October 29, 2018

The Timothy Leary political campaign slogan that became a famous Beatles song…

The best-known slogan coined by Sixties counterculture celebrity Timothy Leary is the one he created to promote the use of LSD and other psychedelic drugs: “Turn on, tune in, drop out.”

He first began popularizing this saying in his public lectures and comments around 1966 and used it as the title of a spoken word album released that year.

In 1969, Leary came up with another slogan that was eventually made famous, though not by him.

Leary seems to have figured that if a Hollywood celebrity like Ronald Reagan could run for Governor and get elected, maybe the times were right for a Hippie celebrity to take a shot at it.

Besides, he loved publicity.

So, he threw his mushroom cap into the ring and announced that he planned to run against Reagan in the 1970 gubernatorial election.

Leary came up with the tongue-in-cheek campaign slogan, “Come together, join the party.”

In June of 1969, while visiting John Lennon and Yoko Ono at their legendary Montreal “Bed-In,” Leary asked Lennon to write a campaign song to go with his slogan.

Lennon agreed. And, during the Montreal Bed-In days, in addition to writing and recording “Give Peace a Chance,” Lennon wrote an initial version of the song “Come Together.”

Although the melody was basically like the Beatles song we know today, the original chorus was different.

It went: “Come together, right now. / Don’t come tomorrow. / Don’t come alone.”

Lennon made a demo tape of the campaign song for Leary. Leary gave copies to local underground radio stations in California and the song got some limited airplay.

Shortly thereafter, Leary’s campaign was derailed by his mounting legal troubles from a past marijuana bust, and he was forced to, er, drop out of the Governor’s race. (Lucky for Ronnie, eh?)

But Lennon liked the song and took it to his bandmates, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, when the Beatles were recording their Abbey Road album.

Together, they reworked it a bit and changed the lyrics to those all true Beatles fans are familiar with:

“Here come old flattop, he come groovin’ up slowly
He got ju-ju eyeballs, he one holy roller
He got hair down to his knees
Got to be a joker, he just do what he please
He wear no shoeshine, he got toe-jam football
He got monkey finger, he shoot Coca-Cola
He say, I know you, you know me
One thing I can tell you is you got to be free
Come together, right now, over me.”

The first line of the “Come Together” was Lennon’s homage to a similar line from Chuck Berry’s classic 1956 rock ‘n’ roll song “You Can’t Catch Me.” 

Berry’s song was inspired by an informal car race he once had with some young crew-cut haired dude on the New Jersey Turnpike, who he immortalized with the words: “Up come a flattop, he was movin' up with me.”

Lennon’s variation on that and the chorus of his song — “Come together, right now, over me” — both became well-known pop culture quotations.

“Come Together” was released as a single in the U.S. on October 6, 1970 and reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart on November 29, 1969 — which is how, by a trippy route, Tim Leary’s gubernatorial campaign slogan became the subject of posts for those dates on ThisDayinQuotes.com.

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