August 28th, 1964, was a day of significant importance for all the members of The Beatles. Not only was it the first time that they met Bob Dylan, who during the party introduced Ringo Starr to marijuana for the first time, it was also when Paul McCartney momentarily believed he had discovered the meaning of life.
The Beatles had just played a show at the Forest Hills Stadium in New York when friend and journalist Al Aronowitz managed to broker a meeting with Dylan at his suite at the Delmonico Hotel down Park Avenue. It would be a moment which would be immortalised as the meeting of the two defining figures of the period.
McCartney had the time of his life that night, an opportunity to meet the man he idolised. At that period, The Fab Four were somewhat jealous of Dylan’s reputation as the definition of cool while, in stark contrast, they largely had an audience of adoring teenage girls and had become the face of pop. Dylan was the smoky poet who had enraptured the intelligentsia. Equally, unbeknownst to the band, but Dylan was jealous of their wide acceptance.
Aronowitz would later discuss that night and proclaim “until the advent of rap, pop music remained largely derivative of that night at the Delmonico.” Of all the band, however, that night would have the greatest impact on McCartney as he believed, in a cannabis-induced state, to have discovered the meaning to life which made a lot more sense at the time than it did the morning after.
McCartney described the evening in vivid detail during a 1990s documentary on the band that featured all three remaining members of The Fab Four, with the bassist saying: “It was a crazy honour to meet him, we had a crazy party the first night we met. I thought I’d found the meaning to life that night.”
Macca would then delve into further detail as he recounted in animated style how he stumbled upon the meaning of life that he thought was going to change the world forever, adding: “I went around trying round to our roadie going ‘Mal, Mal, Mal’ get us some paper and a pencil, I’ve got it! Mal was a bit out of it and couldn’t find a piece of paper and a pencil anywhere but eventually at the end of the evening he found it and I wrote down my message for the universe y’know and I said ‘keep that, keep that in your pocket’ and Mal did.”
Thanks to the narcotics consumed the previous evening, the whole night was a blur to McCartney and, once he had arisen, he was reminded by Mal Evans exactly what he had discovered the night before. Finally, they had cracked it, the meaning of life: “The next morning he said, ‘Here Paul, do you wanna see that?’ and I was like ‘what‘, he said that bit of paper and I said ‘oh yeah’ and it had written ‘there are seven levels’.”
Macca’s meaning to life may not be the clearest or be the simplest guide in the world to live your life by but at least it provided him with an anecdote for the ages and gives a glimpse into the quality of Bob Dylan’s marijuana.
Watch the moment Paul McCartney discovered the meaning of life, below.