The day Bob Dylan got The Beatles stoned for the very first time
Back in 1964, two legends of the rock and roll world met for the first time and a lasting love blossomed before them, though not always necessarily, between them. The day The Beatles finally met Bob Dylan is a famous one for many reasons. It was a meeting between two great artists, a meeting of musical minds. But it was also famous because it was the first time the Fab Four were introduced to marijuana.
So let’s all remember the day that Bob Dylan got John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr stoned for the very first time because the chances are they won’t.
The date was August 28th, 1964 and, following performing to the usual mass of hysterical girls at Forest Hills Tennis Stadium in Queens, New York, The Beatles had a meeting of their own they were getting excited about. The Fab Four were going to catch up with the enigmatic new folk singer and protest poet that everybody was talking about, Bob Dylan.
Following their performance, the band returned to their suite at the Hotel Delmonico at Park Avenue & 59th Street in Manhattan where they patiently awaited Mr Zimmerman.
The meeting had been arranged by the music journalist Al Aronowitz and must’ve felt like a very special occasion indeed, considering the growing gravitas of each of the respective stars. At the time Dylan was coming off the back of his stunning album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylanand The Times They Are A-Changin’ and was arguably the most trusted voice in a generation. Likewise, The Beatles were still pumping out number ones like a bonafide hit factory but with a view on the future, the Liverpudlians were keen to take their music to the next level.
It’s a part of why the group wanted to meet Dylan in the first place. They wanted to pick his brains and share their own thoughts. It was undeniably a star-studded event. But, star or otherwise, the first time meeting someone can tend to get a little awkward, so Dylan brought along something to break the ice.
A bottle of wine? A box of choccies? No, Dylan brought along, via his road manager Victor Maymudes (what rock star carries their own stash?) a sizeable bag of weed and asked the Fab Four whether they wanted to get stoned with him. After sitting down with the bag he was a touch startled to learn that the band had never previously never smoked the stuff.
His consternation is expected least of all because, as Best Classic Bands notes, Dylan thought they were singing “I get high” in the chorus of their 1964 hit ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’. John Lennon was quick to explain that the often misheard lyric was actually, “I can’t hide.” A touch embarrassing, perhaps? Not for long at least.
Beatles aficionados will tell you, and there’s a lot of them, that the band had in fact smoked weed during their time in Hamburg but they remained sturdy in their stance that it had had no effect on them. Dylan, likely seeing this as a challenge of sorts, as any regular smoker would when faced with the annoying statement of “weed doesn’t really get me high”, passed the bag to Maymudes and asked the road manager to roll a joint.
Maymudes, a seasoned smoker, rolled a joint quickly and passed it to Lennon, who in turn, swerved the advance and passed it quickly aside to Ringo Starr allegedly saying, with classic caustic wit, the drummer was his “royal taster”.
Starr was quick to light the joint and go about his business, and while seemingly unaware of conventional spliff politics, held on to the joint instead of passing it along. Maymudes, realising that he was dealing with some amateurs, rolled a joint for each member of the band. Starr shared the story’s natural conclusion with late-night TV host Conan O’Brien in 2012 saying: “We got high and laughed our asses off”.
Perhaps the final ending of the story is further down the line than just the hilarious conclusion of the evening. The band would cite Dylan as an influence on their sixth studio album Rubber Soul, which was released just a year later, with Lennon referring to the LP as The Beatles’ “pot album”. While naturally, you couldn’t land all this on to Bob Dylan’s shoulders, it would have been interesting to know how different The Beatles output would be if they hadn’t met Bob Dylan back in 1964.
The group and Dylan would remain frenemies throughout their career with Lennon and Dylan, in particular, often butting heads. Later, George Harrison and Dylan would become inseparable with many again citing Dylan as the reason for the guitarist’s break out from the band.
The jury may be out as to whether this meeting influenced the band so massively, but what is under no scrutiny is that this is one of the better rock and roll stories you’ll hear today.