James Taylor Says He Was “A Bad Influence” On The Beatles

Taylor was an early signing to their label, Apple Records

James Taylor in 2020
James Taylor spoke candidly about his early life and music in a new interview.
Jay Godwin/Creative Commons
By Tobias Carroll / February 19, 2020 7:00 am

James Taylor is well-known for his skills as a singer and a songwriter. James Taylor is also well-known for blending melodic songs with confessional lyrics. But there’s also a bleaker side to Taylor’s life — one which involves spells of depression and addiction, and which led him to describe himself as “a bad influence” with respect to another artist with whom his early career intersected.

“I was a bad influence to be around the Beatles at that time,” Taylor told The Guardian‘s Jenny Stevens in a new interview. Taylor’s had his younger years on his mind a lot lately: earlier this year, he released Break Shot: My First 21 Years, an audio memoir of his early life.

He first encountered The Beatles when he auditioned for their label, Apple, in 1968. That led to the recording of Taylor’s first album, which coincided with the making of The Beatles’ White Album. And it led to something that Taylor, who was struggling with addiction in those days, regrets.

“I gave John opiates,” Taylor told Stevens. He’s unsure if he was the person who introduced Lennon to them or not, but Lennon’s eventual heroin addiction left its mark on the band and on Lennon’s life. Taylor cites a product called Collis Browne’s Chlorodyne as a particular offender. “Essentially, it was a tincture of opium,” he said.

Not long after that, Taylor left London and Apple behind for Laurel Canyon, where he was part of a thriving scene of singer-songwriters. The interview touches on the breadth of Taylor’s life and work; it’s an enlightening look at a musician whose work has touched the lives of many listeners.

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