“He was our idol. It was a great honour to meet him, we had a crazy party that night we met. I thought I had gotten the meaning of life, that night,” said a bemused McCartney. He was of course referring to the night that The Beatles met Bob Dylan on the 28th of August in 1964 at New York’s Delmonico hotel.
McCartney continued, “I went around trying to find our roadie, Mal, Mal, get a pencil and paper, I’ve got it, I’ve got it. Eventually, he found it and I wrote down my message for the universe, now keep that, keep that in your pocket,” Macca said to Mal.
The next day, a very sleepy and hungover McCartney would be approached by The Beatles roadie, Mal Evans: “The next morning, he said ‘hey Paul, you want to see that?'” The scene was set for spiritual awakening, but it wouldn’t quite pan out that way.
McCartney looked at the piece of paper that he had written the supposed meaning of life on, the previous night when he got very ‘high’ with Dylan; “I had written, ‘there are seven levels,'” Macca concluded.
Perhaps this is a natural outcome when you are greeted by one of your supposed idols — as well as cannabis for the first time. The Fab Four’s manager, Brian Epstein was there with them when they had offered Dylan some ‘purple hearts’ (speed). Instead, Dylan said no and offered to smoke grass, thinking this is something they have done before. “We’ve never smoked marijuana before,” Brian finally admitted. To which Dylan then replied, “but what about your song? The one about getting high?”
Epstein and the rest of the Liverpool gang were confused. Eventually, Lennon managed to muster the courage to ask, “Which song?”
“You know,” and then he sang, “and when I touch you I get high, I get high…” Dylan said in response. You can imagine how embarrassed they were to have to admit to their hero that they have never sung about getting high, in fact, they had never even smoked cannabis up until that point.
Lennon swallowed his pride and admitted, “those aren’t the words. The words are, ‘I can’t hide, I can’t hide, I can’t hide…’” The group laughed their way into the night.
In the video, you will also find that George Harrison, although he was the Beatle to perhaps get the closest to him, never thought he was an idol, largely because Harrison and Dylan became good friends: “Not an idol, we just listened to his album and it gave us a buzz and we listened to it constantly, over and over and over again. I think it was Freewheelin’. By the time we met him, yeah we had heard much more of him and knew much more about him.”
Whereas Ringo Starr, in his usual candor, remembers laughing a lot. “That was the first time I really smoked marijuana. And I laughed, and I laughed and I laughed, and it was fabulous.”
Watch the video where Paul, Ringo and George talk about meeting the one and only Bob Dylan: