Riding So High: The Beatles and Drugs 1st Edition
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We begin with the Beat poet Royston Ellis in 1960, introducing them to substances other than the usual drink and cigarettes. Of course, Hamburg saw them introduced to pills, to help them cope with the long hours and, later, there is the famous visit from Bob Dylan to their New York hotel, kick starting a love affair with cannabis (although they were aware of it earlier), and the dinner party where John and George were introduced to LSD by their dentist, who slipped it into their drinks.
There are all kinds of people along the way who influenced the Beatles in their experimentation with drugs. Some are well known, others less so. I don’t think I have ever read Paul McCartney recalling how Mr Asher (Jane’s father) showed him the best way to get the best out of an inhaler before; little knowing that he had been aware of these tricks, and many more, for years. Other important influences on the Beatles included members of the Rolling Stones and Robert Fraser; particularly in the mid-Sixties.
We read of the decline, and death, of Brian Epstein, and of his dependence on drugs. The introduction of heavier drugs – cocaine and heroin. The peer pressure that members of the band were under to conform to what the others were doing. By 1968, John Lennon was using heroin, and cocaine, heavily. Meanwhile, Norman Pilcher, who had already busted singers such as Donovan, had, “set his sights on bagging a Beatle.” As the band became embroiled in excessive use of drugs and addiction, the establishments attitude towards the Beatles changed and they became fair game and open to drug busts.
The book continues beyond the Beatles to look at the repercussions of drugs arrests, which caused issues for the ex-Beatles. There is much about John and Harry Nilsson in the Seventies, of his immigration issues and his lost weekend. Meanwhile, Paul was busted throughout the Seventies, culminating in his arrest in Japan. George and Ringo also struggled with addiction, with Ringo eventually emerging from alcoholism.
This is an interesting read. I knew much of what was within the book; although there were odd nuggets that were less familiar to me. Overall, this addresses an important part of the Sixties counter culture, which influenced all of the Beatles in different ways. It shows how drug use changed not only the Beatles music, but the relationships within the band, between the various members and those who worked for, or with, them, and the influence of the women in their life. A good addition to my Beatles bookshelves.
Really glad I did. As others have said it's very easy to read and is well researched. Obviously theres alot of stuff here that's been known for years but it's all framed in such a way that even when you're reading quotes you've read/heard before it feels new.
The only slight criticism is that I'm so used to the Beatles story following a linear chronology that it sometimes gets jarring when the focus of the book is drugs as it can jump to different timelines. For instance, in one paragraph it might be talking about the White Album, and then jumps back to Revolver or Sgt. Pepper. Doesn't happen very often though, but when it does it's noticeable. A means to an end I suppose when discussing something that isn't the albums or music really.
This is a thoroughly good read, with a brilliant ending; I loved it.
A well-written book with a different slant on the Beatles than has been done before,I did find it as depressing as I did informative however discovering my heroes had feet of clay and found happiness so hard to find despite their riches.