LSD (part two)

George Harrison later claimed that the shared experience of LSD brought him and John Lennon closer together.

After taking acid together, John and I had a very interesting relationship. That I was younger or I was smaller was no longer any kind of embarrassment with John. Paul still says, ‘I suppose we looked down on George because he was younger.’ That is an illusion people are under. It’s nothing to do with how many years old you are, or how big your body is. It’s down to what your greater consciousness is and if you can live in harmony with what’s going on in creation. John and I spent a lot of time together from then on and I felt closer to him than all the others, right through until his death. As Yoko came into the picture, I lost a lot of personal contract with John; but on the odd occasion I did see him, just by the look in his eyes I felt we were connected.
George Harrison

Although Cynthia Lennon only had two subsequent experiences with LSD after the Dental Experience, her husband became a regular user. John Lennon’s infatuation with the drug eventually created distance between the couple.

When John was tripping I felt as if I was living with a stranger. He would be distant, so spaced-out that he couldn’t talk to me coherently. I hated that, and I hated the fact that LSD was pulling him away from me. I wouldn’t take it with him so he found others who would. Within weeks of his first trip, John was taking LSD daily and I became more and more worried. I couldn’t reach him when he was tripping, but when the effects wore off he would be normal until he took it again.
Cynthia Lennon

To Cynthia, the chemically-assisted intimacy felt false and phoney. She decided not to dabble any further, telling her husband that she wanted nothing more to do with LSD. He reluctantly accepted her decision, although it did little to temper his own use.

In addition to his emotional detachment, Lennon was often unpredictable and obnoxious to her while in his drug stupors. Cynthia decided to resume painting, which she had put on hold since their 1962 wedding, and while the Beatles were working long hours in the studio she painted an elaborate floral design on the surround of the family’s television.

“The following morning I was up with Julian, about to give him his breakfast, when I glanced at my artwork. I could hardly believe what I saw. It was completely covered with circular stickers that read, ‘Milk Is Good For You.’ John had come in during the early hours, high on drugs, and destroyed my efforts. I was shaken and hurt. Did he not want me to have anything for myself? Was he so determined to have my total attention focused on him? Or was he simply so stoned that he hadn’t realised what he was doing?

Cynthia Lennon

The second LSD trip: Los Angeles

The Beatles had their second encounter with LSD on 24 August 1965. It was during an afternoon party in Los Angeles, on a break from their US tour.

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

On this occasion Paul McCartney declined to try LSD.

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 our hands, and there’s all these people serving us in the house, and we’re just knocking it on the floor – oh! – like that. It was a long time before Paul took it. And then there was the big announcement. I think George was pretty heavy on it. We were probably both the most cracked. I think Paul’s a bit more stable than George and I. I don’t know about straight. Stable. I think LSD profoundly shocked him.

Ringo Starr, however, took his first trip in LA, as did Beatles roadie Neil Aspinall. The other key member of their entourage, Mal Evans, stayed straight to look after them all.

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

Although Starr remembered visitors bringing LSD to the LA house, Harrison said the Beatles themselves had carried it from New York. The likely supplier was David Schneiderman, a twenty-two-year-old Canadian in possession of a quantity of pure Sandoz LSD. Schneiderman was temporarily living in New York’s Greenwich Village; the Beatles arrived in the city on the afternoon of 13 August, remaining for four days before flying to Toronto for the next stop on their tour.

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.
George Harrison

The guests at the LA party included Eleanor Bron, The Byrds, and journalist Don Short. Also there was actor Peter Fonda, who told the guests of accidentally shooting himself as a child while playing with a gun.

He was describing an acid trip he’d been on. We didn’t want to hear about that! We were on an acid trip and the sun was shining and the girls were dancing and the whole thing was beautiful and Sixties, and this guy – who I really didn’t know; he hadn’t made Easy Rider or anything – kept coming over, wearing shades, saying, “I know what it’s like to be dead,” and we kept leaving him because he was so boring! And I used it for the song, but I changed it to ‘she’” instead of ‘he’. It was scary. You know, a guy… when you’re flying high and [whispers] ‘I know what it’s like to be dead, man.’ I remembered the incident. Don’t tell me about it! I don’t want to know what it’s like to be dead!

The song Lennon wrote about the encounter was ‘She Said She Said’, from 1966’s Revolver.

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