Subscribe to our newsletter

(Credit: Alamy/Bent Rej)

Music

A look back at John Lennon and Keith Richards' wild and wonderful "acid-fuelled road trip"

We’re dipping into the Far Out vaults to bring you a sensational story involving two of Britain’s foremost musicians as The Rolling Stones riff-man Keith Richards and one-half of the greatest songwriting partnership of all time, The Beatles’ own John Lennon, hopped on an impromptu tour of the British Isles, fuelled almost exclusively by LSD.

Keith Richards has had some crazy moments during his long and varied career in rock and roll, he is often famed for his antics off stage as he is for his guitar playing on stage. However, while many of his ludicrous stories included his bandmates in The Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood being the usual main offenders, it was one road trip with The Beatles’ own songwriter John Lennon that may be one of his wildest moments.

The guitarist is a well-known debaucherous figure, a lover of the nightlife as well as avoiding sleep; calling ‘Keef’ a wild man of rock isn’t telling you anything new. His ability to churn out a bouncing riff is almost matched by his ability to drink and take drugs—but even he found his match in Lennon. The Liverpudlian was no slouch in the party stakes, often finding himself at the centre of a cacophony of narcotics. In his blistering memoir Life, Richards details a particularly intense and hedonistic “acid-fuelled road trip”.

The memoir, released in 2010, allowed Richards to look back at the raucous behaviour that gained him such an irreversible reputation. But in this case, such was the wondrous intensity of the evening, that Richards had to rely heavily on the memories of Kari Ann Moller, the wife of Mick’s younger brother Chris Jagger to fill int he blanks.

Read More

In the book, Richards refers to it as, “an episode of such extremes that I can barely piece together a fragment.”

During 1967 and 1968, Richards was regularly using psychedelics, describing the experience as “the idea of a boundary that had to be pushed” it’s a sentiment that many across the capital’s bubbling music scene. One particular night Richards, Lennon and Moller had taken some LSD and decided while circling the famous Hyde Park in London that they simply must go on a road trip.

With “three unfamiliar days off” the group set off on their trip, ready to receive what every mysterious turn would befall them. First stop was Lennon’s country manor where they “said hi to [Lennon’s wife] Cynthia,” perhaps in a bid to get a spousal permission slip for mischief.

After that important stop was complete, the group were still deeply tripping and entrenched in a swirling world of hallucinogenics, Moller decided the next logical place to go was to visit her mum in the seaside town of Lyme-Regis.

“What a nice visit for her mother,” says Richards before adding: “A couple of flying acid heads who’d been up for a couple of nights. We got there about dawn.” Luckily, after being refused service in a cafe and with Lennon being recognised — he was one of the most famous men in the world at the time — the group decided against visiting Moller’s mother and instead spent some time by the beach, trying to relax and cool off their hot heads.

Well, at least that’s what Richards thinks happened. “There follow therefore some missing hours, because we didn’t get back to John’s house until after dark. There were palm trees so it looks as if we sat on the Torquay palm-lined esplanade for a great many hours, engrossed in a little world of our own. We got home, and so everyone was happy.”

In what must be a frightening statement for anybody who knows about Richards penchant for illegal substances, the guitarist said: “It was one of those cases of John want to do more drugs than me. Huge bag of weed, lump of hash and acid.” While Lennon’s drug-taking was kept relatively quiet in comparison to Richards it is impossible to deny the singer’s hedonistic lifestyle.

Richards has little recollection of the three days he and Lennon spent on the road (who would?), the Beatle didn’t have any clearer idea himself: “Johnny and I were so out there that some years later, in New York, he would ask ‘What happened on that trip?'”

So while we will almost certainly never be able to track down all the facts of this story we can be happy with the image of two of the leading musicians of their generation, once spent a day in Torquay travelling to new dimensions. At least, that’s what we think happened.