The Beatles were, and still are, one of the biggest names to ever impact the music industry. Formed in 1960 with John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr as its members, The Beatles were one of the most influential bands of all time. Their music, wide-ranging throughout each transitional album release, varied from ballads, hard rock, an influence from classical music and, of course, from rock and roll. The Fab Four enjoy a devoted fanbase like no other, and they bagged a number of awards and titles in the process of their meteoric rise.
Among the many awards they won, The Beatles were honoured with an MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire), one of the most prestigious accolades in British society and, in their case, one of the most controversial titles they achieved. Queen Elizabeth II appointed Lennon, McCartney, Starr and Harrison with the title of the MBE in 1965 and the core fanbase debated its relevance.
Given their rapidly increasing fan following, the sudden rise to fame, and being intimately associated with the music industry, the accolade of an MBE brought in a lot of drastic changes to their lives, too.
Like many stories surrounding one of the greatest pop bands of all time, numerous different urban myths and controversial tales spread like wildfire, often growing more exaggerated with every passing year. While many of the speculated stories are debunked by the band themselves, others are left to fester and grow in notoriety. One such controversy regarding The Beatles, a story that never seemed to move away from the limelight, was a claim that they had smoked weed in the Buckingham Palace prior to receiving their MBEs from The Queen. The popular idea is that John Lennon had claimed to have “smoked a joint” in the bathroom of the Buckingham Palace to calm their nerves. However, the other three members debunked this claim saying that they had done nothing of that sort; Paul McCartney stated that he didn’t remember smoking a joint in the palace, and George Harrison pointing out that, “We smoked a cigarette – we were all smokers in the days.”
To many, this story might seem a little embellished, considering The Beatles’ connection to being highly addicted to marijuana, especially at that point of time when they were also filming their second movie “Help!”. Richard Lester, the director of the movie, had to shoot each line individually because all of the members seemed to be perpetually high from smoking weed and could hardly remember their lines. This situation only got worse as the day progressed. Ten years later, Lennon commented on this saying, “We were smoking marijuana for breakfast during that period. Nobody could communicate with us, it was all glazed eyes and giggling all the time.”
Marijuana in the entertainment industry had become almost like an infamous hero. The exhaustion of running a busy schedule, the pressure of always having to be somewhere or do something, often took a toll on artists, and The Beatles were no exception. Marijuana acted as an escape, something that they got addicted to, something that would take them away from the bustle of the industry to their own world. Of course, they had to pay the price for their behaviour as well, later on.
Marijuana has had a significant effect on the music of The Beatles, ‘Got To Get You Into My Life’ and ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’ being few of the songs that were associated with this.
In 1968, John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono were arrested for cannabis possession. In ’69, George and Pattie Harrison were similarly arrested for possession. However, both parties maintained that the drugs had been planted by London’s drug squad.
It is also worth mentioning that prior to this, in 1967, all four members of the Beatles and Brian Epstein had added their names to an advertisement calling for the legalisation of cannabis. The advertisement also demanded the release of all the people who were imprisoned on the grounds of possession and further research into the drugs medical uses.