James Taylor Recalls Giving Opiates to John Lennon
He’d already been a heroin addict for several years, and spent time in a mental institution, when he flew to London in 1967 and became the first American artist signed to the Beatles’ Apple Records label. The experience of working on his self-titled debut album was dogged by personal issues, and Taylor was unable to support its release by touring because he returned to the hospital at the time.
“I was very nervous, but I was also, you know, on fire, in my spot of mellow, sensitive way,” Taylor told The Guardian of his Apple audition in a new interview. “After being signed, he worked on his debut LP while the Beatles recorded their White Album. “We intersected in the studio a lot,” he recalled. “They were leaving as I was coming in. I often came in early and would sit in the control room and listen to them recording – and hear playbacks of what they had just cut.”
But Taylor started taking drugs again. “I picked up pretty soon after I got here,” he recalled. “You used to be able to buy something called Collis Browne’s Chlorodyne, which was an old-fashioned medication. Essentially, it was a tincture of opium, so you’d drink a couple of bottles and you could take the edge off.”
He said the Beatles were experiencing a “slow” but “extremely creative unraveling” while he was there. “I was a bad influence to be around the Beatles at that time too,” he admitted. “Because I gave John opiates.” Asked if it was him who introduced Lennon to the drug, Taylor replied, “I don’t know.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Taylor discussed his family’s issues with addiction and his concern that he’d eventually turn out like his alcoholic father. “To be able to take a juice that solves your internal stress … ,” he reflected. “One of the signs that you have an addiction problem is how well it works for you at the very beginning. It’s the thing that makes you say, ‘Damn, I like my life now.’ That’s when you know you shouldn’t do it again.”