Monday, September 15, 2014

The Drug That Helped Turn the Beatles into the World's Greatest Band

Posted By on Mon, Sep 15, 2014 at 4:47 AM

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There's a photo of four early Beatles (John, Paul, George and Pete) posing with prellies, looking maniacal. Pete Best points at the bottle of prellies in the photo, but that's not typical: He wasn't a drug user. Though he drank alcohol in Hamburg -- and hung out with a stripper while her husband was in prison -- he was opposed to using drugs himself. In 1965, the Beatles discussed Ringo's entry into the band, recalling Starr filled in when their drummer was sick. "He took little pills to make him ill," Starr told Playboy, almost offhand. Best sued over the allegations, and won a settlement in January 1969.

The Beatles hadn't kicked the drug habit by the time Ringo was installed as drummer and recording what would become their first hit. While recording "Please Please Me," Lennon offered a prellie to Bobby Brown (a girl who was then their fan club's president). "John had a fresh supply of prellies, some of which were still rattling in his suit pocket," Lewisohn writes. "Bobby's experience suggests every likelihood John was speeding at the session, which would also indicate a fair chance he wasn't the only one. The Beatles could play 'Please Please Me' well in every situation, straight or high, but they did it as such a lick here that the effect of a few... slimming pills can't be ruled out." On their first No. 1 hit, the Beatles are most likely on speed.

This wasn't like the more famous Beatles experiments with drugs later in the 1960s. For the Beatles, the prellies were more performance enhancing. The Hamburg scene in the early 1960s, drugs and all, is what turned an unknown group of teenagers into The Beatles. Speed kills, but it also helped produce the greatest band in the world.

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