The Famous Beatles Lyric Bob Dylan Mistakenly Heard as a Drug Reference

In 1964, just before Labor Day, The Beatles were playing sold-out shows in Forest Hills (Queens) and staying at the Delmonico Hotel on Park Avenue back in Manhattan. By then, they’d long since made their grand entrance to America, and Beatlemania was in full swing.

But that doesn’t mean they’d won over everyone. In fact, Bob Dylan (a fan) said he kept his admiration for the Fab Four under wraps when he talked to musicians on the folk scene. “Everybody else thought they were just for the teenyboppers, that they were gonna pass right away,” Dylan said.

But Dylan knew they had something special, and he wanted to meet them while they were in New York. To some, that August ’64 hangout represents a turning point in popular music. Dylan would soon go electric; The Beatles would soon turn introspective; and the rest was history, so the legend goes.

Maybe that’s true on some levels, but then again it’s hard to imagine John Lennon singing “Love Me Do” for the rest of his career. But we’ll let others handle that question.

We know for sure that Dylan’s meeting with the Fab Four yielded at least one classic anecdote. It had to do with the lyrics to “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”

Dylan heard ‘I get high’ instead of ‘I can’t hide’ on ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand.’

Beatles fans gather near the Delmonico Hotel where the band stayed during their New York performances in August 1964. Bob Dylan showed up one night. | Daily Mirror/Mirrorpix via Getty Images

While The Beatles met Dylan that night, it was a landmarks summit for another big reason: He introduced the lads from Liverpool to marijuana. “He turned us on [to pot] in New York, actually,” John told Rolling Stone in 1970. “We’ve got a lot to thank him for.”

After they’d said their hellos and found out what Dylan wanted to drink, someone offered the folk singer a purple heart (a pill that’s a mixture of barbiturate and amphetamine). But Dylan declined and suggested they smoke a joint instead.

That caused a hush to go over the room, and Brian Epstein (the Beatles’ manager) admitted that none of them had ever smoked weed before. Dylan couldn’t believe it. “But what about your song?” he said, according to Epstein’s assistant Peter Brown (via Beatles Bible).

After John asked him which song he meant, Dylan replied, “The one about getting high.” Still confused, Dylan sung out the middle part of “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” “And when I touch you … I get high, I get high.” John answered, “Actually, the words are, ‘I can’t hide, I can’t hide.'”

After they’d smoked, the exchange became the funniest thing of all time.

John Lennon (right) smiles as Paul McCartney speaks at press conference held after Beatles performance in Portland. | Bettman

Though John had truly been through the ringer by 1970, he still had fond memories of that night — and that hilarious exchange with Dylan. “He thought we were singing ‘I get high,'” he said. “So he shows up and turns us on, and we had the biggest laugh all night – forever. Fantastic.”

And, while everyone loves to attach significance to the meeting, John wanted to remind everyone that, hey, there were also just a bunch of young guys hanging out after playing a concert. (At the time, John was 24; Dylan was 23.)

“I don’t remember much what we talked about,” John said in Anthology. “We were smoking dope, drinking wine, and generally being rock ‘n’ rollers and having a laugh, you know. It was party time.”

Also seeThe ‘Rubber Soul’ Track John Lennon Called His ‘Least Favorite Beatles Song’