Note: this is, again, a longer post than I am normally comfortable with; it is so because it contains a number of specific quotes I think important to read; be warned, they are a touch on the graphic side.
The first solid biography I ever encountered of a rock star was Peter Guralnick's 1994 tome on Elvis Presley, Last Train to Memphis. I picked it idly up in the Chicago Public Library one day and it intrigued me enough to check it out. I had not grown up listening to Elvis, though of course I knew who he was. My knowledge of his discography was limited to snatches of his most popular songs. My understanding of his life was even more limited.
Over the next few weeks I devoured it. I found it beyond interesting; it was well into the realm of fascinating. No sooner had I finished it than I reserved the second volume, Careless Love, The Unmaking of Elvis Presley. This one was like watching a train wreck unfold in slow motion. His fame, wealth, immaturity, and lack of self-discipline built the tornado that devoured his life.
In the course of those more than thirteen hundred pages I noticed something. As his music devoured his life drugs played an increasing role in that destruction. He first encountered them while serving in the army in Germany. When he returned home he brought his new found habit with him, and over the next fifteen years it broke him down piece by piece. No, Elvis did not technically die of a drug overdose like so many other rock stars have, but they undeniably played an integral and growing part in the dissolution of his skill and health. The drugs and the music and the fame and the wealth fed on each other in a vicious cycle that brought his life to an abrupt and embarrassing end.
Little did I know that this was but the beginning of my research into the history of rock and roll but already I had begun to notice a pattern – the now infamous symbiosis of drugs and rock music. Time passed as my research continued and I began to see the clear connection between such music and the occult world, a connection that I have laid out for you in some detail thus far in this series.
As these connected lines – drugs, drums, and demons – formed into obvious patterns in my mind I began to wonder if I could trace them visibly or nearly visibly in the lives of rock stars. For my first experiment I chose the most famous rock band to ever occupy a stage, the Quarrymen, otherwise known to history as the Beatles. As had become my custom, in addition to watching documentaries about their lives and clips of their concerts on You Tube, I also picked up a reputable biography of them. Shout, The Beatles in Their Generation by Philip Norman was my choice. Unlike with Guralnick's books on Elvis I purchased this one so I could make notations in the margin along the way. Published in 1981 and clocking in at over six hundred pages it is well reviewed. The Chicago Sun Times called it, "The best, most detailed, and most serious biography of the Beatles and their time." The New York Times was similarly effusive saying, "Nothing less than thrilling… the definitive biography."
It is relatively well known that by the end they were deeply enmeshed in the occult. The Beatles put Alistair Crowley (a drug-addicted, sex-obsessed anti-christ who pursued the occult passionately across Mexico, India, Egypt, and Europe) on the cover of the Sgt. Pepper album alongside their other heroes in 1967. In 1968 the Beatles sojourned in India for a time studying Eastern religion (which is occultic through and through) with the Maharishi. At the same time they spoke of delving into the Chinese Book of Changes, probably the oldest extant book on the occult in the world.
…but what about earlier? Could I or would I find a progression, or perhaps I should say a regression, of increased drug use along with demonic oppression as they transitioned from Liverpool school mates to the still most famous band in music history?
The answer is a resounding yes, and today's post is the proof. Here are a couple of thousand words worth of selections from Shout which chronicles the connection between their increasing and rampant drug use, their music, and their completely irrational behavior:
-(August, 1960; the still relatively unknown Beatles had left Liverpool to play the club circuit in Hamburg, Germany)
Someone in the early days had discovered Preludin, a brand of German slimming tablet which, while removing appetite, also roused the metabolism to goggle-eyed hyperactivity. Soon the Beatles - all but Pete Best - were gobbling 'Prellys' by the tubeful each night. As the pills took effect, they dried up the saliva, increasing the desire for beer.
Now the Beatles needed no exhortation to 'mak show.' John, in particular, began to go berserk on stage, prancing and growling...
Pete Best preferred not to take pills. When the others raced downstairs between spots to Rosa the WC attendant... when they clustered around the old woman in ankle socks, thrusting out Deutschmarks for Prellys from the sweet jar under desk, Pete Best would not be with them... Though perfectly amiable, and capable of drinking his share, he had showed himself to be devoid of the others' mad ebullience.
(not coincidentally, guess which Beatle never made the permanent cut…)
John would walk onstage at the Star-Club, naked, with a lavatory seat around his neck... John, each Sunday, would stand on the balcony, taunting the churchgoers as they walked up to St. Joseph's. He attached a water-filled contraceptive to an effigy of Jesus and hung it out for the churchgoers to see. Once, he urinated on the heads of three nuns.
'That was the sort of crazy thing you did, full of drink and pills,' Johnny Hutch says. 'Before we started playing at night, we'd shake Preludin down our throats by the tubeful. I've seen John Lennon foaming at the mouth, he's got so many pills inside him.'
-(Their first bass player was Stu Sutcliffe; he would die suddenly in 1962 of an unexplained brain aneurysm)
He existed for days without sleep, borne up by pills and drink and the feverish excitement of his work. The headaches, which had intermittently troubled him, began to increase, in frequency and ferocity. Sometimes the pain would send him into a kind of fit when he would smash his head against the wall or scream... A photograph taken at one such moment shows him half in shadow, his eyes frowning, sightless... It was that look which his college tutor, Edourdo Paolozzi, found especially disturbing, 'I felt there was a desperate thing about Stuart. I was afraid of it. I wouldn't go down to that club.'
For days at a time, she said, he would not come down from his attic to sleep or eat. And the headaches were sometimes so violent, they seemed more like fits...The Kirchherr family doctor, suspecting a brain tumor, sent him for X-rays. No tumor showed itself...The pain grew so intense at times that Astrid and her mother had to hold Stu down do stop him from throwing himself out of the window... Stu died in the ambulance, in Astrid's arms. 'At half-past four,' Millie Sutcliffe says, 'I was in my bedroom at home in Liverpool. I felt as if a great strong cold wind came through that house, lifted me up and laid me across the bed. For fifteen or twenty minutes, not a muscle in my body was capable of movement. That was the time, I discovered later, when Stuart was dying.'
-(later, in the early 60s, they graduated from Preludin to a wider variety of amphetamines)
Drugs occurred, like everything else, in almost wearisome profusion. The need dated from Hamburg and the months without sleep; it remained, amid the dizzying fame, to prop their eyes open through each night's arduous pleasure. Now the pills were bright-colored, like new clothes and cars - French Blues, Purple Hearts, Black Bombers and Yellow Submarines. The reflex grew in their growing boredom with everyday pleasure. More exciting than worship or sex, champagne or new toys, was to swallow a pill, just to see what would happen.
-(while shooting the film Help! in 1965; harder drugs make an appearance)
'They were high all the time we were shooting,' the director, Richard Lester, says.
'I saw it happen to Paul McCartney once,' Richard Lester says, 'the most beautiful girl I've ever seen, trying to persuade him to take heroin. It was an absolutely chilling exercise in controlled evil.'
(-in 1965 they were first introduced to LSD; one video I watched described LSD as the drug that would let you see sounds and hear colors; not for nothing is it known as psychedelic; it is probably one of the most mind-altering drugs on the planet; this quote reveals their first encounter with it)
'It was as if we suddenly found ourselves in the middle of a horror film. The room seemed to get bigger and bigger. Our host seemed to change into a demon. We were all terrified. we knew it was something evil-we had to get out of the house. We got away somehow, in George's Mini, but he came after us in a taxi. It was like having the Devil following us in a taxi.
'We tried to drive to some club-the Speakeasy, I think it was. Four of us, packed into the Mini. Everybody seemed to be going mad. Patti wanted to get out and smash all the windows along Regent Street. Then we turned around and started heading for George's place on Esher. God knows how we got there. John was crying and banging his head against the wall.'
It was with 'Tomorrow Never Knows,' and songs after it, that the new John emerged. The new John 'dropped' LSD, the mind drug, as casually as he had once smoked a cigarette; for the new John, music was to be the means of passing on the visions he had seen...
Against a background of eerie twangling and squibbled backwards tapes, the voice intoned not a lyric but an exhortation. 'Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream... Lay down all thought, surrender to the void, it is shining, it is shining'...
He could lie there all day, not speaking to Cynthia, not seeming to notice Julian, his trance penetrable only by... some costly and purposeless toy like his 'nothing box,' a black plastic cube in which red lights winked on and off at random. He could spend hours in trying to guess which of the red lights would wink on next.
George, too, was now regularly taking LSD. For him, the mental landscape the drug produced was one he had already seen. It was the India of mystic sounds and mystic beings, able to levitate or lie on spikes or bury themselves:... he who had always kept his mind tight shut against all schooling now began to devour books about yoga and meditation. The books promised a state he had so far found unattainable-of perfect pleasure, 'enlightenment' and peace.
Strawberry Fields was the name of an old Salvation Army children's home close to where John grew up in Liverpool. The song was, however, explicit only in its title: a mirror only to its author's almost perpetual LSD trip...You heard it even better, people said, when you were high.
(about Brian, their manager, an open homosexual who died of an overdose in August, 1967)
The mounting depression, the chemicals warring within him, produced fits of irrational anger which drove Joanne many times to the point of resignation...'The smallest thing would send him half-crazy. I got him a wrong number once and he literally went berserk.'
(about the production of 1967's Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band)
Its strength lay in the fact that to all four Beatles, the vision was the same. All four were now converted to the LSD drug. Paul McCartney, the cautious, the proper, had at last given in... It would be remembered as their best record, and also their very best performance.
Martin, indeed, found his last reserves melting in admiration of a song like John's 'Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,' whose images-of 'tangerine trees,' 'marmalade skies,' 'newspaper taxis' and 'looking-glass ties' - were dazzling enough to a man with his middle age senses intact. It did occur to him that sometimes John looked rather strange, if not actually unwell.
(Dr. Timothy Leary, the LSD apostles of the 60s, on the Sgt. Pepper album)
'I declare that the Beatles are mutants. Prototypes of evolutionary agents sent by God with a mysterious power to create a new species...They are the wisest, holiest, most effective avatars the human race has ever produced.'
Another, still deeper trough came in 1967, in the months before he met the Maharishi, when John, under Dr. Timothy Leary's influence, tried to destroy his ego... At a dinner party, given by Jane Asher, a guest happened to ask for an ash tray. John crawled under the table and invited her to flick her ash into his open mouth.
(John on his new love, Yoko Ono)
'As she was talking to me, I'd get high, and the discussion would get to such a level, I'd be getting higher and higher...Then I'd meet her again, and my head would go open, like I was on an acid trip.'
(May, 1969, John and Yoko)
This time, the press found them crouching on a table top inside a bag. It was, so John said, a demonstration of 'bagism' or 'total communication,' in which the speaker did not prejudice the listener by his personal appearance. More 'bagism,' he suggested, would generate more peace throughout the world. The British Daily Mirror spoke for the whole world in mourning 'a not inconsiderable talent who seems to have gone completely off his rocker.'
The sleeve this time showed Yoko in the hospital after her miscarriage, with John in his sleeping bag beside her bed. The tracks were screech and electronic scribble, and few seconds' heartbeat from the baby that had not survived... 'People think they're mad, both of them,' Ringo said, 'but that's not Yoko. That's just John being John.'
A new music based on the occultic rhythms of the West Africans Yorubans, and the spirit possession voodoo of Haiti? Check.
An increasing ingestion of harder and harder drugs? Check.
An increasingly bizarre behavior noticed and described so by all around them? Check.
A blatant self-professed connection between their music and the visions they received while taking drugs? Check.
Does that bother you as a Christian? Does it bother you that the most influential rock band in history was almost certainly under the direct influence of Satanic forces? …and people wonder why I want nothing to do with rock music, and why I aim to protect my children and my church from it at all costs.
I have said it before but it bears repeating: I am not interested in my music opening up the door of the occult in my mind.