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The Beatles’ were no doubt the most influential British band in the 1960’s, with their music bringing and becoming a revolution to the face of rock and roll. Their use of drugs through their music changed the way and the direction of the Beatles’ as the different types of drugs were introduced. It not only affected the band, but also with each song through their music. Since their early beginnings in Liverpool, England, The Beatles went on to live out their dreams as a rock band and eventually became the most popular and influential rock group of all time. The band started out in 1960 and was since composed of the “fab four” with George Harrison on lead guitar and vocals, John Lennon on rhythm guitar and vocals, Paul McCartney on the bass guitar and vocals as well, and Ringo Starr on the drums and vocals. Were the songs written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney of The Beatles hidden drug references due to them living in the sixties and seventies when drug use was very common? The songs written by The Beatles, John Lennon, Paul McCarthy, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr, are some of the best songs ever written. To many people’s surprise, The Beatles have included hidden references to drugs like marijuana, acid, heroin, LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide), and cocaine in their music and in the lyrics to their songs.
During the mid to late 60’s, there was so much happening to the Beatles’ and it all started in their hometown of Liverpool. Liverpool is the roots and the foundation of where the Beatles began their fame in rock and roll. The 1960’s culture at the time was filled with drugs. Drugs were everywhere and many people during this time were using different types of drugs, and it was right in the face of the Beatles. Their Songs like “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, got to get you in my Life, Day Tripper, Happiness is a Warm Gun, with a Little Help From my Friends, Helter Skelter” and countless others all had supposed drug references. Both Paul McCartney and John Lennon who wrote most of The Beatles songs have both admitted to taking drugs. The Beatles begun in Liverpool and Hamburg as an alcohol and amphetamine driven band. McCartney has done heroin, cocaine and smoked marijuana and John Lennon took heroin, did cocaine and also smoked marijuana. Both had problems with drugs, and both have arrested for marijuana related charges. Both Paul McCartney and John Lennon have had problems with drugs throughout their lives with Paul McCartney actually being jailed in Japan when a half pound of marijuana was found in his luggage in the customs of an airport in Japan. John Lennon’s second wife, Yoko Ono, also had been charged with him for the same crime of possession of Marijuana. Marijuana played a big part in their advancement in the rock and roll industry. All of the Beatles’ smoked marijuana by the beginning of 1965. Later on, more “harder” types of drugs and mind-altering drugs like acid, LSD, psychedelics were experienced by the Beatles. Paul McCartney was the first member of The Beatles to openly talk about taking LSD or acid even though he was reluctant to try it at first. The first to try LSD was John Lennon in his cup of coffee at a dinner party at the house of fellow band member George Harrison. George Harrison and John Lennon soon deliberately experimented with the drug and on one occasion they were joined by Ringo Starr. The Beatles manager, Brian Epstein, also had problems with drugs and he also died of a drug overdose. Brian was a big influence on the Beatles when it comes to drugs.
The Beatles and everyone close to them have experimented with drugs which makes it easy to believe that The Beatles songs contained hidden drug references in them. A couple of The Beatles songs were banned by United States media as well as British media for advocating drug use or sexually explicit lyrics. One of the songs that were banned for drug advocacy was “With a Little Help from my Friends”. It was banned by the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) because they were believed to be about drugs. Also “A day in the life, “which talked about smoking and drinking while “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” had the obvious LSD drug references, were also banned (Deitz Corey. The Clear Channel Banned Songs List). The song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” is said to have a very obvious drug reference due to the name. The three nouns in the title spell out LSD which is acid or a hallucinogen drug that causes open and closed eye visuals synesthesia and altered sense of time and spiritual experiences. John Lennon who wrote the song at first said it wasn’t a drug reference, and that he didn’t even notice that the three nouns together spell out LSD. The entire first verse of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” sounds like someone is high on acid or another drug. The first few lines of the song are “Picture yourself in a boat on a river, with tangerine trees and marmalade skies. Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly, a girl with kaleidoscope eyes.” One would have to be taking some kind of hallucinogen to see tangerine trees and marmalade skies. The whole first verse makes it seem that John Lennon was on some kind of drug while writing the lyrics. It’s a little hidden message that they were taking drugs while on the tugboat. In the second verse when the singer sings “Climb in the back with your head in the clouds, and you’re gone.” It is clearly a reference to getting high. When someone’s head is in the clouds that means they are high and being gone has the same meaning. So, when John Lennon wrote the song, he was writing about LSD high. The song “With a little Help From my Friends” written by the John Lennon and Paul McCartney combo contained explicit drug references and has been said to be about drugs. The song has a line in which Ringo Starr sings “I get high with a little help from my friends.” He is clearly talking about getting high on some drug. It is also said that the word friends are a metaphor for drugs because John Lennon use to portray drugs while he wrote songs. It can also be said that when he was talking about love at first sight he is talking about his love for drugs after first using them.
Paul McCartney actually stated that this song had a drug reference because it was the pot era. “A Day in the Life” was banned for its clear advocacy of drugs. The song has lyrics which talk about smoking, “Found my way upstairs and had a smoke” and drinking “Found my way downstairs and drank a cup”. They could have been talking about smoking a cigarette and drinking a cup of tea, but them living in the sixties and seventies most likely were talking about alcohol and marijuana since drug use was very common back then. It also talks of going into a dream or getting high “and somebody spoke, and I went into a dream”. The going into a dream line isn’t as obvious which is like most of their other songs. However, this song isn’t like the drug use portrayed in other Beatles songs because the drug use is literal and straight forward in this song. McCartney also admitted that while writing the verse, “He blew his mind out in a car,” (Lennon and McCartney) he imagined a politician bombed out on drugs that didn’t notice the light change (Barry Miles). The Beatles used their song lyrics as metaphors and or symbols saying they are high or about to take drugs. The Beatles sang their music in the sixties and seventies about drugs so of course they would talk about drugs in their music. It is obvious why it got banned, because they were clearly advocating drug use, but drug use was a very common thing among celebrities as well as common people. It was the thing to do if you were famous in the sixties and seventies. That’s what everyone did so that’s why they talked about. Recreational drugs were so synonymous with the Sixties and became more commonly used in the higher part of the decade. Images of the Woodstock festival show people high on marijuana and LSD, dancing in fields with paint on their face and their hair flowing free. It was very difficult for anyone in the rock and roll industry during this time period to avoid becoming involved in drugs in some way and as easily influenced young people looking for fun, many were encouraged to follow their idols and take hallucinogenic drugs. LSD made people feel happy and optimistic and helped bring about the ‘hippie’ movement. The effects of these drugs were also reflected in psychedelic art and films, bringing new, vibrant and exciting colors and patterns to the forefront. The Beatles’ and their use of drugs didn’t start right away during their career, it was a slow progression to different types of drugs, and the Beatles had many influences with drugs. Looking into their influences, one major influence that started their drug use, was Bob Dylan. First, although they had taken Preludin in Hamburg, and had a history with alcohol, Bob Dylan furthered the Beatles drug use by introducing them to marijuana. Groups like Pink Floyd and the Rolling Stones were also using drugs and different types during this time. Given that the Beatles’ had a godlike status, their drug explorations changed pop culture, and brought a new direction for them as a group when it comes to their music and song choice. While this was all happening, The Fab Four also brought musical innovation to the table, what with their genius ideas of unconventional music recording techniques. During their recordings, The Beatles were known for the incorporation of various sounds into their sessions. Guitar feedback was heard for example, in the opening for their hit song “I Feel Fine” which was perhaps the first intentional use of feedback in a song. Other techniques used by The Beatles were the synchronization of tape machines, playing tapes backwards, even the experimental incorporation of a live broadcast in their recording which served as the opening for “I Am the Walrus.” They were also known for the use of classical elements in their songs such as the solo in “In My Life.”
Musicians try to relate to their audience and the easiest way to do that was talk about drugs. Even though advocating for drug use got them into some trouble in the end it was worth it. What set them apart from bands of their time was the undeniable charm that all four youngsters of the time had and even more so when they were together and playing on stage. The chemistry resulted in exceptional music making, as although they tend to be by themselves when writing, they always collaborate on their songs. Their hidden drug references are a good thing and worked for them since they are the most well-known band in the world and the best selling as well. The Beatles made their mark in rock music as one of the most important rock groups as they themselves were the embodiment of the power of music, particularly to unite people from all over as evidenced by their popularity in countless countries, even non English speaking countries. The Beatles were able to harness the power of rhythm into the universal language of music, changing lives as they went by. And even today, after many years since their last recording, their songs remain popular and as effectives as they were before. Even those who were yet to be born know their songs, as The Beatles are truly a great band that is worth passing on to the next generation. Together they gave rise to the immense popularity of the rock and roll era, creating timeless tunes which is why they are considered one of the most important bands in rock and roll history.
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