The St. Louis Riverfront Times takes a fairly thorough look at the tiny diet pill that helped fuel the early Beatles' marathon performances in Hamburg nightclubs.
Officially known as phenmetrazine and sold under the name Predulin, the drug was popular in Europe in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Prellies were especially easy to obtain in Hamburg's red light district, St. Pauli. Sold as a diet pill, prellies became the drug of choice for the Beatles and other bands looking to stay sharp and awake. Tony Sheridan -- whose "My Bonnie" features the Beatles as a backing band, the group's first recording -- helped introduce the Beatles to the drug in 1961, during their second trip to Hamburg. "Here's something to keep you awake," he reportedly told the group.
Old speed freaks wax nostalgic about prellies like they do every drug that's no longer around. It's "said by many old, old, incredibly old school speed freaks that phenmetrazine was a far superior drug to benzedrine or dexedrine," writes a user on drug discussion forum Bluelight (I cleaned up his spelling). A drug that metabolizes into phenmetrazine, phendimetrazine, is still available on the market. As a Schedule III drug, it can be prescribed in the United States -- but it rarely is. As you can tell by the lack of a clever slang nickname for phendimetrazine, it's not very popular on the recreational market.