Monday, August 24, 2015

The origins of "She Said She Said" -- 50 years ago today

We have seen on this blog that whenever someone said something unusual, one of the Beatles would put that quote into his mind and hang onto it and use it later in a song or album title.    50 years ago today, Peter Fonda said the words that John Lennon remembered and used to write the song, "She Said She Said."   Many fans believe that this occurred during the 1966 tour, which I guess is easy to understand.   1965 is thought of as the "pot" years and 1966-1967 as the "LSD" years.   However, obviously it happened in 1965, because the song is found on the Revolver album, which was released just prior to the Beatles 1966 North American tour.  

There are a few variations of the story, depending on who is telling it.   But it all starts off at a party at the home in Benedict Canyon where the Beatles were staying.   People at the party (besides the Fab 4) included Neil Aspinall, Roger McGuinn, David Crosby, Peter Fonda and Don Short from the Daily Mirror .     Short was quoted as saying, "Neil Aspinall was sent to escort me downstairs to the pool room because I was the only journalist on the premises.  His job was to divert my attention from the fact that everyone else was taking acid."

John and George had gotten the LSD in New York and had decided that Ringo and Paul had to take it so that they could relate to one another.  So they decided that during their break in LA, they would bring it out to share with the other bandma

Paul, John and George with Don Short in 1964

  In the infamous "Lennon Remembers" interview of 1970, John talks about getting rid of Don Short. 

We still didn't know anything about doing it in a nice place and cool it and all that, we just took it. And all of a sudden we saw the reporter and we're thinking, 'How do we act normal?' Because we imagined we were acting extraordinary, which we weren't. We thought, 'Surely somebody can see.' We were terrified waiting for him to go, and he wondered why he couldn't come over, and Neil  who had never had it either, had taken it, and he still had to play road manager. We said, 'Go and get rid of Don Short,' and he didn't know what to do, he just sort of sat with it. And Peter Fonda came, that was another thing, and he kept on saying, 'I know what it's like to be dead.' We said, 'What?' And he kept saying it, and we were saying, 'For chrissake, shut up, we don't care. We don't want to know.' But he kept going on about it. That's how I wrote She Said She Said...

John in 1965

John says in the 1980 Sheff interview about the party,

 It was  during an acid trip in LA during a break in The Beatles' tour where we were having fun with The Byrds and lots of girls. Some from Playboy, I believe. Peter Fonda came in when we were on acid and he kept coming up to me and sitting next to me and whispering, 'I know what it's like to be dead.' He was describing an acid trip he'd been on. We didn't want to hear about that! We were on an acid trip and the sun was shining and the girls were dancing and the whole thing was beautiful and Sixties, and this guy - who I really didn't know; he hadn't made Easy Rider or anything - kept coming over, wearing shades, saying, 'I know what it's like to be dead,' and we kept leaving him because he was so boring! And I used it for the song, but I changed it to 'she' instead of 'he'. It was scary. You know, a guy… when you're flying high and [whispers] 'I know what it's like to be dead, man.' I remembered the incident. Don't tell me about it! I don't want to know what it's like to be dead!

Fonda himself tells several similar stories about the night.    Here is what he told Rolling Stone right after Lennon's death in 1980:

I first met the Beatles in 1966 [sic] while they were renting a house in Benedict Canyon, near Los Angeles.  I went over there with some of the best of whatever I had on me at the time, and as I approached the house, I could see that the entire canyon was filled with kids.  They mobbed my Jaguar--they didn't know who the hell i was beyond a longhair in a Jaguar--and they dented that sucker pretty good.  Finally I made my way past the kids and the guards.  Paul and George were on the back patio, and helicopters were patrolling overhead.  They were sitting at a table under an umbrella in a rather comical attempt at privacy.  soon afterward, we dropped acid and began tripping for what would prove to be all night and most of the next day; all of us, including the original Byrds, eventually ending up inside a huge, empty sunken tub in the bathroom, babbling our minds away.   I had the privilege of listening to the four of them sing, play around and scheme about what they would compose and achieve.  They were so enthusiastic, so full of fun.  John was the wittiest and most astute.  I enjoyed just hearing him speak, and there were no pretensions in his manner.  He just sat around, laying out lines of poetry and thinking -- an amazing mind.  He talked a lot, yet he still seemed so private.   It was a thoroughly tripped out atmosphere, because they kept finding girls hiding under tables and so forth; one snuck into the poolroom through a window while an acid-fried Ringo was shooting pool with the wrong end of the cue.  'Wrong end?" he'd say, "So what fuckin' difference does it make?"    At one point Paul, George and I were talking about death and I was explaining that I had once died on the operating table.  "I know what it's like to be dead," I said, and just then John walked past and said, "Who put all that shit in your head?"   That exchange turned into the song, "She Said She Said."

Peter Fonda in the mid 1960's

 In the 1990's Fonda said this, "  I remember sitting out on the deck of the house with George, who was telling me that he thought he was dying.  I told him that there was nothing to be afraid of and that all he needed to do was to relax.  I said that I knew what it was like to be dead because when I was 10 years old I'd accidentally shot myself in the stomach and my heart stopped beating three times while I was on the operating table because I'd lost so much blood.  John was passing at the time and heard me saying "I know what it's like to be dead."  He looked at me and said, "You're making me feel like I've never been born.  Who put all that shit in your head?"

George in 1965

And our George also has something to say about it  (from the Anthology)

Paul wouldn't have LSD; he didn't want it. So Ringo and Neil took it, while Mal stayed straight in order to take care of everything. Dave Crosby and Jim McGuinn of The Byrds had also come up to the house, and I don't know how, but Peter Fonda was there. He kept saying, 'I know what it's like to be dead, because I shot myself.' He'd accidentally shot himself at some time and he was showing us his bullet wound. He was very uncool.

George also has this to say about the evening: (From the Anthology)

   We were all tripping out and they brought several starlets in and set up a movie for us to watch in the house. By the evening, there were all these strangers sitting around with their make-up on - and acid just cuts through all that bullshit. The movie was put on, and - of all things - it was a drive-in print of Cat Ballou. The drive-in print has the audience response already dubbed onto it, because you're all sitting in your cars and don't hear everybody laugh. Instead, they tell you when to laugh and when not to. It was bizarre, watching this on acid. I've always hated Lee Marvin, and listening on acid to that other little dwarf bloke with a bowler hat on, I thought it was the biggest load of baloney shite I'd ever seen in my life; it was too much to stand. But you just trip out. I noticed that I'd go 'out there'; I'd be gone somewhere, and then - bang! - I'd land back in my body. I'd look around and see that John had just done the same thing. You go in tandem, you're out there for a while and then - boing! whoa! - 'What happened? Oh, it's still Cat Ballou.' That is another thing: when two people take it at the same time; words become redundant. One can see what the other is thinking. You look at each other and know.

Ringo in June of 1965
 Ringo didn't know anything about the beginnings of a song, but he did have a good time!
(from the Anthology)
I'd take anything. John and George didn't give LSD to me. A couple of guys came to visit us in LA, and it was them that said, 'Man, you've got to try this.' They had it in a bottle with an eye-dropper, and they dropped it on sugar cubes and gave it to us. That was my first trip. It was with John and George and Neil and Mal. Neil had to deal with Don Short while I was swimming in jelly in the pool. It was a fabulous day. The night wasn't so great, because it felt like it was never going to wear off. Twelve hours later and it was: 'Give us a break now, Lord.'

Roger McGuinn
 Roger McGuinn had this to say about the party:   (2010 interview with the Daily Mirror )

There were girls at the gates, police guards. We went in and David, John Lennon, George Harrison and I took LSD to help get to know each other better. There was a large bathroom in the house and we were all sitting on the edge of a shower passing around a guitar, taking turns to play our favourite songs. John and I agreed Be-Bop-A-Lula was our favourite 50s rock record.  I showed George Harrison some Ravi Shankar sounds, which I'd heard because we shared the same record company, on the guitar. I told him about Ravi Shankar and he said he had never heard Indian music before.


  1. interesting but depressing too

  2. "She Said, She Said", my single most-favorite Beatle song, what a song....and what a drum performance from Ringo! One of his very best!

    You know, Sara, I know you don't take drugs, which makes me really appreciate how well you present their forays into experimentation (and sometimes abuse!). You never pass judgment, but simply present the facts as they're purported to happen. There's no getting away from the fact that drugs like marijuana and hallucinogens had some kind of positive effect on their music, anymore than we can't get away from the fact that Ringo (and John!) had issues with alcohol, or that maybe George should have laid off the cigarettes when he was younger!!!

    Anyways, it's a slight, subtle nuance to you and your blog that I appreciate! You don't get up on a soapbox and say "Bad Beatles!!", nor do you say "Groovy, man, acid!". It's all just part of the story.

    Well-done on this one (as usual!).