued by dozens of other cars. Rushing through the hordes of people outside, he made his way into the control room to join Harrison and the studio staff.
The session ground to a halt, and the two groups began to socialise. Unbeknown to them, however, a drama was playing out elsewhere in the studio. Derek Taylor had taken a call from his wife Joan, who told him that the FBI had called at their house and were asking about drugs.
Earlier in the year, during a transatlantic flight to America, The Byrds' Roger McGuinn had stowed an amount of hashish in a cigarette packet, which he had left in the pouch in front of Taylor's seat on the aeroplane.
Joan Taylor informed her husband that the FBI were on their way to the studio, so some quick action was required. Keen to avoid embroiling the Beatles or the Byrds in a potential drugs bust, Taylor managed to persuade the FBI agent to accompany him to a nearby bar.
Fortunately, the agent liked a drink, so to pursue our discussion further I took him to the La Brea Inn where he got surprisingly drunk while I remained astonishingly sober and, I would say, slippery. Yes, of course I had heard of hashish: ‘But, as you can see, Officer, I’m a gin man, man. That’s my poison. And you, Officer? Another vodka, perhaps?’ ‘Derek, if you could see the human wreckage I’ve seen with drugs.’ I couldn’t but agree. Terrible!
It Was Twenty Years Ago Today
Not long after, under the pretence of a bathroom visit, Taylor ran back into the studio to tell the Byrds and the Beatles to leave right away, and to clear their houses of any drugs. Harrison and McCartney slipped out of a side door and went with the Byrds to Benedict Canyon, before flying back to London, presumably without any illegal drugs in their luggage.
Also on this day...
- 2009: BBC chart reveals best-selling UK Beatles songs
- 2009: BBC Radio 2’s bank holiday Beatles bonanza
- 1969: Bob Dylan visits John Lennon at Tittenhurst Park
- 1967: The Beatles discuss their future after Brian Epstein
- 1965: Travel: San Francisco to London
- 1963: Television: Big Night Out
- 1962: Live: Subscription Rooms, Stroud
- 1961: Live: Cavern Club, Liverpool (evening)
- 1961: Live: Cavern Club, Liverpool (lunchtime)
- 1960: Live: Indra Club, Hamburg
Want more? Visit the Beatles history section.