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Music History 168: Professor Levitz
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The Beatles were image-oriented. The creation of a cohesive and unmistakable identity proved very successful for their career. When their music evolved, their image was never far behind. Experimentation with drugs accompanied their changing aesthetic throughout their career. They started out with a clean-cut look and sound. But the Beatles’ use and abuse of substances shows in their shifting character and also parallels turns in the Sixties drug culture. Though many societies and religious traditions promote entheogenic drug experiences, the Sixties brought recreation use to the forefront of popular culture. The Sixties were a decade of change, and mind-altering substances were integral to this transformation. Even if the actual percentage of drug users was not as high as it might seem, drugs dramatically changed popular aesthetics and discourse of the era. Prophets for drug use garnered a lot of attention. Timothy Leary preached to adolescents —mostly college-aged—that it was time to “Turn on, Tune in, Drop Out.” He believed that the rigid structures of establishment in the United States needed to be confronted while touting the ability of drugs to expand minds and consciousness. Leary associated drugs, especially psychedelics, with spiritual transcendence and increased insight into life and identity. Among adolescents in the Haight-Ashbury district, peer pressure was contagious. The counterculture was comprised of young people, eager to fit in and impressionable to trends. Many people would talk about how fantastic the drugs were—preaching them as “love drugs.” On college campuses, especially UC Berkeley, drugs allowed students to acquire new identities and ideas. Drugs achieved a monumental place in the counterculture. Some used them for spiritual aims. Others simply used them recreationally. Since LSD was not illegal and there was limited information on dangers, many young people were tempted to try it. The Beatles were extremely visible public figures. Their popularity amplified any trend they took part in, including substance abuse. For many, the band marked the changing times. Their transformations throughout the Sixties often seemed emblematic of actual shifts in politics and outlooks in the leftist movement and culture. The aesthetics of drug highs affected the Beatles’ music, which transmitted drug culture to the masses. The interconnectedness of music, culture, and drugs defined the decade. The Beatles were introduced to substances very early in their career. Even in Hamburg, the musicians were taking amphetamines. Preludin helped keep The Beatles awake and
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energized for long sets.1 Amphetamines essentially enhance performance by speeding up body’s activity and alertness. In Please Please Me, their songs move fast. In live concerts, they play their instruments with energy and excitement. They constantly bob up and down to the pulse of the piece. Musically, the rhythm steadily pushes forward in a 4/4 time rock beat. Influenced by skiffle bands, their early music was frenetic, wild, and lively. Even in their first album, drugs already began to affect their musical aesthetic. In the early Sixties, the Beatles’ image was already a priority in their success as a band. The four boys found the manager Brian Epstein who helped them shape their look. The clean-cut kids wore the same clothes and cut their hair in the same style, the moptop. People describe this period as their “innocent” phase. Their hair makes them look younger than they are. They embody youthful innocence and cuteness. Young girls flock to The Beatles for their harmless masculinity in contrast to the harder rock bands such as The Rolling Stones. Already The Beatles are conscious of their image presentation. However, they started to depart from this iconic innocence. After achieving fame, they become more self-reflective. In Help! the Beatles satirically comment upon A Hard Day’s Night from a more mature point of view. This shift in character and aesthetics coincides with their introduction to marijuana. In 1964, Bob Dylan visited the Beatles who were on tour in America and shared a joint with them at the Heathrow Airport.2 Dylan was very surprised to find that they were pot virgins. After this initiation, there were many accounts of The Beatles constantly smoking weed while making Help! The aesthetics already start to shift in this movie, which features many surreal situations and an outlandish plotline. Though the changes in their art were not solely due to drugs, the advent of marijuana seemed to come at the right time. In 1966, The Beatles moved into the studio. Here, the shift in music production allowed the influence of drug aesthetics to become more pronounced, since greater artistic control was allowed in sound recording. The album released in 1965 Rubber Soul showed the musical effects of this relocation to the studio. Their sound and appearance both departed from earlier works. The album cover featured a new look (Figure 1). The moptops had grown out their hair, and they no longer showed off goofy smiles. Their fashion changed too. They sported flowing shirts and earthy colors. They adopted a new rock aesthetic, influenced by Dylan and American folk revival of
The Beatles Bible. “Amphetamines.” WNEW.com. “Bob Dylan Meets the Beatles.”
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which marijuana played a large part. In these new songs, the Beatles also showed a marked change. The song “Nowhere Man” on Rubber Soul shows a turn toward more complex lyrics. Instead of love and relationships, the piece talks about a man that has dropped out of the system. “He’s a real nowhere man/ Sitting in his nowhere land/ Making up his nowhere plans for nobody.” The attitude portrayed in this song reflects that of a pot smoker. Marijuana can put one into a hazy state, or calm “buzz.” When getting very stoned, one usually exhibits behaviors such as a lack of motivation or activity. The lyrics in the song seem to refer to a “burn-out.” Aesthetically, the music parallels these ideas of getting “high” on marijuana. Another side effect of marijuana is the slowing down of reaction time. In comparison to their earlier songs, “Nowhere Man” is considerably slower in tempo. The drum beats do not drive forth with the energy found, for example, in “Twist and Shout.” It sounds rather lazy and relaxed. The voices slowly slide from one note to another when John sings “Noooobody” or the background voices go “Aaaalalala.” Compared to the simple love songs on Please Please Me, the lyrics on Rubber Soul are complex and less conservative. They delve into more introspective subjects that seem to pertain directly to the personalities and lives of the four Beatles. The early Beatles were excellent at synthesizing their influences into their own work; but after Rubber Soul, they start to push the envelope into uncharted musical territory. The sounds that they next explore are strikingly innovative. Whereas before, The Beatles looked for inspiration in popular music, they begin to turn to the avant-garde and the living counterculture for their ideas. They bring new sounds to the masses that many people are not familiar with yet. There is a symbiotic relationship between hippie youth culture and The Beatles. The band sees what is going on in underground or smaller scenes, and then they quickly write music to represent what they find, transmitting these aesthetics to the masses. People often comment on how The Beatles are “with” the times. They keep up with but also define the era. In April 1965, John Lennon and George Harrison are introduced to lysergic acid by Harrison’s dentist.3 It was not uncommon during this period for people to sneak LSD into people’s food or drinks. LSD after all was still a legal drug. This idea of “pranking” often came from LSD users who acted as missionaries of the drug’s cause. Those transformed by the experience wanted others to partake. This is how George and John were “turned on” by Dr. John
Ian Herbert. “Dentist who introduced Beatles to LSD”
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Riley, who slipped it into their coffee at a party. Though initially horrified by his trip, Lennon became an avid fan of the drug. All four Beatles would eventually take LSD; Paul McCartney being the last. On Revolver, “Doctor Robert” references a man who provides drugs to his friends. This figure could possibly be inspired by this dentist. “If you’re down he’ll pick you up, Doctor Robert/ Take a drink from his special cup, Doctor Robert.” This was an allusion to drug use. “His special cup” is conceivably a LSD reference. Revolver, released in 1966, shows shifts towards an aesthetic affected by hallucinogenic drugs. The Beatles breach unknown realms of production to expand their sound world; LSD increases the ways in which one perceives noises. They follow up this album with an even more psychedelic one, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which appropriately comes out during the 1968 Summer of Love. This concept album epitomizes the psychedelic art of the hippie counterculture. During the Sixties, little was known about LSD’s side effects. This synthetic drug was invented by chemist Albert Hofmann in Switzerland during the 1940s. At first, Hofmann dealt with self-experimentation. In 1948, the chemical reached the United States. The CIA researched LSD to evaluate its use as a psychoactive weapon. Psychiatrists tried to find beneficial uses for the drug in their studies. Many reporters subjected themselves to the drug’s effects in order to report its powers to the public. People were interested in this new substance because the media purported its significant impact. For instance, famous movie star Cary Grant participated in LSD psychotherapy in the 50s and 60s. Popular writers such as Aldous Huxley did much to further spread the word about psychedelic drugs and romanticize them. All the coverage that LSD received during this time began to attract common people to try it as well. Some experimented with the drug to achieve mystical experiences while others took acid simply for recreational purposes. Though initially intended for medical and government purposes, LSD appealed to the art crowds, who were attracted to the drug’s sensory stimulations. Scientifically, there are two parts of the brain affected by LSD. “One is the cerebral cortex, an area involved in mood, cognition, and perception; the other is the locus ceruleus, which receives sensory signals from all areas of the body and has been described as the brain's "novelty detector" for important external stimuli.”4 Superficially, acid dramatically affects both the visual and aural experience. The first time that anyone reported the sensory effects of acid was in 1943. Albert Hofmann, the inventor,
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “What are the effects of LSD?”
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administered LSD-25 to himself after realizing the potential psychoactive effects of the substance by accident. This day has been coined “Bicycle Day.” According to many first-hand reports, LSD intensely alters one’s physical experience of his surroundings. As Hoffman explains: “Beauty…is perceived with particular force because of the highly stimulated sense organs during LSD inebriation, and such an amenity has a substantial influence on the course of the experiment… The acoustic milieu is equally significant. Even harmless noises can turn to torment, and conversely lovely music can develop into a euphoric experience.” 5 Unlike marijuana, LSD produces hallucinatory qualities. Its intense effects can last for a much longer time. It recreates a state of madness for a period of 8 to 12 hours, though one is extremely lucid and energetic on the drug. After 1965, psychedelic aesthetics emerge in The Beatles’ music. Artistic replications of drug trips are apparent in music, video, and content. Aesthetics have been created by artists and musicians like the Beatles in the Sixties, who created stylistic conventions that represent psychedelic trips for audiences. In post-Sixties culture, it is common to hear a person describe something as being “trippy” regardless if they have ever tested LSD. But without having tried LSD, the Beatles would never have been able to depict the aesthetic experience so effectively. The Beatles function like messengers of the drug’s aesthetics to the population at large. Beginning with Revolver, musical techniques begin to imitate the way one would hear sounds on a trip. New forms of auditory expression let these albums move away from the traditions of rock ‘n roll that precede them. One way in which The Beatles achieve innovative sounds is through fresh recording techniques and technologies. Ken Townshend, their studio technician, becomes vital in helping them figure out the new sounds that they heard in their heads. As their sound engineer, Townshend finds technical ways to make their wistful dreams possible. When Lennon “would ask to sound like the Dalai Lama chanting from a mountaintop, would wish a passage to sound ‘orange,’ or would say a listener should be able to taste sawdust,” Townshend and George Martin would work together to expand their sound-making tools.6
Albert Hoffman. LSD: My Problem Child.
Walter Everett. The Beatles as musicians: Revolver through the Anthology.
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When comparing various reports of LSD trips, certain similar aesthetics of the aural experience appear. A very common trait that many describe is the echo-like distortion of sounds. One reporter discusses how on acid noises resonate in what he calls a “funnel effect”: “When I spoke…my voice trailed off, and I heard it repeated, as if echoed, over and over, growing more faint, but increasing in tempo, as if circling the group. My words seemed to travel upwards, and increasing in speed, much the way a marble will travel down a funnel. Finally, with a *pop*, they were lost to the sky.”7 This reverberation of instruments and voice is emblematic of many songs from Revolver onward. Amplified reverb was caused by the inception of ADT, Automatic (or Artificial) Double Tracking. Townshend figured out how to create a full vibrant sound by duplicating a track and slightly delaying it by an amount of milliseconds. 8This tape delay was then combined with the original one. Rather than manually recording another track (which is what they do on previous albums to Revolver), ADT allowed one to simulate an exact echo of the first take. This process was used on instruments as well as vocals. On “Within You, Without You” from Sgt. Pepper, ADT is allegedly used on every single track. On some songs like “Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite,” wider ADT puts more space between the delay and the original. The end product is an excessive ringing of the sounds. These methods increase the impressive resonance found in The Beatles’ psychedelic music. Flanging and phasing are audio effects that electronically create this large space to house the sounds. At EMI’s Abbey Road Studio, Townshend would have to create this “flanging” effect by putting a finger on the rim of a tape reel. By doing this, he would slow down and speed up the tape reel. The effect would be a “sweeping sound.”9 “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” the song everyone associates with LSD because of the title, uses this disorienting quality. While the vocal line in the verse starts off unaltered, his voice after “kaleidoscope eyes” becomes increasingly echoey and distant. The song produces the feeling of falling into a dream. The drone of George’s tambura transitions the verse into a magical chorus. The high-pitched sound of the guitar and the cymbals gives it an unearthly, sparkly jingle. Psychedelia in this song is emphasized by the ethereal quality of the sound, as if one was flying.
Erowid Experience Vaults. “Sounds Everywhere: LSD.” Walter Everett. The Beatles as musicians: Revolver through the Anthology.
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Another instance of this echoing sound can be found in the percussion part in “Come Together.” The song is in 4/4 meter. The first beat starts with a “Shoo” sound that propels us forward. In the last beat of every measure, the hit is followed by many ricochets, giving a trippy feel to the rhythm. The recoil after the drumbeat sounds much like a shiver. This song actually was initially written for Timothy Leary, the famous psychologist who preached the benefits of LSD if taken correctly. In 1969, Leary wanted to run for the position of Governor in California, and he asked John Lennon to write a song for his campaign which was called “Come Together, Join the Party.”10 The song was never used for that purpose, but it retains those ties to drug culture because the acoustics display them. On psychedelics, little sounds are echoed, distorted, and also amplified. The culmination of all the auditory sensory input can sound symphonic in its grandeur. One LSD account describes “the hum – which is now more of a full out screech -- has gotten to a deafening volume, the pulse is so rapid, the tone so high pitch that it now sounds like an ambulance siren going off in a cathedral.”11 The thunderous endings to “I Am the Walrus” and “A Day in the Life” are similar representations of the same idea. In “A Day in the Life,” jabs of orchestral instruments build upward in pitch and tempo and then end with an explosion, an orgasm of noise. “I Am the Walrus” ends with ascending marcato notes played by strings. On top of this is assembled a mess of tape samples—cut up and reversed so that it sounds like a chaotic surge of noise. In this period, Paul McCartney found interest in musique concrete, an avant-garde electronic music style of the 50s featuring artists such as Stockhausen and Berio.12 This pursuit led him to play with tapes at home and explore techniques of rerecording new tracks over the same tape. This would create a saturation effect and a distorted sound. McCartney’s attraction to musique concrète rubbed off on Lennon who also experimented with cutting up and editing tape fragments. In 1966, John Lennon discovered the process of reversing tapes during the recording of Revolver. He found the sounds pleasing to the ear and employed it in much of their work. This practice is called backmasking. The Beatles were the ones to popularize this recording technique. On Revolver, “Tomorrow Never Knows” uses a lot of backmasking. The effect of reversed tape loops is very disorienting. The synthetic sounds project an altered state of mind. In
Robert Fontenot. “Come Together: The history of this classic Beatles song.” Matt Laberge. “Bad Trip.” Walter Everett. The Beatles as musicians: Revolver through the Anthology.
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the mix, it is hard to tell where the sounds are coming from. John Lennon’s voice is put through a Leslie speaker, which creates sound by utilizing the Doppler Effect. This gives his voice a whirling quality as the pitch is raised and lowered. The drone on C, which was probably influenced by Indian music, makes the song sound chant-like. The whole effect is otherworldly. The electronic distortion of the melody and the instruments is extremely removed from the acoustic folk aesthetic found on Rubber Soul. In “Tomorrow Never Knows,” another aspect of the psychedelic aesthetic arises—the alteration of one’s temporality. LSD can dramatically distort one’s perception of linear time. In this song, the looped drum beat makes one feel as if time is repeating itself in a vicious circle or an endless loop. The use of backmasking in reversed cymbal crashes upsets rhythmic orderliness. In other songs, the Beatles confuse time through the use of delay or abrupt changes in meter. For example, in “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” the tempos changes unexpectedly from the chorus to the verse. In “Happiness Is a Warm Gun,” the meter changes at least six times in the song. Acid does not affect only the musical aspects of The Beatles, but also the visual. All senses are enhanced under its effect. In his autobiography, Hofmann describes how “every acoustic perception, such as the sound of an automobile passing, would turn into an optical one.”13 Synesthesia sometimes occurs to the voyager, blending the division between visual and aural. “Sensations may seem to ‘cross over,’ giving the user the feeling of hearing colors and seeing sounds.” 14 On LSD, a person’s eyes dilate, taking in more light. Colors become like Technicolor, brighter and more pronounced. In the lyrics of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” verbal images depict the distortion of real colors: “tangerine trees and marmalade skies.” Obscure poetry in these psychedelic Beatles songs illustrate mind tricks that the brain plays. For example, the surreal images from “I Am the Walrus” come from hallucinations. John wrote some of the memorable lines on two separate acid trips. Visual art during the Sixties developed a whole new style inspired by psychedelics. In the Haight-Ashbury of San Francisco, artists designed kaleidoscopic posters to lead people to acid tests and music venues. These intricate patterns contained little empty space. Colorful swirls and geometric shapes try to reproduce the optical distortions one sees on LSD. The busy cover of Sgt. Pepper draws from this aesthetic (Figure 2). The album art features a brilliant range of
Albert Hoffman. “LSD: My Problem Child.” http://www.drugfree.org/Portal/Drug_guide/LSD
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colors and loaded information through details. Their psychedelic music also inspired other visual artists to create posters to accompany their songs (Figure 3). In 1968, the Yellow Submarine feature film was released. Canadian producers animated a movie using The Beatles’ songs and personalities. The illustrations employed fantastic images to forefront a selection of their most psychedelic songs. The frame fills up with vivid colors that contrast against each other, and meticulously detailed patterns crawl across the screen. On LSD and in this video, “shapes become fluid in form” to the viewer.15 The movement of visuals reflects the instability of objects on a trip; shapes shift, expand, and contract. Everything seems to pulse to the electric energy of the songs.16 The sensory signals are only one part of the brain that is affected by the drug; LSD also affects the cerebral cortex, which distorts perception. The unusual cognitive experience gives the semblance of expanded awareness. Thought processes on acid confront ideas of the self and tear down the existing rules of social structures. As a result, songs after 1966 look to alternative subjects rather than romantic relationships and other conventional issues. For instance, in the ditty “Yellow Submarine,” The Beatles embrace an escapist fantasy from boring pedestrian life. The song represents the hippie culture as a free, beautiful, visionary place. Surreal songs preoccupy themselves with opening doors to new extraordinary ideas. In the United States, LSD was popularized by a group of youth that wanted to break away from the systems that older generations had put in place for them. To break out of the establishment, Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters began a bus trip around the country. They brought acid and other drugs along with them and tried to open up other people’s minds to an alternative lifestyle. The Beatles were very obviously influenced by this idea in the Magical Mystery Tour. The FURTHUR bus inspired the color tour-bus that drove The Beatles around the English countryside in this movie. One can see how visuals, sounds, and even content were influenced by the drug counterculture. Psychedelic art deviates from normal representations of life as seen in Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The Beatles conceptually produced an album in which the standard sense of self is lost. Disassociating themselves from their own egos, they performed as a fantasy band. The songs were not only unified by the sounds of an acid test, but also by a psychological journey into the ego-crushing revelations that came along with it.
Center for Addiction and Mental Health. “Do you know…LSD.” “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” – Yellow Submarine video.
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Many people find this chemically altered perception to be a unique spiritual experience. “Within You, Without You,” George Harrison’s only song on Sgt Pepper, combined ideas of Hindustani religion with psychedelics. In this song, Harrison became philosophical and spiritual. “When you've seen beyond yourself—then you may find, peace of mind/ Is waiting there—/ And the time will come when you see/ we're all one, and life flows on within you and without you.” The lyrics do not include the visual effects of drugs; instead, he describes a psychological experience when he says, “When you’ve seen beyond yourself.” Often users describe how acid trips allow one to undergo a feeling of cosmic oneness. They agree that LSD imitates the death of the ego. Therefore, a natural marriage brings together Eastern religion and hippie counterculture, which both preach against pride. Similar in nature, the lyrics from “Tomorrow Never Knows” came from The Psychedelic Experience by Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert, and Ralph Metzner. This book quoted the Tibetan Book of the Dead. It spread the ideas of love and knowledge that people attribute to a mind-opening trip. Leary started a religious organization called the League for Spiritual Discovery (LSD), which strove to legally use LSD to expand consciousness. During the Summer of Love, hippies turned to these alternative routes of spirituality to free themselves from the Western technocracy. They believed that increased awareness could be found in these foreign religions. The lyrics of several Beatles’ songs specifically allude to drug use. In “A Day in the Life,” John sings: “I’d like to turn you on,” which caused the song to be banned on BBC. On Sgt. Pepper, Ringo sings: “I get high with a little help from my friends,” which was another source of controversy. However, generally the language the Beatles use pertaining to drugs is not awfully explicit. The Beatles’ relationship with drugs shows, but at the same time, they do not overtly proclaim drug use. Their lyrics are subtle because they are metaphorical. One does not need to be on drugs in order to appreciate Beatles’ albums. Other bands such as the Grateful Dead encouraged audiences to use LSD in order to enhance the performance. The Grateful Dead became famous for being the house band at acid test parties. Their venues would host light shows, and their music went hand in hand with the psychedelic experience. In contrast, The Beatles had drug experiences in private. They would gain inspirations from trips or try to replicate the experience of a high in the music. However, they were not fans of playing on drugs, and it seemed that they did not want drugs to be the topic of discourse surrounding their music. An interview of Ringo revealed that, “[The Beatles] found out very
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early on that if we play it stoned or derelict in any way it was really shitty music. So we would have the experiences and then bring that into the music later.”17 On television in 1967, McCartney admitted his LSD use after being questioned. But, he firmly stressed to the interviewer that he only exposed this fact to the media because he was did not want to answer a lie.18 Paul McCartney said in another interview in 2004, “Lucy In The Sky, that's pretty obvious. There’s others that make subtle hints about drugs, but, you know, it’s easy to overestimate the influence of drugs on the Beatles’ music. Just about everyone was doing drugs in one form or another and we were no different, but the writing was too important for us to mess it up by getting off our heads all the time.”19 Interestingly, Lennon on the Dick Cavett Show in 1970 was also very emphatic that people should not read drug influences into his music. He went so far as to claim that “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and “Happiness is a Warm Gun” had absolutely no personal intentions of recounting LSD or heroin use despite that widespread reception or reading.20 Often Sixties’ drug culture is remembered with nostalgia. In memory, people describe it as a utopian time. In The Making of Sgt. Pepper, Paul wishes “everyone could understand…how innocent [the period] was…” 21 Nevertheless, drugs also contributed to the undoing of the era. LSD may provide beautiful trips, but it can also cause just the opposite. Depending on mood and surroundings, an acid trip can frighteningly spiral downwards. For example, “I Am The Walrus” on Magical Mystery Tour offers a darker, more eerie suggestion of an acid trip. The tone exposes a pessimistic trip. In the middle of the song, an interlude of cut-up tape loops features a performance of Shakespeare’s King Lear. The insane tape fragments and the memorable lyrics “I’m Crying” replicate a trip that borders upon negative thoughts. An angry tone comes through John’s singing. Not long after this, Lennon, on the point of breakdown, eventually gave up LSD because he felt his mind was being blown. With LSD experiments in ugly or noisy surroundings, there is prominent danger of a damaging outcome— psychotic crises or frightening hallucinations. Even small noises can lead to panic during the enhanced sensitivity of a trip. Emotional turmoil can affect a person who is
Making of Sgt. Pepper – video. Paul McCartney LSD Interview – video. Associated Press. “Paul McCartney got no thrill from heroin.”
John Lennon talks about drugs & Kyoko Cox – video. Making of Sgt. Pepper – video.
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not prepared for the disorienting experience. By the end of the Sixties, many people blame drugs for their destructive force. With a large number of people experimenting with drugs, stories of incorrect use surfaced. Suicides and permanent psychosis became feared byproducts of acid. Also, because the drug tears down theidea of self, one is susceptible to mind control on the drug. In 1969, the Charles Manson murders symbolized the height of danger to which drug counterculture could lead. In his cult of followers, Manson used LSD and amphetamines to keep suggestible and vulnerable women under his power. LSD was demonized for making these women murderers. The possibilities that a hippie family could turn to such violence scared society. The Beatles were implicitly tied to this horrific event because Manson, a big fan of the band, used lines from their songs to justify his crimes.22 At the end of the Sixties, other drugs grew more popular that could lead to dependence, addiction, and death. Paul McCartney has admitted that for awhile he was hooked to cocaine. John Lennon, likewise, fought off drug problems throughout his life. In 1968, he found himself in trouble with authorities after a drug bust. In some accounts, he claimed to have taken LSD over a hundred times in his life. Around 1969, he unfortunately dabbled with heroin and battled a difficult addiction. On The Beatles (White Album), the aesthetic turned more violence compared to the whimsical or magical psychedelic sounds of Sgt. Pepper. “Happiness is a Warm Gun” features a gloomy tone in a minor mode. The sound of the distortion on the guitar sounds gritty. In the section, “I need a fix 'cause I’m going down,” John sings in a much lower range. To many, this song references heroin use. Though Lennon never admitted to heroin being the subject of the song, listeners often target the lingo as an indicator of this subject. Slang such as “shoot up” and “getting a fix” are popular terms in drug culture. Naïve ideas about drugs crumble at the end of the decade when people realize the dangerous aspects of hard drugs. Many rock musicians and artists—Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Brian Jones, and Jim Morrison—died due to overdose of illegal substances. The detrimental excess led to a general fear of drugs. The government condemned them, and LSD became a Schedule I substance. Many fans get angry when people over-exaggerate the drug influence; this is obvious from blog comments online. The Beatles’ audience is comprised of many types of people, and many are not drug users. Their listeners span generations, and most of them have no direct link
Martin Lee and Bruce Shlain. Acid Dreams.
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to Sixties counterculture. However, drug aesthetics were crucial in shaping the innovative ideas seen in Beatles’ music after Revolver. Though not everyone was part of the inner circle of the counterculture or dropping acid during the Sixties, the Beatles collected information and displayed it to the masses in a way that could be easily digested. Drugs, music, and culture were inexplicably tied together for this singular period and the aesthetics are proof of this.
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Associated Press. "Paul McCartney got no thrill from heroin." MSNBC.com. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5121163 (accessed March 20, 2009). Center for Addiction and Mental Health. "Do you know...LSD." CAMH.net. http://www.camh.net/About_Addiction_Mental_Health/Drug_and_Addiction_Informati on/lsd_dyk.html (accessed March 21, 2009). Everett, Walter. The Beatles as musicians: Revolver through the Anthology. Oxford University Press US, 1999. Fontenot, Robert. "Come Together: The history of this classic Beatles song." About.com. http://oldies.about.com/od/thebeatlessongs/a/cometogether.htm (accessed March 20, 2009). Herbert, Ian. "Revealed: Dentist who introduced Beatles to LSD." The Independent Music. http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/news/revealeddentist-who-introduced-beatles-to-lsd-415230.html (accessed March 18, 2009).
15 | H o l z w a r t h Hoffman, Albert. LSD: My Problem Child. http://www.psychedeliclibrary.org/child5.htm (accessed March 17, 2009). "John Lennon talks about drugs & Kyoko Cox." Youtube.com. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C87LFfkSQkM (accessed March 21, 2009). Laberge, Matt. "Bad Trip." The Cult. http://chuckpalahniuk.net/forum/1000007/lsdvfs (accessed March 20, 2009). "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds." Youtube.com. http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=A7F2X3rSSCU (accessed March 21, 2009). "Making of Sgt. Pepper." Google Video. http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6327011555352513615 (accessed March 21, 2009). National Institute on Drug Abuse. What are the effects of LSD? November 21, 2007. http://alcoholism.about.com/cs/lsd/f/lsd_faq04.htm (accessed March 18, 2009). "Paul McCartney LSD Interview." Youtube.com. http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=tMC1AlPSOtg (accessed March 21, 2009). Shlain, Martin Lee and Bruce. Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, The Sixties, and Beyond. Grove Press, 1985. The Beatles Bible. Amphetamines. http://www.beatlesbible.com/features/drugs/2/ (accessed March 21, 2009). unknown. "Sounds Everywhere: LSD." Erowid Experience Vaults. http://www.erowid.org/experiences/exp.php?ID=13509 (accessed March 17, 2009). Wikipedia. Flanging. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flanging (accessed March 21, 2009). WNEW.com. Bob Dylan Meets the Beatles. http://www.wnew.com/2008/12/bobdylan-meets.html (accessed March 20, 2009).
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