John Lennon and Paul McCartney visit Indica Books & Gallery

Friday, April 1, 1966
Timeline More from year 1966
Masons Yard, St. James's, London, UK

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On this day, Paul McCartney and John Lennon visited the Indica Books & Gallery, owned by John Dunbar, Peter Asher, and Barry Miles.

During this visit, John bought a copy of “The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based On The Tibetan Book Of The Dead“, a book written by Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner and Richard Alpert. When reading it, he found the line “Whenever in doubt, turn off your mind, relax, float downstream“, which inspired him for his song “Tomorrow Never Knows” and was changed into “Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream“.

The Beatles started recording “Tomorrow Never Knowson April 6, 1966, five days after this visit to Indica.

[…] From the beginning, John’s fertile imagination had conceptualized [Tomorrow Never Knows] in a special way. Paul recalled that the seed for it germinated on an afternoon in early March, when he and John visited the newly opened Indica Bookshop, ostensibly to encourage a few sales. John requested a book by an author whose name he pronounced as “Nitz Ga,” and only after a long, ineffectual search did Barry Miles finally turn up The Portable Nietzsche. In the interim, John browsed the stalls and pounced on a copy of The Psychedelic Experience, by Dr. Timothy Leary. Opening the book, he read: “Whenever in doubt, turn off your mind, relax, float downstream.” In fact, Leary had pinched most of that directly from The Tibetan Book of the Dead, which, in turn, gave John license to help himself to the lines. “Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream”. It was an irresistible mantra – for so many different reasons. Rushing home, John dropped acid according to Leary’s instructions. “l did it just like he said in the book,” John recalled. Almost immediately, the words came: inscrutable strings of words started threading around ever more gauzy abstractions. “Lay down all thoughts, surrender to the void… That you may see the meaning of within…” It was an acid freak’s bonanza! […]

From “The Beatles: The Biography” by Bob Spitz, 2005

[…] McCartney took an interest in the groundbreaking electronic music of classical composers and experimentalists Karlheinz Stockhausen, Luciano Berio and Edgard Varèse, and in the free jazz of saxophonist Albert Ayler. “I’m trying to cram everything in,” McCartney said, “all the things I’ve missed. People are saying things and painting things and writing things and composing things that are great, and I must know what people are doing.” In early 1966, McCartney and his girlfriend, Jane Asher, helped her brother, Peter, and his partners John Dunbar and Barry Miles prepare the opening of Indica Books and Gallery, a site for counter-cultural interests. McCartney was also the shop’s first customer: He would pore over new books at night and had the shop send on copies of what intrigued him to the other Beatles.

In April, McCartney took Lennon to Indica, where he came across The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead, by Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner and Richard Alpert. The authors – who had researched psychedelics for both therapeutic and mystical potential – intended their adaptation of an eighth-century Buddhist text as a guide through the psychedelic experience of “ego-death” and personality reintegration as the drug wore off. One passage read, “Do not cling in fondness and weakness to your old self. Even though you cling to your old mind, you have lost the power to keep it. . . Trust your divinity, trust your brain, and trust your companions. Whenever in doubt, turn off your mind, relax, float downstream.” Lennon now had a frame of reference to make sense of what the drug did to him. He read the entire book in the shop. […]

From RollingStone, August 25, 2016

About the “Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on The Tibetan Book of the Dead” book, from Wikipedia:

The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on The Tibetan Book of the Dead (commonly referred to as The Psychedelic Experience) is a 1964 book about using psychedelic drugs that was coauthored by Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner and Richard Alpert. All three authors had taken part in research investigating the therapeutic potential of psychedelic drugs such as LSD, psilocybin and mescaline in addition to the ability of these substances to sometimes induce religious and mystical states of consciousness.

Composition and publication

The text was started as early as 1962 as part of the Zihuatanejo Project in Zihuatanejo, Mexico. It was published in August 1964.

A reading from the book was recorded by the authors on an LP under the name The Psychedelic Experience in 1966. It was reissued on CD by Folkways Records in 2003.


The book is dedicated to Aldous Huxley, an early proponent of psychedelics, and includes a short introductory citation from The Doors of Perception, Huxley’s 1954 nonfiction work on the subject.

The Tibetan Book of the Dead is a Tibetan Buddhist text that was written as a guide for navigating the process of death, the bardō and rebirth into another form. The text of The Psychedelic Experience discusses the Tibetan Book of the Dead and use the process of death and rebirth presented in it as a metaphor for the experience of ego death or depersonalization that is commonly experienced under the influence of psychedelic drugs. The psychedelic internal “journey” is thus likened to a metaphorical death-rebirth experience, with the text intended as a guide.

It therefore discusses the various phases of ego death that can occur on psychedelics and gives specific instructions on how one should regard them and act during each of these different phases. In addition to containing more general advice for the readers on how to use psychedelics, the book also includes selections of writing presented with the intent for them to be read aloud during events during which users take psychedelics collectively. […]

From The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead – Timothy Leary, Ralph METZNER, Richard ALPERT – First edition (

About the Indica Books and Gallery, from Wikipedia:

Indica Gallery was a counterculture art gallery in Mason’s Yard (off Duke Street), St James’s, London from 1965 to 1967, in the basement of the Indica Bookshop. John Dunbar, Peter Asher, and Barry Miles owned it, and Paul McCartney supported it and hosted a show of Yoko Ono’s work in November 1966, at which Ono met John Lennon.

Indica Books and Gallery

Miles had been running the bookshop and alternative happenings venue Better Books but with new, more traditional, owners arriving, had been planning to open his own bookstore/venue. Through Paolo Leonni, Miles met John Dunbar who was planning on opening a gallery, and with John’s friend Peter Asher as silent partner, they combined their ideas into a company called Miles, Asher and Dunbar Limited (MAD) to start the Indica Books and Gallery in September 1965, as an outlet for art and literature. They found empty premises at 6 Masons Yard, which was in the same courtyard as the Scotch of St James club, where John Dunbar was living with his girlfriend Marianne Faithfull, when he discovered the place. The name chosen for the bookshop/gallery was a reference to Cannabis indica.

Yoko Ono and The Beatles involvement

At the time, Paul McCartney was dating Asher’s sister Jane Asher and living in the Asher family house at 57 Wimpole Street. He became involved with the emerging underground culture in London, and helped set up the bookshop and gallery. He was the Indica bookshop’s first customer, before it even had premises; he would look through the books at night that were stored in the Ashers’ basement and leave a note for the books that he had taken to be put on his account. Artists such as Pete Brown also helped in the renovation of the Indica. Jane Asher donated the shop’s first cash till, which was an old Victorian till that she had played with as a young girl. McCartney helped to draw the flyers which were used to advertise the Indica’s opening, and he also designed the wrapping paper.

McCartney encouraged fellow-Beatles member John Lennon to visit the gallery. On 7 November 1966, Lennon attended a preview evening of Unfinished Paintings, a conceptual art exhibition by Yoko Ono that ran from the 8th to the 18th of November. Co-owner John Dunbar had seen Ono’s performances of Cut Piece at the Destruction in Art Symposium in September and invited her to make an exhibition for Indica Gallery. On seeing it, Lennon initially liked the artwork Apple and was impressed by the interactive Ceiling Painting/Yes Painting, which he found very positive. While Lennon and Ono claimed that this was the first time they met, this is diputed by Miles and others.

Indica Bookshop

In 1966, the Indica bookshop was separated from the Indica Gallery, and moved to 102 Southampton Row in the summer of 1966. The bookshop was opened on the site of an old and established bookseller and exporter called William Jackson Books Limited. Jackson’s had decided to concentrate on the export side of its business and sold a twenty-year lease of the retail bookshop to Miles, Asher, and Dunbar. The name of the bookshop was promptly changed to INDICA Books. Chris Hill and his wife Jo, who owned William Jackson Books, had taken a flat above the shop on Southampton Row and ran the export business from there. It soon proved to be a popular venue for the INDICA Books team and the royalty of the ‘swinging sixties’ that were associated with them. John Lennon and Paul McCartney were visitors to the flat and on one evening, in 1966, they rehearsed a song they called “Mark I” in the flat. The song was later recorded at the Abbey Road Studios as “Tomorrow Never Knows” and included on the Revolver album.

The International Times newspaper was started in the basement of the Southampton Row bookshop. […]


I don’t know whether Indica Books, the shop in London’s Mason’s Yard owned by Peter Asher and Marianne Faithfull’s husband, John Dunbar, is selling a lot of books; but it’s certainly becoming the new ‘in place.’ As well as Peter and Marianne, I noticed sister Jane visiting quite a lot and last Friday John Lennon and Paul McCartney popped in to browse for a few hours.

From Disc And Music Echo – April 9, 1966
From Disc And Music Echo – April 9, 1966

Last updated on November 22, 2023

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LG 1 year ago

If I've read this right it looks like there might be an error here in this section(?):

'When reading it, he would find the line “Whenever in doubt, turn off your mind, relax, float downstream“, which inspired him for his song “Tomorrow Never Knows” and was changed into “When in doubt, relax, turn off your mind, float downstream“.'

Actually the last bit should read "...and was changed into "Turn off your mind, relax, and flow downstream." Better yet sans passive voice: "...and Lennon/he changed it to "Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream.

The PaulMcCartney Project 1 year ago

Thanks LG! You're right, and I'm fixing it.

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