Albion Dreaming: A popular history of LSD in Britain by Andy Roberts.
To misquote Osmond: 'To save the world and soar angelic, just take a pinch of psychedelic.'
Lysergic acid diethylamide-25 is a wonderful, powerful, mysterious (and for some unfortunate trippers, dangerous) compound. In Albion Dreaming Roberts takes the reader on a fascinating voyage from Hoffmann's synthesis of LSD in 1938 and his first trip in 1943 in Switzerland to the first time it was used in Britain. From there, he delves into the various ways researchers used it, for both medical and military purposes, and then goes on to deal with its dissemination amongst certain elements of society at large, the ensuing explosion of consciousness expansion and how it came to change (yes - really) the world, arguably for the better. Roberts tells us how acid influenced artists, musicians, writers, ecologists and those involved in psychology and spirituality and how LSD-inspired imagery has been, and still is, used in art, the music industry, fashion and advertising.
This is backed up by meticulous research (although Leary was a psychologist not a psychiatrist as pointed out in another review), interviews with many of the key players and is skilfully set within the context of British culture and politics over the past six decades.
He investigates acid-related conspiracy theories involving the CIA and the British Establishment, the free festival era, the motivations of chemists and distributors and many other psychedelic topics. We are introduced to acid’s proponents and its detractors (this latter category being, principally, the gutter press with its witch-hunt that, hilariously, turned tens of thousands on to its use and, tragically, persuaded the Establishment to make it illegal). Happily, after becoming outlawed, acid continued to thrive, returning to the streets in greater quantities than when it was legal, flooding the country and providing the basis for a robust counterculture that exists to this day.
Albion Dreaming is an intelligent, entertaining, enlightening and thoroughly enjoyable read, packed with interesting facts and anecdotes. Possibly because Roberts adopts a serious tone in which to deliver this ‘popular history of LSD’, his droll wit and dry humour appear all the more pronounced, especially when it seems the facts before him are so ridiculous that they surprise him (and his readers) into laughter!
After many largely unsuccessful attempts to wipe LSD from the face of the land, the jackboot of the Establishment finally came down bearing the name ‘Operation Julie’, its purpose being to eradicate LSD manufacture and distribution in Britain. Roberts deals with this story in some depth and it is fascinating. (I recommend reading Leaf Fielding’s To Live Outside the Law: Caught by Operation Julie, Britain’s Biggest Drugs Bust and Lyn Ebenezer’s Operation Julie: The World’s Greatest LSD Bust in conjunction with this account.) Questions are raised. What comes over strongly is the overwhelming ignorance of the Establishment, the police, the press and the judiciary. It makes a chilling contrast with what appears to be a tacit tolerance for dealers and gangs involved in the proliferation of ‘hard’ drugs such as heroin and crack. Could this be because acid experiences encourage the tripper to question everything, the social order, the ‘Flour Grader’ culture, maybe turn their backs on it? Or is it because the black economy of hard drugs eventually filters billions of pounds back into the white economy? One thing’s certain: cocaine hydrochloride and diacetylmorphine don’t challenge the status quo.
This is not an academic work - the clue’s in the subtitle - but it contains enough good juice to satisfy the discerning reader. The fact that Andy Roberts is firmly on the pro-acid side of the fence is a plus. I floated through the pages of Albion Dreaming, identifying the points where the unfolding story of LSD in England touched my own life (see Trippers) and was moved by it.
Viene la Tormenta (Comes the Storm) by S C Thompson.
This is the story of two misfit climbers who wandered off the map in the vast, lonely reaches of the Canyonlands of Utah when adventure and the Unknown still held sway.
This is also the story of a long and deep friendship. It’s 1988 and Terry Lockton and his pal, Henry ‘Hacksaw’ Montgomery, are in the final stages of a climbing expedition that could be their swan-song as a team.
Throughout their journey, both friends know that it’s Terry’s crunch-time for making life-changing decisions, weighing personal responsibilities against personal dreams and the meaning of freedom. Both men know sacrifices are inevitable. Hacksaw wants to help Terry make the right decision but how far will he go to ensure an outcome that Terry’s wife, Susan and their kids will be happy with? Which path will Terry take?
Viene La Tormenta is the vivid account of an adventure that takes in hair raising climbs and colorful situations; an adventure that leads relentlessly towards its inexorable resolution...
This tale opens with Hacksaw and Terry (the actual characters in Viene La Tormenta) most of the way through their ‘last gasp’ four-month road trip, on their way to Indian Creek, Utah, for possibly their one final climb together. On the way they have a strange encounter, plunging the reader into what feels like a blend of Freak Brothers meet Carlos Castaneda's Don Juan - but things aren’t exactly what they seem...
A poignant, mystical and gritty: and very moving tale of two free spirits and how they deal with some serious soul-searching amid the beautiful desert and mountain landscape and the moods of the weather.
This is the original Alternative Great American Story and there is Truth, Beauty, Loss, Triumph and a great heart to be found in these pages. I enjoyed spending time with these guys, in their world. Superb.