George Harrison Said This Album Made Him Realize John Lennon Was ‘Even More Screwed Up’ Than He Thought
John Lennon and George Harrison took LSD together a number of times. Harrison believed that this changed the dynamic of their relationship in some ways. He also said that it gave him a better understanding of his bandmate. He thought that acid rattled loose some of Lennon’s childhood trauma. Lennon’s acid use and a 1970 album made Harrison realize that his bandmate had more problems than he thought.
George Harrison said an album gave him insight into John Lennon’s psyche
When Lennon was a child, his parents separated. After his aunt reported his mother to child services, he moved in with the former and grew distant from his mother. When they began to rebuild their relationship, Lennon’s mother died suddenly.
Lennon spoke about the loss of his mother with Paul McCartney, who could relate. It took frequent LSD use for Harrison to realize how profoundly Lennon’s childhood affected him.
“In a way, like psychiatry, acid could undo a lot — it was so powerful you could just see. But I think we didn’t really realize the extent to which John was screwed up,” Harrison said in The Beatles Anthology. “For instance, you wouldn’t think he could get bitter, because he was so friendly and loving; but he could also be really nasty and scathing.”
In 1970, Lennon released John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, which took inspiration from his primal scream therapy with Arthur Janov. In it, he wrote about his childhood abandonment issues. Upon listening, Harrison said he gained a deeper understanding of Lennon’s childhood.
“As a kid, I didn’t think, ‘Oh well, it’s because his dad left home and his mother died,’ which in reality probably did leave an incredible scar,” he said. “It wasn’t until he made that album about Janov, primal screaming, that I realized he was even more screwed up than I thought.”
George Harrison said LSD changed his relationship with John Lennon
Harrison and Lennon took acid more liberally than McCartney or Ringo Starr. According to Harrison, this brought them closer together.
“After taking acid together, John and I had a very interesting relationship,” he explained. “That I was younger or I was smaller was no longer any kind of embarrassment with John. Paul still says, ‘I suppose we looked down on George because he was younger.’ That is an illusion people are under. It’s nothing to do with how many years old you are, or how big your body is. It’s down to what your greater consciousness is and if you can live in harmony with what’s going on in creation.”
He said this made him feel closer to Lennon than the other Beatles.
“John and I spent a lot of time together from then on and I felt closer to him than all the others, right through until his death,” Harrison said. “As Yoko came into the picture, I lost a lot of personal contact with John but on the odd occasion I did see him, just by the look in his eyes I felt we were connected.”
John Lennon spoke about using LSD
Lennon said that in his lifetime, he likely tripped on acid 1000 times, though Harrison expressed doubt about this claim. Lennon believed that the drug broke down his ego.
“I got a message on acid that you should destroy your ego, and I did,” Lennon said. “I was reading that stupid book of Leary’s [The Psychedelic Experience], all that s***. We were going through the whole game that everybody went through, and I destroyed myself. I destroyed my ego and I didn’t believe I could do anything, and I let people do and say what they wanted, and I was nothing; I was s***.”
With the help of Beatles press officer Derek Taylor and Yoko Ono, though, he rebuilt his sense of self.
“That was it, and I started fighting again and being a loudmouth again, and saying, ‘Well, I can do this, and, ‘F*** you, this is what I want. I want it and don’t put me down.'”