If TMZ (and the Internet) had been around in the 1960s, you can bet that D.A. Pennebaker’s infamous film of John Lennon and Bob Dylan “both on fucking junk” (Lennon’s words) in the back of Dylan’s limo would have made it to their blog, Gawker and Huffington Post within a New York minute. But it wasn’t until the mid-1980s, when the VHS tape trading underground really took off, that copies of this insane, historically important for all the wrong reasons meeting started making their way into collectors eager hands (I had a copy). Now it’s easy to see, of course, on YouTube.
I’d always just assumed that Dylan and Lennon were both just extremely hungover, but maybe they were on something stronger. Lennon himself would know, right? It would certainly explain Dylan’s odd behavior and all that vomit talk, wouldn’t it?
This momentous event occurred on May 27, 1966 at the time of Dylan’s first “electric” tour of Great Britain, during a year that he admittedly had a $25 a day heroin addiction. The encounter was captured by filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker—it’s an outtake from Eat The Document—and shows how nervous these two rock gods were around each other. In his famous 1971 interview with Rolling Stone, Lennon remarked about the awkward limo ride:
“I just remember we were both in shades and both on fucking junk. ... I was nervous as shit. I was on his territory, that’s why I was so nervous.”
Whatever surreal flights of rock god verbal fantasy they had planned for this filming, the results were something rather less than coherent after Dylan shared his stash! Lennon told Jann Wenner that he was “frightened as hell” and “paranoid” that Dylan had just invited him to be in the film to put him down.
Without stating the obvious, (or perhaps he didn’t know) D.A. Pennebaker told Gadfly magazine:
It was not exactly a conversation by any means. Dylan was so beside himself and in such a terrible state that after a while I don’t think he knew what he was saying. He hauled him up the stairs of the hotel, and when he got to his room he was really sick.
Dylan is clearly out of his flipping mind on something and makes little, if any sense. From the way that he starts off fairly jovial in the first part to the slurred-voiced, nodding-off, face-scratching torpor and talk of vomiting that begins part three, Dylan’s behavior is consistent with a junk user and the viewer practically gets to witness the drug’s effect on him IN REAL TIME! The transformation is something to see. Lennon seems a little embarrassed, and yes, fucked up, but is still willing to play along until their failed attempts at witty wordplay dissolve into nonsense and Dylan seeming to wonder if they’ll make it all the way back to the hotel in time before he pukes his guts out. If John Lennon’s own word is to be trusted, they were both on junk in this footage. This is two of the world’s most famous people, ever, in the entire history of the world, and this is (most probably) them fucked up on heroin together!
How crazy, right?
This is history, baby. Not like great history or anything, but history nonetheless. It’s assumed by most people that they only spent a few minutes in the limo together because that’s what you see in the film and that’s normally what gets posted on YouTube, but they spent more than 20 minutes being shot in that limo. Although it’s fairly excruciating to watch, it is worth it to sit through all of it, once.