John Lennon and George Harrison try LSD for the first time, and escape to the Ad Lib Club
In 1965 London, most of the live venues didn't have liquor licenses. So if you wanted to have a drink, you either went to a pub, or to a private club. And to get in, you usually needed to "be somebody." Usually, these were pretty stuffy, old, conservative places. But in 1965, at the height of "Swinging London," a few hip clubs opened to cater to the new pop aristocracy in London -- musicians, actors, fashion designers, etc. One of those was The Ad Lib Club on the top floor of 7 Leicester Place.
Judy Garland at the Adlib Club
An old freight elevator would take you up to where exclusively black American soul and blues records were being played, and stars of the scene would mill about. Stars like The Beatles who were regulars there. They even had their own permanently reserved table. And it was there that John Lennon and George Harrison went on March 27, 1966, on their first acid trip.
The two Beatles, along with their partners, had been for dinner at the home of a dentist friend, immortalized in The Beatles song, Dr. Robert. After dinner, they repaired to the drawing room where, without their knowledge, four acid-laced sugar cubes were dropped into their coffees. When the drug – and the fear – took hold they quickly fled in George’s brand new Mini. ‘Our host seemed to turn into a demon, we were all terrified,’ recalled Cynthia Lennon. ‘We knew it was something evil. We had to get out of the house.’
The Adlib: Then and Now
They decided to head for the Ad Lib, then the hangout for pop-stars such as the Stones and The Kinks, fashion designers Mary Quant and Jean Muir and actresses Hayley Mills and Julie Christie; it was even visited on occasion by Princess Margaret. But even the elevator ride up proved to be harrowing as they thought it was on fire, even though it was only a shining red light.
The Ad Lib Club didn't last long, but the experience of that night opened a whole new chapter in the Beatles' creative endeavours, and the days of simple pop songs were now behind them. Their psychedelic period soon followed.
The Beatles official video for the song "Help" -- recorded 2 weeks after the night at the Ad Lib