The Beatles: Get Back… to Cannabis!
The Beatles: Get Back, the documentary
These days, one of the most popular news from the world of entertainment, music, and cinema is the release of the trilogy The Beatles: Get Back, a three-part documentary that, with a total duration of almost 8 hours, transports us straight into the last month of life of one of the most famous bands in the history of music, The Beatles. The documentary is the work of Peter Jackson, the director, among other movies, of another renowned trilogy, Lord of the Rings.
With The Beatles: Get Back, Peter Jackson has completed an extraordinary job by restoring, editing, and bringing to life video footage recorded over 50 years ago that allows us to see the famous Liverpool quartet in an entirely new light — natural, and far from the classic stereotypical image of the band that we all have carved into our collective imagination. But let’s go step by step because the story told by Peter Jackson in the Beatles documentary deserves a nice roundup of details.
A little history about the Liverpool quartet
Although the musical careers of the four Beatles have spanned decades, with Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr still musically active today, while sadly John Lennon and George Harrison have left us (John Lennon killed by a mythomaniac in 1980, George Harrison died of cancer in 2001), the group itself did not have a long career. With the official separation at the end of 1969, the Beatles remained together for only nine years; 9 years which, however, made history in the music.
The Beatles formed in Liverpool back in 1960, but the definitive line-up with Ringo Starr on drums only occurred in 1962, which is also the year they achieved their first success with the single “Love me do.” In less than two years, thanks to producing a series of successful singles, they become undisputed international stars.
From 1965 their productions became particularly sophisticated, and the Beatles became a pioneer band in the production of albums, while until then, the record market was mainly dominated by 45 rpm singles. The four Beatles instead raised the level of album production to art, also thanks to innovations in electronic music and in post-production tools, the use of artistic concepts for the covers, the production of videos, and, in some cases, also of entire movies that went hand in hand with the albums they released, as in the case of Help! and Yellow Submarine. Within a few years and after a handful of albums, their success is consolidated: Rubber Soul (1965), Revolver (1966), Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), The White Album (1968), and Abbey Road (1969) were all internationally acclaimed productions.
At the end of 1968, however, various internal frictions began, leading to the breakup of the group and the definitive separation of the four Beatles. Among the most famous, John Lennon’s desire to spend less and less time with his friends from Liverpool to devote himself to the great love of his life, Yoko Ono, and George Harrison’s resentments for being increasingly excluded from the creative process, which had become prerogative by the duo Lennon / McCartney.
The recording of Let it Be and the legendary rooftop concert
Before the final breakup, however, in January 1969, the Beatles decided to lock themselves in a studio for a month for the recording of a live album, with the original provisional title Get Back, but which in the end will be called Let it be and will be the last official Beatles album, released in 1970 after the band separated. During that month of “lockdown” in the London premises of Twickenham Film Studios first and in those of the Apple Corps after, the plans for the latest venture of the Liverpool quartet kept constantly changing.
Initially, the goal was to record, at the end of a month of studio rehearsals, a live concert with a live audience in the studio to be broadcast as a TV show. Once the idea of the TV event had been abandoned, the Beatles moved towards the realization of a live performance in a London concert hall but, due to the lack of venues available at the last minute, the final decision was to record the live concert in the form of the legendary show from the rooftop of the Apple Corps building.
The entire month of rehearsals, with everything that happened to the four Beatles surrounded by girlfriends, wives, children, friends, technicians, and other musicians, has been recorded anyway, giving life to about 80 hours of raw footage.
Such video recordings, by the will of the Beatles themselves, would not have seen the light for decades — until director Peter Jackson decided to put himself at work on the recordings and, after more than four years of audio, video, and film editing and restorations, he hands us a piece that is a true cultural testament about the Beatles, “as we could have never imagined.”
In short, The Beatles: Get Back trilogy is a masterpiece, a must-see. Don’t miss it, even if you are not a massive fan of the Liverpool quartet.
Paul McCartney’s passion (and troubles) for cannabis
But what does cannabis have to do with Peter Jackson’s documentary on the Beatles? Not much, indeed nothing. In fact, in the almost 8 hours of documentary edited by the New Zealand director, there are no scenes in which our favorite plant is consumed. But on several close-ups of Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney, their red eyes and their slightly vague expression suggest that they were pretty stoned, indeed. Let’s not forget that the original film material is around 80 hours long and that only less than 10% was included in the Peter Jackson trilogy. The trilogy has been produced for Disney, so it is also possible that there were “curatorial” choices (not to say censorship) to obtain a final product for “universal” commercial use.
But one thing is sure, that at that time, The Beatles consumed “industrial” quantities of weed. Don’t believe our insinuations? Then ask The Beatles themselves. Indeed, it is no secret that the Liverpool quartet has used and even abused various drugs throughout their careers.
Basically, as good Englishmen, they have always been inclined to raise the elbow a bit, and there’s also been a famous phase in which the four dedicated themselves to psychedelic experiences that led them to introduce lysergic sounds in their music, such as those we find in the album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band; the same psychedelic experiences had also deeply connected them (mainly George Harrison and John Lennon) to oriental culture and philosophy.
By his admission in several interviews and biographical books, Paul McCartney has always been the major cannabis user among the band members. He has also had the most problems with justice due to cannabis, both during the Beatles era and afterward. His first legal problems due to possession of cannabis date back to March 12, 1969, the day of his marriage to Linda Eastman when, during the wedding party at George Harrison’s home, the police raided and seized a “considerable” amount of hashish. Harrison and his wife Pattie Boyd were arrested, but later, Paul McCartney admitted that the hashish seized was, in fact, his.
In August 1972, while on a tour of Sweden with his post-Beatles band “The Wings,” McCartney and his wife Linda were arrested for possessing moderate amounts of cannabis on their way back to their hotel after the concert. The couple got away with a fine of a few thousand dollars. About a year later, in March 1973, McCartney was arrested again and again released after a modest fine, this time for being “caught” growing a patch of sensimilla cannabis on his farm in Campbelltown, Scotland.
Two years later, in March 1975, McCartney and his wife were pulled over by police while driving in Los Angeles, California, for not stopping at a traffic light. The policemen noticed the typical smell of marijuana in the vehicle and, by searching, they found a small amount of cannabis. Linda wasn’t driving, and took the blame saying the weed was hers, so Paul escaped troubles again without being arrested.
However, one of the most well-known episodes of cannabis trouble for Paul McCartnery is that of his arrest in Tokyo in January 1980, when the former Beatle was caught smuggling 218 grams of cannabis upon his arrival in Japan, at Narita International Airport. On that occasion, he admitted he was for personal use for the two weeks he would spend in Japan and ended up being locked up in a Tokyo prison cell for nine days awaiting trial. McCartney faced up to eight years in prison. Still, in the end, thanks to the intervention of his lawyers, who proved a severe financial loss for the 11 sold-out concerts that had to be canceled, Paul McCartney was expelled from Japan, avoiding trial.
In January 1984, McCartney and his wife were arrested in Barbados after buying weed on the beach just four years later. Again, Paul got away with a fine, avoiding up to three months in prison. Undeterred by the affair, Linda was fined just eight days later on another cannabis charge while she was with McCartney on their way back to the UK from their Barbados vacation, as she was carrying with her five grams of weed she purchased during the holidays.
Paul McCartney continued to use cannabis all his life and, only recently at the age of 69, said in an interview with the Daily Mirror that he had decided to quit smoking, but only to “give a good example” to his five children and eight grandchildren. A decision he arrived at from a parent’s point of view, as McCartney himself admitted.
It wasn’t just Paul Mccartney who had terrible experiences with the law over cannabis. Apart from the arrest of George Harrison and his wife during Paul’s wedding party, John Lennon and Yoko Ono got arrested in 1968 in New York for possession of marijuana.
The Beatles have been officially part of the pro-legalization wave for cannabis in the UK. Harrison, Lennon, McCartney, and Starr signed a full-page ad in London’s newspaper The Times in 1967, urging legal cannabis recreational use, relying on reasoning similar to that of 21st-century advocates of legalization, pointing to possible revenue benefits in taxes, and emphasizing the medicinal value of cannabis and the ability for legalization to counter the black market.
The role of cannabis in the creative process of The Beatles
Cannabis played a decisive role in The Beatles’ creative process, thanks to Bob Dylan. He introduced John, Paul, George, and Ringo to the “jazz broccoli” in 1964, during a meeting at the Delmonico Hotel in New York. This wasn’t the first time the Beatles tried smoking cannabis, but the first time, as it often does, it didn’t seem to have sorted any effect to the Fab Four. The cannabis strain Bob Dylan made them try was probably really consistent instead because The Beatles claimed that was their first cannabis high. Legend has it that Paul McCartney, as a neophyte smoker unaware of the “pass it” habit, finished the whole joint by himself under the eyes of Dylan, who, amused, immediately rolled another one.
Ringo Starr also mentioned the event during a televised interview with the host of one of America’s leading “Late Night Shows,” Conan. Here is the amusing reconstruction of the facts by the former Beatles drummer.
Since then, the band, mostly known for their “yeah yeah yeah” pop ballads, has revolutionized its approach to music production. Cannabis has transformed the band’s music production, pushing the four into a more reflective side. Already in 1965, the album Help! saw a much more melancholic approach to songwriting. Beyond the album, Help! was also one of the first Beatles films and one of the first pop experiments that combined music and cinematography. And cannabis was the protagonist of that production. As John Lennon reminded David Sheff in the novel All We Are Saying, “We used to smoke marijuana for breakfast. We liked marijuana a lot, and no one could communicate with us because we were just glassy eyes, giggling all the time.”
According to Ringo Starr, the shooting of Help! had to be done in the mornings because the four were already too stoned to work by the afternoon, and none of them could remember their scripted lines. “If you look at our photos, you can see many shots with red eyes; they were red from the weed we smoked,” Ringo said in Anthology. “These were those clean boys! Dick Lester knew there was very little that would be done after lunch. In the afternoon, we rarely got past the first line of the script, and nobody could do anything”.
The Beatles’ songs about cannabis
The Beatles have many songs dedicated to their relationship with drugs, and probably the most famous is Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, which is universally recognized (and declared by the Beatles themselves) as a tribute to LSD. But even on the cannabis planet, the production of The Beatles is not indifferent. Among the Liverpool quartet’s most popular songs about cannabis, the most important one is Got to Get You into My Life, taken from the 1966 Revolver album. The song is generally considered one of the Beatles’ many cheerful love songs, but according to Paul McCartney, the object of love is not a woman but weed.
As McCartney himself reminded Barry Miles in 1997 for the book Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now. “Got to Get You into My Life was a song I wrote when I was first introduced to weed. I was a classic working-class kid, but when we started using weed, it felt like enough. Uplifting. It didn’t seem to have too many side effects like alcohol or other things, like pills, which I pretty much avoided. I liked marijuana. It didn’t bother me and was literally mind-expanding. Got To Get You Into My Life is really a song about that. It’s not for one person, it’s actually an ode to weed.”
“This is actually the best way to expand the mind”, McCartney continued, also adding that “In a stressful world I’d say weed is one of the best calming drugs. I drank and smoked weed and of the two I think weed is less harmful. People tend to fall asleep on it rather than go out and commit murder, so it always seemed pretty benign to me.”
One of the happiest songs in the entire Beatles catalog, With A Little Help From My Friends, taken from the Sgt. Pepper album and sung by Ringo Starr sounds like an innocent track. McCartney recalls having a lot of laughs while writing it with John Lennon, planning to have Ringo sing it, and adding: “The song suggests countless things you can do with a little help from your friends, ed includes the famous line ‘I get high, with a little help from my friends’. “ Several other songs refer to cannabis on the same album, starting with Lovely Rita whose lyrics include “take some tea,” a London slang for cannabis use, and When I’m Sixty-Four, which quotes “digging the weeds.”
There is no doubt that the Magical Mystery Tour album is one of the strangest musical productions of The Beatles. The film’s soundtrack can make us feel a bit stoned on a ride to the carnival, and the Beatles made sure to complicate it all on the opening track with explicit references to marijuana, especially the “Roll up / Roll up for the mystery tour” chorus.
The 1964 album The Beatles For Sale is an album that bridges the initial clean image of the Beatles as a boyband and the more rock’n’roll side of Rubber Soul. The band had just started smoking marijuana, and they were eager to refer to this fact in their music. John Lennon mentions the song She’s a Woman in this regard, saying in 1980, “This is a song by Paul with my contributions. We put in the words ‘turns me on’. We were so excited to say it — you know, about the marijuana and all that … using it as a casual expression.”
Back to Get Back… to CBD Cannabis
We conclude our overview of The Beatles by returning to the original theme, Peter Jackson’s documentary about the last month of the creative production of The Beatles. Just as Jackson puts the Fab Four in a new light thanks to his “documentary archeology” work, we hope that reading this article will show you The Beatles and their musical production, if not in a new way, at least by an angle you hadn’t thought of. And being a CBD company, we invite you to see the documentary The Beatles: Get Back, or to dust off your Beatles CDs and vinyl records, to accompany the viewing and listening with some of our legal CBD cannabis products.
Are you feeling in a rock’n’roll mood? Then we suggest accompanying the listening with our CBD products of the Create and Party Worlds. On the other hand, if you want to let yourself slip into a state of relaxation and introspective exploration on the notes of the Beatles, there is nothing better than our CBD legal cannabis products from the Relax and Sleep Worlds. Seeing is believing. Or better said, in this case, believe it to be true.
With a little help from your MA True friends, you got to get CBD into your life.