The joyful hedonism of the 1960s was in part a response to the trauma to the Second World War. The same way the twenties swung after the first great conflagration. And like that decade, it was primarily the white, upwardly mobile, metropolitan, middle class that enjoyed the sex, the drugs and the rock ‘n’ roll.
London may have been swinging in 1967, but for the rest of the country not a lot changed. It would take until the 1970s for most of the country to get a hint of what London experienced. The most important changes, apart from pop music and American TV shows, were the legalization abortion and de-criminalization of homosexual acts between consenting adults - both of which set the scene for bigger and more radical changes in the 1970s.
Yet, as so many of the media are Baby Boomers, the love of all things sixties ensures TV fills its schedules with documentaries on that legendary decade. 1967: The Summer of Love is better than most, as it covers the cultural, social, and political changes that the decade brought. With contributions form Germaine Greer, Donovan, Nigel Havers, Bill Wyman, John Birt and Mary Quant, together with some excellent color archive, this documentary is a cut-above the usual retro-vision.
The Alice Cooper Certificate of Insanity (issued by the School for the Hopelessly Insane) was a limited edition document given away free with Cooper’s album From the Inside, in 1978. Whether this was a recommendation or, a comment on the quality of the record, was never made clear. What is known is that rather like the source for Malcolm Lowry’s excellent novella Lunar Caustic, Cooper’s album was similarly inspired by the singer’s stint in a New York sanitarium for his alcoholism.
From the Inside was co-written with Elton John’s song-writing partner, Bernie Taupin.
Admit it, Obama voters, this is the kinda thing you expected Mitt Romney to do if he got into office. What did this take, all of around 36-hours, to get floated to the press?
Maybe I should have voted for (unimpressive) Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson (I probably agree with him on about 25% of the issues, around the same percentage as I agree with Obama, anyway). On election day it was more appealing to me to record a “fuck you” vote to the Republicans than to make a different sort of protest vote, but Obama is already making me regret that, as tiny a protest as that would have been, just TWO DAYS later!
Votes making Colorado and Washington the first U.S. states to legalize marijuana for recreational use could be short-lived victories for pot backers because the federal government will fight them, two former U.S. drug control officials said on Wednesday.
They said the federal government could sue to block parts of the measures or send threatening letters to marijuana shops, followed up by street-level clampdowns similar to those targeting medical marijuana dispensaries the government suspects are fronts for drug traffickers.
“This is a symbolic victory for (legalization) advocates, but it will be short-lived,” Kevin Sabet, a former adviser to the Obama administration’s drug czar, told reporters.
“They are facing an uphill battle with implementing this, in the face of ... presidential opposition and in the face of federal enforcement opposition,” Sabet said.
Ian Millhiser, senior constitutional policy analyst with the left-leaning Center for American Progress, said the federal government, even if it sues to challenge the Colorado and Washington initiatives, cannot force police in those states to arrest people for marijuana infractions.
“If I were Barack Obama, I would look at this and say I would rather have young voters with me,” Millhiser said.
Damn, straight, Ian. I’d take it a step further and say that NO ONE was waiting to hear how Obama was going to crack down on… states’ rights.
If his DOJ does nothing about this, no one will even notice (Keep in mind that the Bush administration did very, very little to curb the explosive growth in California’s cannabis trade). Now they’re just going to get mad. Fuck Obama. What’s so “Forward” about this shit?
One has to wonder how many of the multitude of drug scare films produced in the 1960s and early 70s actually managed to propagate the bad trips they were warning us about. Almost every depiction of the LSD experience committed to film has been negative, including movies made by so-called “heads.” Check out The Trip, Easy Rider and Psche-Out to see how Hollywood hipsters, who should have known better, demonized psychedelics. Easy Rider comes close to replicating an LSD trip but man is it spooky in that graveyard.
I am still waiting for the movie that reveals the truth about LSD and how it triggered one of the greatest leaps in consciousness since the invention of film itself. But that’s a whole other article for another time.
Right now, let’s peer into the dark side of psychedelia according to people who know jackshit about the subject at hand. Go Ask Alice was a 1973 TV movie based on a book of the same name. The book, like the movie, is a bunch of reactionary hokum that more than likely created more bummers than it prevented. Back in the day, teenagers were constantly bombarded with anti-drug propaganda and as a result went into the acid experience expecting the worst. And in many cases, the negative programming became a self-fulfilling prophecy. The idea of “set and setting” (be in the right mindset and in the right environment) as emphasized by Timothy Leary was basically ignored while TV and movies continued freaking kids out. I would venture to say that most bad trips were the result of bad pre-programming. But instead of teaching people how to take drugs responsibly, society chose the alternative of keeping people in the dark. I had the good fortune of reading Leary’s “The Psychedelic Experience” and various other texts on LSD before taking my first trip and knew that even the worst acid trips could simply be ridden out by breathing deeply and staying calm in the face of the cosmic storm.
It’s easy to laugh at Go Ask Alice now, but at the time it was broadcast on the American airwaves the movie probably did a significant amount of damage by promoting misinformation and outright lies. Unlike the fabricated Alices of the media world, when I was 16 years old and peaking on 250 mics of Sandoz I didn’t flip out when the telephone starting melting in my hand - a sensual, pulsating blob of red plastic. I kept talking, telling my mother how much I wanted her to share the lovely experience I was having in that moment. Yes, my first trip was transformative, profound, ecstatic. Go ask Marc. I’ll tell you all about it.
Go Ask Alice features William Shatner, Andy Griffith and future coke-fiend MacKenzie Phillips in an outrageously alarmist but entertaining exercise in ignorance. The shitty version of The Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” sets the tone for what’s to come.
Bask in the glory of Ballet Zoom, the Spanish disco dance troupe of your fevered dreams. Here they are doing a routine to “Soul Dracula” by Hot Blood, a group I’m fairly sure only existed for the purpose of this novelty song. Seriously, I can’t find anything else by them- believe me, I wanted more. They tragically appear to have produced this disco gold and then just hung up their hats! Regardless, it’s a great addition to your Halloween party mix, and the video is superbly weird.
As a bonus, here’s another, more Internet-famous routine where they dance with kittens, which is frankly far more terrifying than the prospect of a “Soul Dracula.”
Raise a glass, drop a tab of acid or take a deep hit on your bong in honor of the great Timothy Leary, the counterculture guru and psychedelics spokesman who lived one of the most outrageous lives of the 20th century, born on October 22, 1920.
The revolutionary philosopher was once called the “most dangerous man in America” by Richard Nixon.
The artist, writer and dandy Sebastian Horsley claimed he was an accident, the product of a split condom. His mother drank through her pregnancy, and tried to abort the unwanted child. She failed and Sebastian was born in 1962. This might explain Horsley’s difficult relationships with women in later life, preferring to use prostitutes rather than share any emotional intimacy with another.
Horsley was originally called Marcus, which he may have preferred as it was closer to his idol Marc Bolan. But after registering his name as a baby, Horsley’s mother knew she had made a mistake, and opted instead for Sebastian. It only took her 5 years to change it by deed poll.
The name Sebastian suited Horsely. It suggested the Christian martyr Saint Sebastian, who was tied to a tree and shot full of arrows for his faith. In the same way Horsely was nailed to a cross in the Philippines for his art. Or, Sebastian Flyte - Evelyn Waugh’s character from Bridehead Revisited, whose beauty and desire were numbed by addiction to alcohol. As Horsley in his way was addicted to heroin and cocaine - a mixture of which eventually killed him. Or, Sebastian Dangerfield, J. P. Donlevy’s dissolute bohemian artist of The Ginger Man.
Horsley briefly attended St. Martin’s Art College but was kicked out after only a few months.
“I don’t think by going to college you can really achieve anything whatsoever - except perhaps they teach you how to be ordinary.”
He taught himself how to be an artist, and saw painting as a way of creating a new, unspoken language. Yet, he often felt incapable of expressing this language, and destroyed many of his paintings. He died in 2010 from an accidental overdose, leaving a life that was, in many respects, his greatest work of art.
In this brief interview from 1995, Sebastian Horsley talks about his background, his view of art, and his sartorial style.
Terra II is probably one of the least known of any of Leary’s books. However, when Leary wrote to Sagan, and included a copy, he wrote back, enthusiastically, about an in-person visit. People with Sagan’s reputation and level of success generally avoided Tim like the plague, but Sagan took him seriously enough to come to one of the worst prisons in the country to talk to “the most dangerous man in America” (as described by President Richard Nixon in 1970).
Terra II is a super rare book, it’s true. It was published by Leary’s common-law wife, Joanna Harcourt-Smith, while Leary was in Folsom State Prison and never properly distributed. According to the authoritative Annotated Bibliography of Timothy Leary by Michael Horowitz, Karen Walls and Billy Smith, only between 800 and 900 copies were printed. Most copies were probably sold to directly to supporters to raise money for Leary’s legal fees.
It took me years to get my hands on Terra II. It’s super far-out stuff and something I’ve found to be an object of intense fascination for years. I actually asked Tim Leary about it myself at his house in 1995 and I could tell immediately from his reaction that it was not something he really wanted to discuss (Robert Anton Wilson, who devoted quite a bit of space to the ideas presented in Terra II and Leary’s “Starseed Transmissions” pamphlet in his book Cosmic Trigger gave the topic a cold shoulder as well, as I wrote about here). I just love the idea of Carl Sagan reacting to the ideas in Terra II. Remarkable!
February 19, 1974
Thanks for your last note and the book TERRA II. I have no problems on chance mutations and natural selection as the working material for the evolutionary process. In fact, with what we now know about molecular biology, I see no way to avoid it. But I loved your remark about the “transgalactic gardening club.” Of course, if extraterrestrials are powerful enough, they can do anything, but I don’t think we can yet count on it. I’m enclosing an article on “Life” that I did for the Encyclopaedia Britannica which you might like.
On the basic requirements for interstellar exploration, I doubt if a manned expedition to Mars could be done within the next 25 years for less than $300 billion. Try really costing your spacecraft and see what it would cost. In fact, maybe the reason we haven’t been visited is that interstellar spaceflight, while technically possible, would beggar any planet which attempted it.
If we can do it, how would you like a visit from us in the last week in February? I have no idea what the visiting privileges are, but if your and my schedules permit, Linda and I would love to visit you in Vacaville on the morning of Thursday, February 28. Frank Drake has also expressed an interest in such a visit, as has our mutual acquaintance, Norman Zinberg of Harvard Medical School. What’s your feeling about it? Write to me at the St. Francis Hotel, San Francisco, where I’ll be staying beginning Sunday, February 24, and I’ll try to firm up the visit, if it seems possible, shortly thereafter.
With best wishes,
P.S. The enclosed poem, “The Other Night” by Dianne Ackermann of Cornell, is something I think we both resonate to. It’s unfinished so it shouldn’t yet be quoted publically.
The short film “Timothy Leary in Folsom Prison” was made in 1973 to raise money for Leary’s legal defense and keep his name out there. Leary discusses his jailbreak (intimating that the daughter of a United States senator he refuses to name helped him), the revolution in consciousness and drugs, Eldridge Cleaver and what it feels like to be an imprisoned philosopher. Leary was released from prison in 1976 by then—and current—California Governor Jerry Brown.
OK, so this instalment of Cocaine’s... might not have the epic freak-out-ish-ness of last week’s John Cale performance, but to me this sums up the spirit of the cocaine age perfectly.
Godley & Creme were once part of 10CC, of course, and video directors of quite some renown in the 1980s, but they also delivered a string of haunting, emotional electro pop hits like this one, a tale of tragic spousal abuse as overheard on a commuter train.
What that has to do with sliding down a fake window while clenching your fists is anyone’s guess. But, like I said, cocaine’s a helluva drug.
This performance is epically camp, and was undoubtedly inspired by some of the finest marching powder. Kevin Godley tosses his mullet and gurns as if trapped in a lost Douglas Sirk classic, while all around bright shiny lights create a vaseline-heavy haze that will have you checking your eyeballs for cataracts. The tune is rather lovely, with synths that sound more like vintage 60s electronica than early 80s electro, but I can just hear the producer now, frothing at the mouth and screaming that what this needs is “MORE DRAMA!!!”
Godley & Creme “Under Your Thumb” Top Of The Pops, 1981:
The first in an intermittent series of posts showcasing the most coked-out music performances of recent times, that are still available for the public to see via the magic of the internet.
Cocaine’s A Helluva Drug kicks off with this frankly terrifying clip of John Cale tearing up floorboards at the German Rockpalast festival in 1984, as he rips through Elvis’ “Heartbreak Hotel” on the piano.
The madness begins at 4:40, and it is preceded in this clip by a relatively sober Cale performing the same track at the same festival one year earlier, which gives great context for just how fucked up he is the following year. Apparently most of the crowd the second time round were waiting for London’s white-funk homeboys Level 42.
For the record, Cale’s interpretation of this classic is simply astounding, delivered here in a stripped down, chilling arrangement showcasing Cale’s delicious butter-from-the-gutter growl.
This is neither a warning nor an endorsement. It simply IS.
John Cale “Heartbreak Hotel” (Live at Rockpalast 1983 & 1984)