Little Steven’s Underground Garage is among the top five best weekly syndicated radio shows of the past decade. Thank you, Steven Van Zandt, for seeing fit to bestow your gift upon the world and restore life to the dying art of radio broadcast. LSUG‘s most recent show (aired 29 Sept. 2013) was also its 600th and honored Grouch Marx’s 122nd birthday.
One of the most memorable episodes for me, however, was in 2005 when I first heard the story of how Bob Dylan met the Beatles. I’ve heard the story a few times since, but hearing it that first time in Van Zandt’s rich, chocolatey voice was like hearing Seamus Heaney’s recitation of Beowulf. I ended up using the story in an assignment for my rhetoric class (which probably earned me a solid C).
I can’t do the experience justice with a textual reconstruction, but the story itself is still a scream on its own.
Bob Dylan Meets the Beatles
(and introduces them to a mysterious new drug)
When The Beatles first came to the United States, John Lennon had the good fortune to meet Al Aronowitz, the well-known rock journalist who would later go on to produce for the Velvet Underground – the same Al Aronowitz in whose kitchen it’s fabled Bob Dylan wrote his classic “Mr. Tambourine Man.”
As a teenager growing up in Liverpool, John Lennon had developed a fascination with Bob Dylan and his music. So when John first met Al, the two talked for some time about Dylan and his music, as well as his love for marijuana.
“Ever tried it?” Al asked John, who replied in the negative, saying that kids in England did speed.
Lennon declined Aronowitz’s offer to set up a meeting between Dylan and the Fab Four, saying that he didn’t feel ready to meet the famous singer/song-writer. He wanted the Beatles to become popular in America first.
Roughly a year later, Lennon called Aronowitz up and said, “Okay, it’s time to meet Bob Dylan. And bring some of that marijuana stuff with you.”
At this time, the Beatles were holed up in a hotel in New York City. The next evening, Aronowitz and Dylan showed up at the Beatles’ hotel room, where the band was relaxing after a day of interviews with their manager, some friends, and some of their road crew.
After exchanging greetings, the six of them sat down around a coffee table in the suite and Dylan proceeded to roll a joint. He passed it to John, who took a nervous look at the joint and passed it to Ringo, the adventurous one of the band. Ringo lit the end of the joint, inhaled, and smiled. However, Ringo being unfamiliar with marijuana smoking etiquette, neglected to pass the joint.
But Dylan was too cool to correct the erring Beatle, opting instead to roll joints for everyone. Paul McCartney got high and was convinced his brain had never worked properly before. He had a road crew member follow him around for the next few hours writing down everything he said on a pad of paper.
John, Bob, and Al enjoyed a lengthy conversation, and John decided he’d found the greatest drug on the face of the planet.
As we all know, the Beatles later went on to experiment with harder drugs that influenced their later music, but it was Al Aronowitz and Bob Dylan who first introduced the Beatles to marijuana.
Ta da! It’s like a fairytale. I hope the folks over at the Ultimate Blog Challenge consider it PG.