Take me disappearing through the smoke rings of my mind
-Mr. Tamborine Man (1966)
Among Bob Dylan's prodigious accomplishments, he is credited with turning the Beatles onto marijuana.
In their early days in Hamburg, the Beatles were expected to play four and a half hours each night, and six hours on the weekend. Club owners freely dispensed Preludin, an amphetamine marketed legally as a diet pill, to their musicians. George wrote to a friend of "eating Prellie sandwiches" and John washed copious amounts down with alcohol. Paul was cautious about them and only then-drummer Pete Best abstained altogether.
When The Beatles came to America in 1964, New York Post columnist Al Aronowitz took Bob Dylan to meet them at the Delmonico hotel. When offered Drinamyls and Preludins, Dylan reportedly shook his head saying, "How about something a little more organic? Something green. . . marijuana." Though others had passed some low-potency pot to the Beatles beforehand, the band's manager Brian Epstein was unaware of this and said, "We've never really smoked marijuana before." Dylan countered, "But what about your song. . . and when I touch you, I get high, I get high. . . " John replied, "Those aren't the words. It's 'I can't hide, I can't hide."
a joint and passed it to John, who handed it it Ringo Starr, calling him
"my official taster." Ringo went to a back room and smoked it down, emerging
wearing a grin. Paul recounted, "We said, 'How is it?' He said, 'The ceiling's
coming down on me.' And we went, Wow! Leaped up, 'God, got to do this!'
So we ran into the back room--first John, then me and George, then Brian."
"We were just legless, aching from laughter," George told Derek Taylor,
who joined them later on. Paul greeted Taylor with a bear hug, saying
"he'd been up there" and pointing at the ceiling. (SOURCE:
The Beatles: The Biography by Bob Spitz (Little, Brown and Company,
2005) (which spans the life of the Beatles from the members' births to
the band's breakup in 983 pages, including notes and index.)
In Let Me Die in My Footsteps (1963) Dylan wrote:
Let me smell of wildflowers flow free through my blood
Let me sleep in your meadows with the green grassy leaves
Let me walk down the highway with my brother in peace.
By My Back Pages (1964), after the Kennedy assassination, it was all over now, baby blue:
Crimson flames tied through my ears
rollin high and mighty traps
The more hopeful "Mr. Tamborine Man," is from the same year.
Subterranean Homesick Blues (1965) begins: “Johnny’s in the basement mixin’ up the medicine.” It continues:
Maggie comes fleet foot, face full o’ black soot
Talkin that the heat put plants in the bed but
The phone’s tapped anyway, Maggie says that many say
They must bust in early May, orders from the DA…
Look out kid, they keep it all hid
Better jump down a manhole
Light yourself a candle
Don’t wear sandals
Try to avoid the scandals
Paul McCartney has now admitted that Got to Get You Into My Life was written not to a woman, but to marijuana. (Source: Barry Miles, Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now. ) In 1970 Dylan wrote a song with George Harrison called I’d Have You Any Time with the lyrics “let me roll it to you/let me grow it on you.” It makes one wonder if “I’d be sad and blue…I just wouldn’t have a clue/Anyway it wouldn’t ring true/ if not for you” is about a person or a joint. (Dylan and Harrison performed that song together, giggling, at the Concert for Bangladesh.)
Dylan's only direct song about marijuana, "Rainy Day Women 12 & 35" (1966) with the lyric, "Everybody must get stoned" is an anthem against overindulgence and stupidity, along the lines of The Who's "My Generation."
Except for noting that his Turkish grandmother smoked a pipe, and that a woman he lived with was a viper, he doesn't come close to mentioning pot in his autobiography, Chronicles Part I. But after giving us timeless songs like "Masters of War," "Blowing in the Wind" and so many others, our heir to Woody Guthrie can't be blamed for trying to avoid the scandals.
Changing the Face of Cannabis