(This week’s second new category: In whence I will try to put those random cultural experiences which really need to be noted somehow or other but do not fit anywhere else.)
“Soon after Stormy’s death, Peter (Fonda) experiments with LSD. The result is a sensory freak-out, leading to the same breakthrough soon to be claimed by many an acid initiate: cosmic consciousness. Having tripped, he says in 1967, ‘I know where I am on this planet.’
“He’s tripped several times by late August 1965, when through the intercession of the Byrds’ Jim McGuinn and David Crosby he meets the Beatles. Concluding their second American tour, the Fab Four are taking their rest in a hillside mansion on stilts in the wilds north of Beverly Hills. Music plays, pot smoke is on the breeze, and Playboy Bunnies offer relaxation in private rooms. As John Lennon will later recall, ‘The sun was shining and the girls were dancing and the whole thing was beautiful and Sixties.’
“But as the day lengthens and the sun goes burnt orange, things turn, in McGuinn’s words, ‘morbid and bizarre.’ Acid comes out. Its takers loll in an empty sunken tub. After a while, George Harrison says he feels as though he’s dying. Peter flashes on his ten-year-old self (who had to be revived repeatedly at the hospital following a self-inflicted gun-shot wound)–and perhaps on Stormy (McDonald, a close Fonda friend, heir to the Zenith fortune, recently found dead under suspicious circumstances), gone just a few months. ‘I know what its like to be dead,’ he whispers back.
“Lennon is nearby, growing paranoid. He is (like Fonda) a bright, rebellious boy with a distant father and dead mother; Peter’s utterance takes him close to an edge he would rather avoid. ‘You’re making me feel like I’ve never been born,’ he moans….”
(Devin McKinney, The Man Who Saw A Ghost: The Life And Work Of Henry Fonda, 2012–parenthetical insertions mine)
First off, this makes me want to read McKinney’s book on the Beatles even more than the rest of this fascinating little book has.
But what I find really interesting is the idea that “She Said She Said”–the song Lennon wrote based on this particular interchange, which is a high point of Revolver, for my money the Beatles’ last really great album, and, in its supreme reduction of potentially disturbing passion to clinically useful vacuousness, as perfectly Beatlesque as anything could be–was actually born in a moment of genuine (albeit drug-addled) pain and confusion.
Absolutely never would of guessed.
As McKinney himself states a few lines later (sans pretension amazingly enough): “The mysteries and pains of the sixties might be summed up in this one exchange.”
So they might.