Everybody knows Revolver (1966) is the trippiest album of The Beatles. From the gritty guitar solo in “Taxman” to the melodious strangeness in the lyrics of “She Said, She Said”, it is an enveloping experience that floods the audience’s imagination with a world of magical textures, shapes, and sounds. But are you aware that this fantastic album is the result of an LSD-induced inspiration?
The story begins one night in the spring of 1965. It was supposed to be a night like any other for the Beatles, except John and George had to attend a dinner at the house of their dentist, John Riley, and his girlfriend Cindy in London. John went with his then wife, Cynthia, and likewise, George brought along his wife, Pattie Boyd. However, after finishing their delicious meals, things started getting a little fishy. Dr. Riley didn’t want them to leave the house and asked them to stay for coffee. Afterwards, he invited them to finish the cups. But what John, George, and their wives didn’t know was that the dentist had mixed LSD in the sugar cubes of their coffee, without them knowing it.
At first, John was furious and insulted the doctor. Things started getting a little weird afterwards. Since all the guests of the party had been drugged without their consent, John and his friends decided to leave the house right away because they thought the dentist was trying to keep them there for an orgy. Scared as hell, they all hopped into George’s car —a Mini Cooper— and drove all the way to Leicester Square. There, they went inside the Ad Lib club, possibly because the drug was already having an effect. To get to the club, however, the two Beatles and their wives had to take an elevator. But feeling trapped within the lift, they started to have a collective delusion that the place was catching fire. This perception, as it would have been evident to a sober eye, was just the effect of the red light that illuminated the elevator for ambience effects.
After their moment of shared hysteria, the four of them got to the club where they sat comfortably at a table. And once they felt there was no imminent danger anymore, the soothing, chiller effects of the drug took hold of them. The four of them started tripping well, feeling at ease with themselves and the universe. A singer working at the club asked them if he could sit at their table. John, overwhelmed by a feeling of elation, replied that he could do it if he remained quiet. For George, the experience had a spiritual tone. In an interview for Rolling Stone, he said that being there caused him an overwhelming sensation of well-being that even took his train of thought to convince him of the existence of God. For the Beatles’ guitarist, the experience felt like gaining a hundred years of life experience in just twelve hours.
Afterwards, the four of them went back to George’s house. In that specific moment, John suffered one of the luckiest visions he ever had in life. To him, George’s place looked like a yellow submarine whose direction he was steering. The rest is history: he wrote the vision into a song, and eventually, that same trip would be eventually taken to the screen, a cornerstone in audiovisual psychedelics. After the effects of the drug wore off, John and George were left with thousands of insights to break the boundaries of their music. Later, they both convinced Ringo and Paul to experimenting as well, and the Beatles would never be the same again. If you enjoyed reading about John and George’s crazy visit with Dr. Riley, you might be interested in reading about the enigmatic story behind John’s most spiritual song and the story behind the Rolling Stones’ deadliest rock show.