Turn on, tune in, drop out – Timothy Leary
Hair got longer, costumes wilder, drugs stronger. The scent was Patchouli. We painted our eyes with Indian kohl, our finger nails green, purple and yellow, lit candles and incense sticks and divined our future in the Tarot. Energized by the revolution we were living it up making love and not war. It was the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, which promised to see the rise of the Goddess.
The times they were a changing and we were there to break the rules and be the masters of our destiny. Smoking bushels of grass, popping uppers and tabs of acid; ingesting sedative-hypnotic mandies we were knock, knock, knocking on heaven’s door as we listened to Cream, Zappa, The Incredible String Band, Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, Pink Floyd, The Who, Eric Burden, Janice Joplin, Nick Drake. At parties we danced to the Grateful Dead, the Beatles and the Stones.
The Living Theatre clamouring for human rights — the end of war, abolition of money, freedom from institutionalized bondage — drew large crowds to the Roundhouse. Clearly straight theatre was over and so was linear thinking. David Cooper wrote that the family was dead; R.D. Laing stated that it was not only all-right to be mad, but that in fact, unless one was touched by schizophrenia one would be missing out on a separate reality. Castaneda, Richard Alpert’s, Be Here Now, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, the I Ching, Aldous Huxley, Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha, Ginsberg, Abe Maslow, Buckminster Fuller were our new masters teaching us to venture beyond the beyond towards new horizons.
As a naked Julian Beck shouted from the stage: “You can’t travel without a passport!” Gary Davis promoting World Citizenship — handed out World Passports at the cost of four pounds.
Squatters were causing unrest amongst those with property to lose and anger in the working chap’s kitchen was rife.
“I’d like to shoot the lot of them!” cried those who didn’t know how to dance and were afraid of a change in tempo. “Lazy bastards. Why don’t they go out and do a decent day’s job. Like me. Get up at seven and go to the office for eight hours a day and earn their daily bread!”
You don’t know what is happening, do you Mr Jones?
Psychedelia scrambled minds during the almost perfect summer of ‘69. Mick Jagger unleashed hundreds of yellow butterflies that flew like a translucent veil above the gathering of tripping freaks who carpeted the lawns of Hyde Park. Read a poem by Shelley in memory of Brian Jones — killed, rumour had it, not by an overdose of police, as was the popular belief, but by the persecution of the editors of the News of the World.
Fourteen-year-old promiscuous groupies, stoned out of their minds, followed rock bands and chronicled their experiences. The dour Betty Friedan was making feminist waves, as were Kate Millet, Gloria Steinem, Shulamith Firestone, and many other members of the Women’s Liberation Movement.
We burned our bras, marched against the Vietnam War, clamoured for the legalization of marijuana, ate brown rice, read the International Times and Oz. But mainly we fucked.
The pill was the mother of the sexual liberation, and so, as arm in arm with feminism, incessant sexual intercourse had become a matter of status and political correctness in swinging London. Sexual mores decreed that if one went out and didn’t get lucky, the evening was considered a loss. You couldn’t go to a dinner party where even before dessert was served a couple would spontaneously begin making love on a couch behind the table and many of the guests would soon join in. Poppers was the drug of choice. They could be bought over the counter in apothecaries and Americans swarmed to purchase them as they were illegal in the U.S.
The Venereal Disease Hospital in Soho — affectionately known as the ‘clap clinic’ — was looked upon as one of the most popular salons in the city, where actors, pop stars, titled folk, travellers and fashion whizzes were proud to be seen.
The ecstasy count was high.
Art: Claire Palmer