a society in which LSD is administered to an infant once a week -- 10/5/18

Today's selection -- from 1966: The Year the Decade Exploded by Jon Savage. The psychedelic drug LSD gained prominence in the 1960s:

"In autumn 1965 LSD was still legal in both the US and the UK.

"Thanks to the activities of acid evangelists like Timothy Leary and Ken Kesey, what older or less dazzled psychiatrists had long feared was beginning to occur: the drug was leaking ever faster out of the clinics and the hands of psy-ops spooks, whence it had begun. Supplies were no longer controlled from just one source, ... but were flooding in from bootleggers in both Britain and America. As it always would have been if anyone had thought through the implications, acid was out of control. ...

"In October 1965 the acid proselytiser Michael Hollingshead arrived back in the UK with instructions to set up a British equiv­alent of Millbrook, Timothy Leary's acid ashram in upstate New York. Armed with enough LSD for 5,000 sessions, he found a flat at Pont Street in Mayfair and, together with Lloyd's underwriter Desmond O'Brien, founded the World Psychedelic Centre. 'We believed that London would indeed become the centre for a world psychedelic movement.'...

"During that autumn, Timothy Leary was out on the road as the LSD High Priest of America. He was preaching nothing less than a revolution in values: the mass use of LSD in a vast social exper­iment of reconditioning, in order to overcome 'the games' that Western society forced its populations to play. Leary regarded all behaviour patterns as resulting from these socially imprinted roles. To change the world, man would have to change himself. As one university paper reported, 'He envisions a society in which LSD is administered to an infant once a week.'...

Jay and Ron Thelin outside The Psychedelic Shop, c. 1966.

"San Francisco quickly gained a cohesive psychedelic identity. In January, the Thelin brothers opened up the Psychedelic Shop on Haight Street, which stocked everything an acid head might find interesting or neces­sary. Later that month, the Pranksters combined with local activist Stewart Brand to hold the Trips Festival: 6,000 people attended over three nights.

"With such a rapid expansion in the number of those being exposed to LSD and its culture, it was becoming clear to both friends and foes alike that things were getting chaotic. Leary's sen­sible requirement to take care about 'set and setting' was being challenged by the chaos of the Acid Tests. There was a particu­larly unpleasant event during the February 1966 Watts Test, when Ken Babbs found a young woman freaking out: rather than helping her, he held a microphone close to broadcast her cries of distress throughout the venue. ...

"While LSD was still legal, marijuana was not. As they often went together, the authorities had the perfect method of harass­ment. Ken Kesey had been arrested for possession in April 1965; when his case came to court in January 1966 just before the Trips Festival, he was sentenced to six months on a work farm. Just over two days later, he was arrested again, in Texas, for the same offence. Timothy Leary was on his way back into America from Mexico in December 1965 when his daughter Susan was arrested for a small amount of marijuana. Leary took the rap. When the charge came to court in March 1966, he was sentenced to a maximum of thirty years in prison and fined $30,000. He was let out on appeal, but his wings were effectively clipped. ...

"That the authorities -- in particular the interconnected duo of the police and the tabloid press -- were acting in concert to prepare the ground for legislation against LSD was confirmed in mid-March, when there were three major UK exposés. ... On 25 March, Life maga­zine came out with its LSD cover story. ... 'LSD has been taken up by a large, underground cult,' the article [stated]. 'Starting in artistic, bohemian and intellectual circles, the cult has now become a dangerous fad on college cam­puses. At least one million doses of LSD ... will be taken in the US this year. Hospitals and doctors are suddenly treating scores of panic-stricken young patients who have 'taken a trip' on LSD with disastrous psychological effects. Some have been hospitalised for weeks.'

"This was not strictly true. ... [But] the real message came a few lines further down in the Life story: 'Now the federal Food and Drug Administration is moving in with new laws which will outlaw LSD's illegal manufacture, sale or transportation.'"

 | www.delanceyplace.com


Jon Savage


1966: The Year the Decade Exploded


Faber & Faber


Copyright 2015 Jon Savage


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