Paul McCartney Admits to Dropping Acid in a Scrappy Interview with a Prying Reporter (June, 1967)

When we think of LSD and the Bea­t­les, John Lennon invari­ably gets the nod as the main mind expander of the group. After all, despite all protes­ta­tions to the con­trary, “Lucy in the Sky with Dia­monds” lit­er­al­ly spells out Lennon’s indul­gence in the psy­che­del­ic drug.

But it was Paul, as seen in this above news­reel, who announced that he him­self had dropped acid before any oth­er band mem­ber admit­ted to such. And in doing so, know­ing the whole world was watch­ing, McCart­ney insist­ed on telling the truth and fac­ing the music, as it were.

The inter­view was record­ed on June 19, 1967, a day after Paul’s 25th birth­day. Their album Sgt. Pepper’s Lone­ly Hearts Club Band had been released three weeks pri­or on June 1, ush­er­ing in a par­tic­u­lar psy­che­del­ic era in Lon­don, though the band had been drop­ping hints (as well as lyser­gic acid) as ear­ly as 1966’s Revolver and 1965’s “Day Trip­per.”

McCart­ney had already let it be known he had tak­en the drug in an inter­view a few days before in Queen mag­a­zine, which Life then reprint­ed.

After I took it (LSD), it opened my eyes. We only use one-tenth of our brain. Just think what we could accom­plish if we could only tap that hid­den part. It would mean a whole new world.

The quote sent ITV crews to McCartney’s back­yard gar­den on Cavendish Ave. for this con­fronta­tion­al inter­view, where the inter­view­er wants to know first where he got the LSD from, but then chas­tis­es the singer for not keep­ing such a per­son­al event qui­et.

McCart­ney respond­ed:

Mmm, but the thing is — I was asked a ques­tion by a news­pa­per, and the deci­sion was whether to tell a lie or tell him the truth. I decid­ed to tell him the truth… but I real­ly did­n’t want to say any­thing, you know, because if I had my way I would­n’t have told any­one. I’m not try­ing to spread the word about this. But the man from the news­pa­per is the man from the mass medi­um. I’ll keep it a per­son­al thing if he does too you know… if he keeps it qui­et. But he want­ed to spread it so it’s his respon­si­bil­i­ty, you know, for spread­ing it not mine.

The reporter, look­ing for an angle, asks “Do you think that you have now encour­aged your fans to take drugs?”

McCart­ney puts the onus back on the reporter for sen­sa­tion­al­iz­ing a per­son­al mat­ter.

No, it’s you who’ve got the respon­si­bil­i­ty. You’ve got the respon­si­bil­i­ty not to spread this NOW. You know, I’m quite pre­pared to keep it as a very per­son­al thing if you will too. If you’ll shut up about it, I will.

Fun­ni­ly enough, it was Paul who came to LSD long after Lennon and Har­ri­son had tak­en it for the first time…inadvertantly, that is:

John, George and their wives were slipped a dose on a sug­ar pill in their evening cof­fee by den­tist John Riley, who had the cou­ples over for din­ner, and pos­si­bly some free love. Instead the four went club­bing and had their minds expand­ed. You can read the whole sto­ry over here at this fas­ci­nat­ing his­to­ry of Bea­t­le drug use. Also hear John tell it in the ani­ma­tion above.

McCart­ney final­ly dropped acid–the last Bea­t­le to do so–on March 21, 1967 after a record­ing ses­sion for “Get­ting Bet­ter.” Lennon had tak­en some acid by acci­dent and sat out the ses­sion, unable to con­tin­ue and McCart­ney took him home to his flat, where he decid­ed to try LSD, to “sort of catch up” with his friend. The Beat­les­Bible site quotes from McCartney’s bio by Bar­ry Miles, Many Years from Now.

And we looked into each oth­er’s eyes, the eye con­tact thing we used to do, which is fair­ly mind-bog­gling. You dis­solve into each oth­er. But that’s what we did, round about that time, that’s what we did a lot. And it was amaz­ing. You’re look­ing into each oth­er’s eyes and you would want to look away, but you would­n’t, and you could see your­self in the oth­er per­son. It was a very freaky expe­ri­ence and I was total­ly blown away.

There’s some­thing dis­turb­ing about it. You ask your­self, ‘How do you come back from it? How do you then lead a nor­mal life after that?’ And the answer is, you don’t. After that you’ve got to get trepanned or you’ve got to med­i­tate for the rest of your life. You’ve got to make a deci­sion which way you’re going to go.

I would walk out into the gar­den — ‘Oh no, I’ve got to go back in.’ It was very tir­ing, walk­ing made me very tired, wast­ed me, always wast­ed me. But ‘I’ve got to do it, for my well-being.’ In the mean­time John had been sit­ting around very enig­mat­i­cal­ly and I had a big vision of him as a king, the absolute Emper­or of Eter­ni­ty. It was a good trip. It was great but I want­ed to go to bed after a while.

I’d just had enough after about four or five hours. John was quite amazed that it had struck me in that way. John said, ‘Go to bed? You won’t sleep!’ ‘I know that, I’ve still got to go to bed.’ I thought, now that’s enough fun and par­ty­ing, now … It’s like with drink. That’s enough. That was a lot of fun, now I got­ta go and sleep this off. But of course you don’t just sleep off an acid trip so I went to bed and hal­lu­ci­nat­ed a lot in bed. I remem­ber Mal com­ing up and check­ing that I was all right. ‘Yeah, I think so.’ I mean, I could feel every inch of the house, and John seemed like some sort of emper­or in con­trol of it all. It was quite strange. Of course he was just sit­ting there, very inscrutably.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

An Ani­mat­ed John Lennon Describes His First Acid Trip

Meet the Icon­ic Fig­ures on the Cov­er of The Bea­t­les’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lone­ly Hearts Club Band

Sgt. Pepper’s Album Cov­er Gets Reworked to Remem­ber Icons Lost in 2016

How The Bea­t­les’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lone­ly Hearts Club Band Changed Album Cov­er Design For­ev­er

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the artist inter­view-based FunkZone Pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at and/or watch his films here.

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  • FivebyFive says:

    I always love this video of Paul. He’s mak­ing so much sense as the jour­nal­ist tries to sit in judg­ment while using this to boost rat­ings.

    One cor­rec­tion, though, in this sen­tence: “McCart­ney final­ly dropped acid–the last Bea­t­le to do so–on March 21, 1967 after a record­ing ses­sion for “Get­ting Bet­ter.” This was­n’t McCart­ney’s first acid trip. It was his sec­ond.

    Paul’s first acid trip was with his friend, Tara Browne (“he blew his mind out in a car,” the Guin­ness heir who died in a car acci­dent). Inter­est­ing isn’t it that Paul resist­ed John and George — who were quite nasty in pres­sur­ing Paul to do LSD and ostra­cized him for not tak­ing it. So Paul clear­ly chose to drop acid first with a friend who was less hos­tile about it, where there was less pres­sure. I imag­ine McCart­ney want­ed to see how he would han­dle it and did­n’t want to lose it in front of his band mates. Just inter­est­ing to con­sid­er the psy­chol­o­gy of McCart­ney and Lennon’s VERY com­pli­cat­ed rela­tion­ship.

  • 3xGuitar says:

    The oth­er Bea­t­les were not pleased with McCart­ney shoot­ing his mouth off. The idea expressed here that he was com­ing clean, he was the first, he was so hon­est, etc – as if it was some sort of badge of hon­our, some­thing admirable – is ridicu­lous. Truth is, he could­n’t help shoot­ing off his mouth. Lennon, Har­ri­son, Jag­ger, Richards, Jones and many oth­er musi­cians in Lon­don had been tak­ing LSD since 1965. McCart­ney FINALLY takes it, and the whole world needs to know. As some Bea­t­les biog­ra­phers put it, he was atten­tion-seek­ing, pure ego. What an idiot.

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