The era of the 1960’s and early 1970’s were the clear reverberations of both mysticism and altruism. It saw the rise of the American subculture known as the “hippies,” which professes itself through exotic clothing and erotic slogans that are centered on the subversion of the contemporary Western society into a more liberal one. Nonetheless, the influence of hallucinogenic drugs that largely permeated during the same period catapulted the rise of a music genre that is centered on an intensely esthetic entrancement, known as psychedelic music.
Because of this, various artists emerged and gained popularity in the said field, further reinforcing the usage of hallucinogenic drugs through their craft. In this respect, this paper sought to analyze how the music of some groups during 1960’s, specifically The Doors, The Beatles and The Jefferson Airplane were affected by the usage of hallucinogens, and the impact that their music had and still have within the society. Hallucinogens: A Background Hallucinogens are diversified groups of drugs that can alter a person’s perception, thoughts and mood.
Because it is a heterogeneous group, hallucinogens are noted for their varying chemical structures and mechanism of actions as well as different adverse effects among its users. While many claim that hallucination is the instantaneous effect of using hallucinogen, which are identified as false perception that have no realistic basis, it was stated that most hallucinogens are more likely to change moods and thoughts rather than the actual hallucinations itself (Richards, 2006).
The usage of hallucinogens can be traced from the history of many cultures; notably as a means of religious and mystical experiences.
Rig Veda, which is the Hindu’s holy book, mentioned the use of “soma,” a substance that is capable of inducing higher levels of consciousness among its users. It is believed that Soma is derived from the juice of Amanita Mascaria, a hallucinogenic mushroom. Similarly, in pre-Columbian Mexico , the Aztecs were noted to have used “teotlaqualli,” a paste that is derived from the hallucinogenic flower known as “ololiuqui,” during their religious ceremonies.
Both the Aztec priests and soldiers rub the substance on their skin, and it was though that the teotlaqualli eliminates the feeling of fear and places its users under a proper mental state of service to the Aztec gods. The aboriginal people of Mexico were also noted to have a long history of using “peyote,” which is mescaline that contains hallucinogens, during religious ceremonies. Likewise, in Salem, Massachusetts, it was proposed that hallucinogen use is the main cause of unlikely behaviors of alleged witches during witch trials (Richards, 2006).
The very first synthetic form of hallucinogen known as Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD) 25, was discovered in 1938 by Dr. Albert Hoffman in Basel, Switzerland’s Sandoz Laboratories. At that time, Dr. Hoffman was searching for drugs that have medical purposes. He stumbled upon LSD and did not realize that the said drug have mind-altering features. It was in 1943, that Dr. Hoffman accidentally consumed the drug that he realized its mind-altering effects right after he experienced hallucinations.
From then on, LSD was widely distributed for medical research. It was also used for psychotherapy; as such the term “hallucinogenic” is used to describe LSD which implies that it actually causes the symptoms of common mental problems (Levinson, 2002). By 1957, Dr. Humphry Osmond coined the term “psychedelic” in order to come up with more positive label for drugs that have “consciousness-expanding” properties, and later on the term LSD emerged.
Psychedelic was further used by Timothy Leary and other advocates of LSD during 1960’s in order to market the said drug as a substance of good kind that boost an individual’s inter and intra-personal understanding, gives a heightened feeling of spirituality and increased level of creativity. Leary and his colleagues found their inspiration in promoting LSD in the identity of Aldous Huxley (1954), a British novelist and essayist. Huxley’s book entitled “The Doors of Inspiration,” was one of the major influences that introduce Leary toward the “positive” use of LSD.
The title of the book was based on William Blake’s (1963) words: “If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is infinite” (Blake, 1963, p. 14 cited in Levinson, 2002, p. 76). Generally, Huxley’s book chronicled the favorable experiences he encountered in account to mescaline, a psychedelic drug that can be derived from peyote mushrooms (Levinson, 2002). Due to Leary’s strong advocacy, many people were swayed to use LSD.
His devised motto “turn on, tune in, drop out” spurred many young individuals to experiment with the said drug in order to exclude themselves from mainstream society. Likewise, movie stars and entertainers alike lauded the mind-altering effects of LSD; many have even incorporated it within their lifestyle that it has become a significant part in the establishment of the “hippie” counterculture. Hallucinogen and music: Psychedelic rock During the 1960’s the widespread use of hallucinogens was recognized in account to the belief that ingesting the said substances eventually lead to “mind expansion.
” It was even asserted that, why limit oneself with the experience of life on a banal level when one can experience life in a world where places are new and exciting through the usage of the said chemicals? Due to this, many are swayed by such rhetoric that hallucinogen use has become a trend incorporated in the counterculture lifestyle (Levinson, 2002). Young people tried to exist differently from the conventionality of the society; they rather live in large groups instead of small families; avoiding good paying jobs, and generally looking for excitement instead of becoming obedient and dutiful citizens.
Nonetheless, the music of the said era reflected the beliefs and attitudes of the said counterculture; becoming the voice to the new generation that cared less for power money and only wanted to live outside the rules set by ordinary society (Grimbly, 2001). The emergence of psychedelic rock has played a profound role in reinforcing the understanding that hallucinogen use is an inviting activity that promotes the sense of intra and inter-spirituality and becoming one with the environment.
Many bands jumped into the bandwagon of the psychedelic era, including The Jefferson Airplane, The Beatles and The Doors which were considered as the forerunners of psychedelic sound. Before proceeding to the discussion of the music of the pertained bands, it is first an imperative to define psychedelic music. Popularly known as “Psychedelic Rock,” psychedelic music or acid rock emerged during the later parts of the 1960’s in California. It was music created under the influence of mind-altering drugs predominantly the LSD.
The main features of this form of music are the “long improvised instrumental passages,” which are deemed as the replication of the mind-altering effects of LSD, in the context of musicality. Likewise, bands who used this form of music clearly shows their willingness to engage in experimentation through “effect pedals,” that are responsible for notes distortion from guitars, that range from wailing to sustained percussive sounds (Grimbly, 2001).
Such feature is a clear manifestation of the musicians’ inclination with hallucinogen characterized by their profound usage of distortion of notes and experimentation, which metaphorically represents the strong effects of hallucinogen use. The Jefferson Airplane Considered as one of the most important bands during the psychedelic era, The Jefferson Airplane from California experienced a huge commercial success because of their hallucinogen induced music. The music of the said band was noted to have epitomized the drug-taking ethos of the hippies. Their interaction with people during their concert mirrored what was going on at that time.
The 1967 album known as “Surrealistic Pillow” contained one of the most notable psychedelic songs of all time which is “White Rabbit. ” As the term surrealistic indicates, having the experience of disoriented and hallucinatory quality of dreams; it was a clear manifestation of the band’s inclination to hallucinogen use and its impact on ones mind (“Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit,” 2008). “White Rabbit” has become a full blown cultural phenomenon as it manifested the rampant usage of LSD during the said period. Written by Grace Slick in 1965, “Whit Rabbit” was influenced by Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland.
However, instead of maintaining the classic’s original representation of the characters, Slick infused the song with hippie messages, making the characters appear a shade darker, erasing their innocence, as it was centered on the purportedly induced hallucinations of hallucinogens. From the opening lyrics of the song which indicates: “One pill makes you larger and one pill makes you small. And the ones that mother gives you don’t do anything at all. Go ask Alice when she’s ten feet tall…”to the end part that states: “When logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead.
And the White Knight is talking backwards, and the Red Queen’s ‘off with her head! ’ Remember what the dormouse said; ‘feed your head! ’ ‘Feed your head! ’ (Slick, 1965) Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” is indeed a transitory song that is wholly interpreted in the realms of Carroll’s classic but in a more hallucinatory light. What adds to the depth of this interpretation is the band’s usage of slow building crescendo, snapping snare drum, strong driving electric guitar that creates the hallucinatory experience of its own (“Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit,” 2008).
Because of the vivid representation of hallucinogen used by the Jefferson Airplane, “White Rabbit’s” influence extended itself in modern music and culture. The song has been covered by more than 100 diverse bands during their acts, and has been featured in popular television shows such as the Simpson’s, the Sopranos. “White Rabbit” also inspired the creation of the book “Go Ask Alice” written by an anonymous writer, which chronicled the life of a teenager who died from a drug overdose.
Hunter Thompson’s 1972 film “Fear and loathing in Las Vegas,” featuring a man tripping on bad combination of drugs which are LSD, mescaline, cocaine and alcohol gave rise for the recognition of “White Rabbit. ” Slick’s pharmaceutical prescription advice was also referred to as the definitive rendition of the film “The Matrix” (1999) during a scene where Morpheus offered Neo a pill and said: “You take the blue pill—the story ends; you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you believe. You take the red pill—you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes” (cited in “Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit,” 2008, n.
p. ). Based from the given perspectives, it is evident that despite Jefferson Airplane’s advocacy for hallucinogen use, they remained as one of the most sought after psychedelic bands that greatly impacted 1960’s and the culture today, as they have become the striking visuals of rebellion that inspired various groups and artists, as well as populace to stand for what they believe. The Doors By far the most influential group to emerge in California is “The Doors. ” Their brief but intensely creative career, where they were able to record some of the greatest masterpieces in music history, has been widely recognized to date.
Fronted by self-proclaimed poet Jim Morrison, the Doors was able to establish their name in the field of psychedelic music. From their name “The Doors,” which is noted to be a tribute for the poetry of William Blake and Aldous Huxley’s psychedelic drug book “The doors of perception,” the band clearly conveyed their music in the context of “mind-expansion” accounted to hallucinogen use. In fact, The Doors has been widely recognized for their notoriety in the usage of LSD in most of their performances (Whiteley, 2005).
According to Ray Manzarek, the group’s keyboardist, the early days of the band was marked by ingestion of LSD. Due to this, their usage of the said hallucinogen provided them a sense of shared of experiences. Each individual’s tripping specifics developed a sense of bonding for the group, thereby giving them strong emotional feelings for each other, and eventually becoming the symbolic overtone of how they created their music—sexual and inhibition free; which are strong parts of the LSD experience (Mazarek, 1999 cited in Whiteley, 2005).
Although, Manzarek and Morrison did not openly discussed the details of their trips with LSD, the shared knowledge that they did have experienced the said drug has become evident within their trance-like music. Their songs reflected LSD use with each members extended solos. Likewise, Morrison’s adaptive character, the “Lizard King” became the metaphorical representation of the hypnotic powers of the drug that entices the listeners to listen to their music and embrace the wild child within them (Whiteley, 2005).
It was also found out that the hallucinogenic experience provided by LSD became the most crucial ingredient for the music of The Doors, as they believe that its use provided access for them to reach the metaphysical. As Manzarek pointed out about the hallucinogenic experience: “…and we were off! Flying on the wings of love… To Nirvana, to the pure land… It was divine. It was expansive and harmonious and beatific in one” (Manzarek, 1999, p. 120 cited in Whiteley, 2005, p. 143). Apparently, they have used their music to express the transcendent moods that can be experienced under the influence of LSD.
Songs such as “Light my fire,” “People are Strange,” as well as LA woman reflected the way of life The Doors have lived. Nonetheless, “Riders on the Storm” is said to be the culmination of the earlier hallucinogenic tracks of the band, as it is dark, mystical, and sinister and alienated, further reflecting what it is like to hallucinate (Whiteley, 2005). The music of The Doors continued to fascinate legions of rock fans even after the death of Morrison. During the mid-80’s, the doors’ music was much popular as it has been during 1960’s.
Numerous quantities of the band’s original album have been sold, including the reissues and releases of their live materials. By 1991, director Oliver Stone created the movie “The Doors” which tackled the story of the band. From here, it is easy to point out that the fame of The Doors never ceased despite their inclination to LSD usage (Ruhlmann and Unterberger, 2009). The Beatles The popularity of The Beatles throughout the 1960’s has been well documented. They started out as mainstream band that eventually marked the British invasion in the music industry, and was considered as the reason for the uprising of the women’s sexual revolution.
Their ability to popularize trends and the capability of their music to achieve global dissemination, suggested that they are one of the most significant forces in popular music history (Whiteley, 2000). By the year 1967, The Beatles eventually changed pace. From their mainstream music they jumped on to the American psychedelic bandwagon. The release of their album, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club” marked their conversion to the underground music. Such change of pace was considered as a significant factor for the British Psychedelic rock.
The Beatles’ change image and emphasis on both love and drugs as expressed in the Sgt. Pepper’s album is said to be in perfect harmony with the 1960’s LSD-influenced mood. The immense popularity of the album notably indicates that the absence of the Beatles during the psychedelic era would have made the British counter culture insignificant. In short, the jump that the Beatles created from mainstream music to psychedelic rock established the British counter culture in the context of cultural themes and music (Whiteley, 2000).
“Lucy in the sky with diamonds,” which was the third track in the album, was considered as the central force behind the British psychedelic rock because it served as the musical metaphor for the hallucinogenic experience. Musically, the song’s gentle beats is working directly towards the pulse rate of the listeners making it slow down, while slow shifting of the harmonies used in the base suggest relaxation that brings the audience into a comfortable dream state. Likewise, the melodic lines of each verse is very trancelike, allowing the audience to become reflective, and also creates a feeling of reassurance.
Similarly, the well structured rising and falling phrasing of “And I love her,” “For no one,” and “Yesterday” partnered with exotic timbres and filtered vocal delivery makes the audience a heightened evocative “good trip. ” The Beatles knew the effects of LSD and they have enjoyed the hallucinogenic experience. As such, they use it to their own advantage by inculcating it within their music so as to initiate a heightened sense of awareness. They used psychedelic imagery such as “tangerine trees” and “marmalade skies” in order to strongly support the spatial dimension experienced during a hallucinogen trip.
Finally, their jump to psychedelic music promised the audience a route where they can have a changed state of consciousness, which is an authentic experience (Whiteley, 2000). Conclusion Based from the data drawn from the study, it is evident that hallucinogen use has become a significant part of the 1960’s history. It affected every aspect of the society which paved way for the development of the counter culture known as the “hippies. ” What further reinforced people to view such drug as an important part of the society was the music that deeply reflects the entrancement that can be attained through the use of hallucinogens.
The Jefferson Airplanes, The Doors and The Beatles, were considered as the forerunners of psychedelic music. They reflected the beliefs and attitudes of the counter culture and they became the voice to the new generation that cared less for power money and only wanted to live outside the rules set by ordinary society. In this respect, they were able to establish their own names through their music that has been significant back then, and is still considered as significant to date. References: Grimbly, S (ed. ). (2001). Chapter 3: Rock.
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