EMI takes the drugs out of the Beatles era

History is rewritten as references to psychedelic influences removed from cover of pounds 100 video
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The Independent Online

Arts News Editor

A pounds 100 boxed set of The Beatles Anthology videos has had its sleeve notes censored to remove all mention of drugs, The Independent has learned. The eight-volume set, which runs for 10 hours - twice the length of the anthology series on television - went on sale yesterday.

Buyers will be unaware that the video sleeves have been censored by EMI, The Beatles' record company. A number of drug-related passages have been deleted including a quote by Ringo saying that "the grass was influential in a lot of our changes, especially with the writers". That reference, implying that Lennon and McCartney were helped in their composing by soft drugs, has been removed, along with a passage by the group's long serving press officer, Derek Taylor.

Mr Taylor had written about how The Beatles had their minds expanded by marijuana, and that two of their albums, Rubber Soul and Revolver, showed "the beneficial effects of herbal jazz cigarettes".

At Apple Corps yesterday The Beatles' management privately said they were stunned that EMI had chosen to censor remarks about drugs, particularly as the videos themselves contain unseen footage of The Beatles talking about drugs and the psychedelic era.

One senior Beatles' aide said: "It is pretty amazing that 30 years after the event businessmen are still taking fright at references to drugs. The videos contain numerous mentions of drugs, none of which has been edited out. George Harrison talks about how he and John Lennon were slipped LSD by their dentist and went into a lift where they thought a red light was a fire and emerged from the lift screaming."

The three surviving Beatles also reveal that they "smoked marijuana for breakfast" during the making of the 1965 film Help!. Last night a spokesman for Parlophone, the division of EMI which deals with The Beatles, said he did not wish to comment on the changes.

Paul McCartney gave the first critical view of the complete eight-video set. He said: "Seeing some of the stuff I've seen in the videos I think proves we were a good band. I don't have to say that with any arrogance now, because I'm looking back on it as if it was four other people. But we were bloody good."

The videos will be on sale individually too, but demand is likely to be heaviest for the complete package. At HMV in Liverpool 50 sets were sold in the first hour of business; and it is estimated that about 200,000 sets will be sold nationwide. Ironically this figure is likely to be beaten by a new video shortly to be released by Oasis, often referred to as the Nineties' answer to The Beatles.

Neither group, though, is likely to have the best-selling music video ever. The sale of the Riverdance video is estimated so far at pounds 2m.