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The Beatles' Psychedelic Years

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by

Alec Bilicki

on 20 May 2014

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Transcript of The Beatles' Psychedelic Years

"Magical mystery tours and other trips: yellow submarines, newspaper taxis, and The Beatles' psychedelic years," written by Russell Reising and Jim LeBlanc
Help!
The effect that the drug had on Cynthia and Pattie was significant
that night
, but the effect and influence the drug had on John and George lasted the rest of their lives
With a Little Help from My Friends
Ringo Starr joined in for the first time with George and John in August of '65, along with actor Peter Fonda, to consume the drug
"Take Some
Tea With Me"
They did not stay for this supposed orgy, so they left still unaffected by the drug (which takes a half an hour to an hour to kick in)
"It's Time for Tea and 'Meet the Wife'"
The Beatles' plunge into the psychedelic world was not originally intentional
Questions
Did LSD's effect on The Beatles make their music better or stay just as good? Worse??

On one evening in April of 1965, around the release of their new single, "Ticket to Ride," John Lennon and George Harrison took their wives (Lennon's wife, Cynthia, and George's fiancee, Pattie Boyd) to a dinner party that was thrown for them by George's dentist, John Riley, at Riley's home.
After their dinner in the dining room, Riley's wife accompanied them into the lounge, where they sat down for a cup of coffee. Unbeknownst to them, they were taking their own tickets to ride. The ticket, a dose of LSD (which was unrestricted medication at the time), was dropped into each cup (yes, even for their wives). Riley's intent, as Harrison has explained since, was to have an orgy ensue because Riley thought LSD was a good aphrodisiac (the drug and its effects were not well-known in London at the time [Riley didn't even take the drug that night])
Their "ride" around "Swinging London" that followed for the rest of the night (out to nightclubs) was quite wild to say the least
The effect and influence came into their music almost
immediately
(and subconsciously), and
crept up
gradually until it was full blown by Sgt. Pepper's and Magical Mystery Tour
Their first single after this psychedelic evening was "Help!", which is said to be the first personal writing released of any of The Beatles (written by John, about the stress and depression he was under from the chaos of their fast rise in popularity and success). "Now I find I've changed my mind and opened up the doors," a line from "Help!" referencing Aldous Huxley's book,
The Doors of Perception
.
The LSD, even without the conscious effort to showcase it through the music, was influencing John to look inside himself and bring out pure expression from his soul (which didn't even deal with love half of the time). This was breaking down the barrier of using the same formula over again for just another top single.
As George sat by the pool, struggling with the heavy effects of the acid, Peter Fonda had to make the experience even heavier by remarking to Lennon, next to him, "I know what it's like to be dead" after telling a story of how he almost died from blood loss from accidentally shooting himself in the chest when he was eleven years old
Even too dark for Lennon to handle, he tried to switch the vibe by retorting, "Who put all that shit in your head?"
Lennon cleverly used this exchange for the main inspiration for one of the most psychedelic songs on Revolver: "She Said She Said" (switching the character in the song from male to female)
"Day Tripper,
one way ticket"
What made The Beatles' songs more and more psychedelic from the "Day Tripper" single in '65 through Rubber Soul, the "Paperback Writer" single in '66, and Revolver were not only Lennon's newly enlightened (and sometimes twisted and dark) songwriting, but the unconventional musical choices they were all incorporating into the songs.
"Day Tripper" was the first song written and released by any member of the band (written by Lennon) to incorporate references to LSD.
Whose psychedelic music style do you like more? Paul's, John's, or George's? Whose was the
most
psychedelic?
Changing
musical styles and techniques
Along with
The Doors of Perception
, another book Lennon was reading was
The Psychedelic Experience,
written by Timothy Leary, (which was based on
The Tibetan Book of the Dead
).
Timothy Leary was an LSD enthusiast who taught at Harvard University but was fired once he was discovered to be secretly giving LSD to his students (with their own interest however).
One of the advancements within their work from mid-'65 through '66 was the musical innovation. "Tomorrow Never Knows" is a fusion of musique concrete, electronic, and psychedelic. McCartney's input was the musique concrete-fusion of tape loops.
Lennon adapts the lyrics of "Tomorrow Never Knows," their first song recorded for
Revolver
, from some of the chapters in this book.
Using backwards music in the song was a technique discovered by Lennon, who said, "I got home from the studio and I was stoned out of my mind on marijuana and, as I usually do, I listened to what I’d recorded that day. Somehow I got it on backwards and I sat there, transfixed, with the earphones on, with a big hash joint. I ran in the next day and said, ‘I know what to do with it, I know… Listen to this!’ So I made them all play it backwards. The fade is me actually singing backwards with the gutars going backwards.
He was referring to this '66 single, "Rain" (which was the first song to ever use backwards music). For the recording, they used a technique in which they played the song faster than normal, then slowed down the tape for playback, to give it a laid-back, "chill" feeling.
It's Only a Northern Song
George's compositions, starting from the
Rubber Soul
sessions, were getting more and more mind-opening, with a sort of outside perspective, with lyrics such as "You're telling all those lies about the good things that we can have if we close our eyes" from "Think for Yourself" on
Rubber Soul
and "We were talking about the space between us all and the people who hide themselves behind a wall of illusion" from "Within You Without You" on
Sgt. Pepper's
B Side
A Side

The B Side on the single was "We Can Work It Out (in AABABA form)," which was unique for its change from 4/4 to 3/4 time in the B section (George's suggestion) and for its use of harmonium (their first use of this instrument in a song).
He incorporated the sitar (which he discovered and favored from '65 onwards [during the filming of
Help!
]) into "Norwegian Wood," "Love You To," "Within You Without You," Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds," and "Getting Better," and was the first musician to do so in Rock and Roll
Paul takes a trip
Paul was a little "late in the game" compared to the other three, but he has stated that he took his first trip after a recording session for "Getting Better" (on
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
, which was

Paul's concept of them becoming an alter
ego
band, [to get away from themselves]) after he saw that John accidentally took acid that he thought was an "upper." Paul decided to take a dose of acid while John was tripping so he could catch up with him. John has said that Paul took it before that, but we may never know for sure.
Musically and instrumentally, the album,
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
(which is much better to listen to in mono, by the way), was heavily influenced by
Pet Sounds
, an album released in early 1966 made mostly by Brian Wilson from The Beach Boys (a departure from his band in a way as well) that directly affected Paul and also inspired his melodic bass playing from then on
Paul's lyrics starting getting much more extrospective (since they were "getting away from themselves") and his musical style on the album became much more psychedelic, with fusion of an orchestra at times, like in "She's Leaving Home." The album is sonically layered with multiple palettes of instruments. In "Fixing a Hole," however, he does look inward to himself, but surrounds himself in a rich psychedelic baroque atmosphere.
"And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make"
Ever since John started turning inward for the songwriting, after the intake of LSD and Marijuana, he turned out lyrics that were very deep and personal for the first time. The band grew together spiritually and influenced each other.
George found enlightenment within himself which led him to realize the "wall of illusion" people hide themselves behind in this materialistic world where the love has "gone so cold" (Within You Without You).
Paul focused more and more on concepts and fusing psychedelic and baroque musical elements into what they were doing. He helped progress and innovate the music itself.
And Ringo... well he's just living in a Yellow Submarine
Their peak in the "Summer of Love"
Sgt. Pepper's
was
almost
unanimously praised by all critics (with some mixed reviews here and there), but has since been hailed as "The Greatest Album of All Time" in Rolling Stone magazine, among many other magazines and critics, and won four Grammys in '68, including "Album of the Year," the first rock album to receive the honor. It is also one of the biggest-selling albums.
They followed this album up with
Magical Mystery Tour
, which turned out to be a very happy, love-themed album, but was sadly the last of their psychedelic voyages
The two Harrison songs rejected for
Pepper
, "It's Only a Northern Song" (a reference to their music publishing company) and "It's All Too Much" (a song Harrison wrote from confirming realizations he received during an acid trip in meditation) have some of the most alternative, atmospheric, but at the same time, spiritual lyrics he's ever written
"The more I go inside, the more there is to see"
"When you're listening late at night, you may think the band are not quite right, but they are. They just play it like that."
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