It was a moment of cultural significance when The Beatles, who were deemed as four whiter-than-white personalities that could never put a foot wrong, admitted their affinity for the psychedelic drug LSD.
The drug, which had only emerged as a common recreational party enhancer during the mid-1960s, entered the worlds of John Lennon and George Harrison, who took their first hit under the tutelage of the ‘Demon Dentist’ John Riley. In a period of counterculture revolution, Riley apparently ‘dosed’ the two Beatles during a night on the tiles in the spring of 1965. From there, the Liverpudlians would never look back, and the world would be forever thankful for the renewed creative vigour.
While The Beatles were no strangers to drug use before Riley’s dosage in 1965, having experimented with a range of stimulants and cannabis over the years in the lead up to this moment, it was their introduction to LSD that would have the most significant effect on their career. It not only caused a major shift in the sound of their music – which can be heard notably on Revolver and Sgt. Pepper – but it also caused a chasmic shift in public opinion of the band and their public personas.
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The pivotal evening, which saw Riley invite John and Cynthia Lennon, George Harrison and Pattie Boyd to dinner at his central London apartment, would be one of the most significant in the history of The Beatles. The evening was a usual dinner party until the mood changed shortly after the meal, a moment in which Riley handed out coffee that had been secretly laced with LSD. At the time that Harrison and Lennon consumed the mind-altering drug, it was still legal, and the general public remained blissfully unaware of its existence.
After a particularly mind-bending evening, The Beatles expanded on their exploration, taking on their second LSD trip a few months later while attending an afternoon party in Los Angeles, a time in which they were on a break from a chaotic US tour. Although Paul McCartney refused to take part in proceedings, that didn’t stop Ringo Starr from joining George and John — and they were in an esteemed company, too, as the likes of Eleanor Bron, Pete Fonda and The Byrds all rubbed shoulders.