On his first trip to England in 1968, James Taylor played for Paul McCartney and George Harrison. The younger half of the Beatles were impressed with the Chapel Hill-raised singer-songwriter, and they made Taylor the first act signed to the nascent Apple Records. Taylor began recording his debut album at Trident Studios, where the Beatles were also recording The Beatles at the time.
“We intersected in the studio a lot,” says Taylor in a new interview in the Guardian. “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.”
It’s hard to imagine what more a barely 20-year-old musician could want, but it wasn’t all good news for Taylor. He quickly picked up a drug habit in London, where heroin and other opiates were cheap and easy to find at the time.
“[Y]ou 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 recalled. Eventually, he shared his stash with none other than John Lennon, something that he clearly regrets to this day.
“Well, I was a bad influence to be around the Beatles at that time,” Taylor says, “Because I gave John opiates,” though he’s unsure if he was the one who introduced Lennon to the stuff.
Lennon’s heroin addiction was widely known, and it definitely contributed to the breakup of the Beatles. Still, it’s hard to argue that Taylor deserves the blame for ending The Beatles. There were other problems festering within the band that might have doomed them anyways. It’s also easy to imagine Lennon finding the drug from someone else, given its widespread use among musicians at the time. It’s also hard to blame Taylor for Lennon’s choice to try the drug, which he continued to use until shortly before his death.