The Beatles had just finished their concert at the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium and were relaxing in their suite at the Delmonico Hotel in New York. It was August 28, 1964.
We all have our special dates that have a big influence of effect on the rest of our lives. For the Beatles, this was to be one of those days.
Bob Dylan, a huge hero to each of the Beatles, and his journalist friend Al Aronowitz pushed their way through police and hordes of Beatles fans in the lobby, and eventually made it up the elevator to the Beatles' floor. Even there, they found more police, journalists, the Kingston Trio, and folk singers Peter, Paul, and Mary. After that, they finally made their way into the Beatles' official domain. The boys had just finished their room service meal.
As Dylan stood in the doorway, the boys noticed he was shorter than they thought. Brian Epstein, the Beatles' manager, asked Dylan if he's like a drink.
"Cheap wine!" Dylan replied.
Epstein clumsily made introductions all around, and everyone waited while Brian dispatched one of the Beatle aides to fetch Dylan's requested wine. During the wait, the boys asked Dylan if he'd like to take some speed pills with them. Pills, at this point in time, were the Beatles drug of choice. Although illegally obtained, they were not, in themselves, illegal. But Dylan suggested they smoke some marijuana instead.
Brian sheepishly admitted they had never smoked pot before.
"But what about your song?" asked a surprised Dylan. "The one where you sing 'I get high?'"
John Lennon informed Dylan that the actual chorus in the song "I Want to Hold Your Hand" was "I can't hide," not "I get high."
Surprised but undeterred, Dylan then offered the Beatles some marijuana he and Aronowitz had brought with them.
A bit timid, but still interested, the Beatles agreed, and those present bolted the door and pushed bathroom towels under every available crack and crevice. Dylan then proceeded to roll the Beatles' first joint. After he finished, he handed it to John.
John, a bit apprehensive, handed it to Ringo, calling him "my royal taster." Ringo, a bit braver, then became the first Beatle to sample marijuana. Getting a bit greedy, Ringo proceeded to smoke the entire joint himself!
But Dylan and Aronowitz rolled a half dozen more and everybody eventually got into the act, including manager Epstein.
The Beatles got into fits of giggles, laughing sometimes at actually funny things, but also breaking up at a wink, a nod, or even a pause in the conversation. Paul summoned aide Mal Evans to take notes on his pontifications. Paul remembered lecturing Mal about the "seven stages" of life and truth. Mal dutifully took down every word.
Brian laughed hysterically and said, "I'm so high I'm on the ceiling!" At another interval, Brian kept pointing to himself, laughing and repeatedly saying, "Jew! Jew! Jew! Jew!"
Finally, all smoked out and exhausted from laughing, the Beatles aired out the room and a room service guy was summoned to clean things up. As the boys watched him doing his routine cleaning chores, they laughed hysterically at his every action.
The Beatles didn't fall immediately under the spell of marijuana, but after a few months, according to John, they were "smoking it for breakfast," "Let's have a laugh" soon became their code line for "Let's have some marijuana."
The ritual of the four Beatles, in the middle of the Beatlemania hurricane they created, huddling up together in their latest hotel's bathroom, stuffing a towel under the bathroom door, and lighting up a joint together soon became fairly routine. According to George, these times together in the bathroom were "the only times they could find any peace."
Their next film, Help! was filmed, not entirely, but a majority of the time, while the Beatles were high on marijuana. Although their current album Beatles for Sale was almost entirely finished and was not effected, their next, Rubber Soul, was definitely influenced by marijuana.
Paul's 1966 song "Got to Get You Into My Life" was not about a woman, as most everyone thought, but was his personal homage to marijuana. The Beatles' 967 album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band included a song sung by Ringo, "With a Little Help from My Friends," which did finally use the mistaken lyric Dylan heard: "I get high."
Later in 1967, all four Beatles, plus manager Epstein, signed a pledge in The Times to legalize pot. George Harrison was busted for possession of pot in 1969 (although he claimed he was set up and the marijuana was "planted" at his house by the police). Paul McCartney was busted several times in the '70s and '80s for marijuana possession, most infamously in Japan, where he was jailed for over a week.
While the Beatles were indisputably great musicians and songwriters, with or without drugs like marijuana, it is obvious the drugs they took had an influence on the style and content of their music. All four would eventually try LSD, with John admitting to taking "thousands of trips."
John was, admittedly, always the biggest drug-taker of the group; "probably because I'm the craziest," he surmised. While of the four, only John, along with wife Yoko Ono, later experimented with heroin, marijuana definitely played a huge role in each of the Beatles' lives -both on a personal and on a professional level.
Funny or Die made a humorous animation about the event. Contains NSFW language.