The song that Paul McCartney wrote about “rolling a joint”

Paul McCartney has a long track record of incorporating discreet allusions to drugs within his music. In 1973, when McCartney and Wings unveiled ‘Let Me Roll It’ as the B-side to their hit ‘Jet’, music critics claimed sounded a lot like a John Lennon imitation, which McCartney denied, counteracting any misconceptions about stark differences between their musical outlooks.

While McCartney and Lennon would encounter a lot of media back-and-forth about their solo similarities, inherent rivalry, and song meanings, a lot of McCartney’s lyrics actually veered more toward euphemisms for substances like marijuana or psychedelics. For example, ‘Let Me Roll It’, according to McCartney, conveys the pleasure of “rolling a joint” – a hobby that started during his time with The Beatles. He found the drug to have “literally mind-expanding” effects and wanted to write a song about its enjoyment

This wasn’t the first time McCartney expressed his passion for the substance. “‘Got To Get You Into My Life’ is really a song about that, it’s not to a person,” the singer said. “It’s actually an ode to pot, like someone else might write an ode to chocolate or a good claret. While we don’t know anyone who writes odes to chocolate, we do get the point”.

When ‘Let Me Roll It’ was released, many believed the song’s resemblance to Lennon gave it a direct connection with the pair’s public feud, which took place in the early 1970s. At the time, they often directed messages towards each other through their music. However, McCartney insisted that ‘Let Me Roll It’ held a different sentiment entirely. “‘Let Me Roll It’ wasn’t to John,” he said, “It was just in the style that we did with The Beatles that John was particularly known for. It was really actually the use of the echo. It was one of those: ‘You’re not going to use echo just ‘cause John used it?’ I don’t think so. To tell you the truth, that was more [about] rolling a joint. That was the double meaning there: ‘let me roll it to you.’ That was more at the back of my mind than anything else”.

However, while the song was seemingly about marijuana, and not his fall-out with Lennon, McCartney instead addressed their feud in ‘Dear Friend’. The song, featured on the 1971 album Wild Life, was a call for a cease-fire with his former songwriting partner. In a 1994 interview, McCartney said he wrote the song because he had to respond to Lennon but didn’t want to “slag him off in public”.

He explained: “‘Dear Friend’ was written about John, yes. I don’t like grief and arguments, they always bug me,” he added, “Life is too precious, although we often find ourselves guilty of doing it. So after John had slagged me off in public, I had to think of a response, and it was either going to be to slag him off in public — and some instinct stopped me, which I’m really glad about — or do something else. So I worked on my attitude and wrote ‘Dear Friend’, saying, in effect, let’s lay the guns down, let’s hang up our boxing gloves”.

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