August 28th 1964, is a date that is cemented in the musical history books as two of the most important artists of is history met for the very first time as Bob Dylan partied with The Beatles and, may we add, got The Fab Four so stoned that Paul McCartney thought that he had figured out the meaning of life.
The meeting of minds came following an appearance by the Merseysiders as they performed to the usual gathering of thousands of hysterical girls at Forest Hills Tennis Stadium in Queens, New York who had waited to see their heroes. The Beatles, after walking off the stage, then had a meeting with their very own hero on the other side of town where they got to meet the man of the hour, Bob Dylan.
Journalist Al Aronowitz managed to broker a meeting with Dylan at his suite at the Delmonico Hotel down Park Avenue in Manhattan. It would be a moment which would be immortalised as the meeting of the two defining figures of the period, who would go on to have a special relationship.
At the time, Dylan was coming off the back of his stunning album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan and The Times They Are A-Changin’ and had become this Godlike figure who was like nothing that had come before him. The Beatles, meanwhile, were still pumping out number one hits with unnerving proficiency—but the arrival of Dylan had made them think that they needed to up there game and start writing on a deeper level.
It’s part of the reason why the group wanted to meet Dylan in the first place. The Beatles 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 his favourite green coloured ice breaker.
Ringo Starr was quick to light the joint and go about his business and, while seemingly unaware of conventional spliff politics, held onto the joint instead of passing it along. Dylan’s road manager Victor 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”.
McCartney described the evening in vivid detail during a 1990s documentary on the band, one 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’.”
Dylan would go on to be a major influence on John Lennon following this meeting when he went into what he described as his ‘Dylan period‘, which saw him try to emulate the singer-songwriter. George Harrison struck up the closest friendship with the American and the two of them eventually became inseparable following the split of The Beatles, even forming The Travelling Wilbury’s together.