A Hazy History (Of Music and Drugs)

Published

Credit: Kirsten Colligan

Anonymous
Writer

Whether you’re on the couch staving off sleep so you can listen to the last side of that new Mac Demarco record, the last of your brick burning unsteadily into the ashtray below, whether the sky has burst into liquid sun as Thee Sixpence becomes deranged and pained as you slowly lose all sense of place, time and meaning, it’s no secret to anyone that music and states of altered consciousness have been happily married for as long as anyone cares to remember, and no-one seems to be in too much of a hurry to try and coax them away from each other.

For as long as there have been people, there have been people seeking escape. Drugs have been pervasive throughout the entirety of civilisation and since the advent of agriculture itself, we have had inhalable tobacco and the more sinister sister of Mary Jane. Gradually, our comprehension of chemical composition grew and narcotics, barbiturates, opiates and amphetamines all joined the scene. While we have had episodes of the Wehrmacht on military-issue meth, generally speaking, the substances provided by humanity’s more scientifically inclined have been used to benefit those of a right-brained disposition. The artsy types fanned the flames that their labcoat-donning brothers ignited and some bright spark thought that it would be a neat idea to pair the last of the baggie with the last side of the LP.

LSD was first synthesised in 1938 by Dr Albert Hofmann and was first utilised by the doctor himself in 1943, around the same time that the freaky, long-haired post World War II love children were being brought into the world. Fast forward twenty years and emerging from their baby-boomer caverns and out into the liquid sunshine of California, the new youth spouted liberalised ideals of peace, unity and lots and lots of love, while Lyndon B. was busy shelling vast quantities of Southeast Asia. It was the perfect storm.

“Turn on, tune in, drop out,” Timothy Leary uttered to a gathering of 30,000 hippies in San Francisco in 1967. What a time to be alive. You can picture it now, can’t you? “Light My Fire” by The Doors playing softly through some deftly, but precariously, rigged-up speaker. It would stop momentarily, but not before someone snapped out of their stupor long enough to change it to side one of Sgt. Pepper. A haze of marijuana-odoured smoke billowing constantly, all around, people gazing at a sky going from blue, pink, all the way through to yellow, thousands of like-minded people all consuming the same cultural currency. LSD was allowing people to sympathise with their neighbour and quite often they would find that their neighbour liked to vibe to the same beat. “White Rabbit” neatly squared the thoughts of a generation who had lived through the rise of 1960s counterculture. Grace Slick of the Airplane sings that the “white knight was talking backwards,” a phrase that must have resonated with many who had slipped into the psychedelic bubble of the decade. As the establishment ramped up the heat, the bubble would burst; President Johnson outlawed LSD in 1968. He was too late though, to stop the new-wave beatniks grooving to the poignant “Waterloo Sunset”, the yearning riffs of “Pictures of Matchstick Men” and Daltrey’s repetitive refrain that he could “see for miles and miles and miles.”

The commoner acid-head would die out by the time the draconian cultural regime of the 70s came to power, but not before Woodstock of ‘69 and Carlos Santana’s literal LSD-infused solos and Hendrix’s rendition of “Star-Spangled Banner” had graced the ears of the hundreds of thousands in attendance. Fast forward 20 years, the focus would be on the other side of the Atlantic. The Pills, Thrills and Bellyaches of Madchester and acid house took the same disillusioned, Thatcher-inflicted youth and placed them high on a plateau from which it would be hard to come down. New Order had to transition from Curtis and Sumner and co took an old warehouse in the heart of industrial Manchester and made it into one of the most atmospheric, and illicit, venues ever to grace the British Isles. The Haçienda quickly became the institution for the gurning raver. “When everyone was in the Haçienda, popping pills and that, the whole fucking city was immersed in this music that didn’t make sense to me.”

For once, Liam Gallagher would find himself apart from the masses. They were too busy, intertwined in the ecstasy-fuelled nightlife which was being backed up by the likes of 808 State and The Shamen, whose incessant, melodic basslines would warm the cockles of any pillhead’s jaw. LSD would no doubt compliment the burgeoning scene but it was MDMA which kept the ravers, well, raving. No sound was safe from the boys and girls of “baggy.” The Stone Roses and the Happy Mondays, Messrs Brown and Ryder with their hypnotic and often droning vocals, even managed to charm the electronically orientated crowd over to good old-fashioned guitar-driven indie for just a bit.

Sounds familiar, no? MDMA is here to stay, of that there can be no doubt, but the last refuge of the alternative drunk is fast becoming more scarce, at least here in Glasgow. Sub Club’s entry procedure is more akin to an airport-screening, Flat 0/1 had its roof collapse about a month ago, the Victoria Café is still reeling from the Art School fire and the Arches (sight of a rare appearance from Daft Punk, backed up by Slam) was closed following the death of a young woman in Summer 2015. Perhaps the choice of staying in is more vindicated, but to be left pinging in the house is perhaps not the most ideal of scenarios even for the hardened clubber. Ketamine has become one of the more popular student drugs. In that, we have come full circle. The dissociative has seen more and more turn to the lower and lower registers of something more laid back, psychedelic rock in the form of Pink Floyd or the chilled house sounds of Klangkarussell, Disclosure or Autechre. Thankfully such a club caters to that crowd and it marks a lovely liminal point between centre and West End with Berkeley Suite at Berkeley Street playing disco at their Supermax night and, conversely, having Jackmaster over for a charity-do in June. There’s no emptying of the pockets when you enter, no once-over of the wallet. It’s a welcome sight for those who want to get their freak on.

Whatever you’re taking, wherever you’re going, the possession, sale and use of these drugs mentioned IS still illegal. If you’re reading this, you will already have disregarded that, so do this for us. Test what you take. Know your limits. Don’t become a statistic.