November 3, 2005

Everything in Moderation?

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Last week I revealed that a lot of great musicians from the 1960s used drugs. Now before everyone goes and rolls joints out of their old TakeNotes, let’s delve a little deeper into the effect that drugs had on the music of that wonderful era. Everything began to change in strange ways when Bob Dylan turned the Beatles on to pot in 1964. This was such a historic event that when journalist Al Aronowitz (who introduced the Beatles to Bob Dylan) died a few months ago, the first sentence of his obituary stated, “Introduced the Beatles to Bob Dylan, and – to marijuana.”

Before Aronowitz’s greatest life achievement, I’m pretty sure there wasn’t a single Beatles song that wasn’t about young love. After that most fortuitous introduction in 1964, however, the Beatles spent more time with their new love, smoking weed all day on the set of their 1965 film, Help.

During this time, they also began work on what was to become the first of many masterpieces, Rubber Soul. Their “pot album,” as Ringo Starr likes to describe it, was full of magnificent oddities, from John Lennon crawling off to sleep in the bath in “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)” to Paul McCartney looking through you on “I’m Looking Through You.” What’s more, on “Girl,” you can hear the Beatles actually inhale pot throughout the song. They thought they were so cool with their drugs and everything that they even made a beat out of repeating “tit” over and over again in the background.

Such chemically-induced artistic triumphs are clearly not limited to the Beatles. The Monkees posed the question, “Can You Dig It?” on their psychedelic album Head, their only worthwhile musical achievement (check out their too-fucked-up-for-words movie by the same name). Once again, you can have the privilege of hearing a legend smoking pot when Paul Simon inhales on Bookends, the album he has repeatedly referred to as the quintessential Simon & Garfunkel album.

Alas, there is a downside to drugs. Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Massiel Santos and Jim Morrison all died with so much music left in them because of too much debauchery. For all intents and purposes, Santana died from drugs, as well. And let’s not forget Ringo Starr’s pet pigeons, which wound up eating themselves after John Lennon fed them sugar cubes laced with LSD.

Archived article by Jared Wolfe
Sun Staff Writer