Rock and Roll on Drugs
This paper is being prepared for The History of Rock And Roll, MUS210, taught by Dr. Brack May. Abstract
Throughout all of history people have been using and experimenting with drugs especially artists and musicians. Numerious musician have reluctantly admitted to or actually proclaimed their use of drugs. The general conscious of these “artists” is that their drug use has unlocked a higher level of creativity. As trendsetters and role models this use of drugs was emulated by audiences across the United States and Great Britain. To such a point as references to mind altering drugs were appearing in Beats poems and essays and even protest songs of the middle 1950s. As music progressed through the year’s drug use (by artists and fans) and references became more mainstream. This paper will look at two specific band, The Beatles and the Grateful Dead.
Rock and Roll on Drugs
Drug use and music have been intertwined for many years. This use whether illegal or legal has had both positive and negative impacts on the artists and their success. While the creative juices may be flowing while under the influence of drugs the final outcome (maybe years down the road) almost always ends on a negative note. Even dating back to 1830 when Hector Berlioz wrote his most famous work “Symphonie Fantastique” he detailed the effects of an opium induced dream, specifically in the fourth movement. In an interview on June 16, 1967, Paul McCartney was asked if he ever took drugs, he said “After I took it (LSD), it opened my eyes. We only use one-tenth of our brain. Just think what we could accomplish if we could only tap that hidden part. It would mean a whole new world." (Spangler, 1967) During the late 1960s there was a counterculture, teens of the day were disillusioned with society, the Vietnam War and the assassinations of John F Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Robert F Kennedy. To deal with these realities they turned to drugs that got progressively stronger. This was all intertwined with the Psychedelic era of rock and roll. Two bands in particular were at the apex of this era, The Beatles and The Grateful Dead. The Beatles
One of the clearest examples of music influenced by drugs would have to be the Beatles. As stated earlier Paul McCartney admitted to using LSD, but this was not the only drug that the band experimented with. It is documented that their drug use started with Benzedrine, before they were famous. Royston Ellis, a Beat poet showed them that the drug could be found in a disassembled Vick’s inhaler. According to Lennon, "everyone thought, 'Wow! What's this?' and talked their mouths off for a night." (Beatles Bible) While playing in the all night bars of Hamburg they were then introduced to Preludin an Amphetamine based German diet pill. John Lennon is quoted as saying “You'd take the pill, you'd be talking, you'd sober up, you could work almost endlessly - until the pill wore off, then you'd have to have another.” The band also tried Cannabis or Marijuana several time in the early sixties but they really got turned on to it by Bob Dylan on August 28, 1964. When Dylan met the Beatles in their room his was shocked when they told him that they had never smoked marijuana before. Dylan went on to misquote the lyrics to “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” as “when I touch you I get high, I get high..." instead of 'I can't hide, I can't hide, I can't hide...”. (Beatles Bible) After smoking several joints Paul McCartney exclaimed, I am “thinking for the first time, really thinking” and instructed their road manger to follow him and write down all of his ideas. The use of Cannabis was evident in several early songs, like “Got to get you into my life” (ode to cannabis), “With a little help from my Friends” and “She’s a Woman” In the spring of 1965, John Riley slipped LSD to John, his wife, George and his girlfriend for their first experience. Riley’s plans...
References: Lombardi, M. (2011, January 1). History of Music on Drugs. Rock World Magazine. Retrieved August 1, 2014, from http://www.rockworldmagazine.com/history-of-music-on-drugs/
Spangler, J. (1967, June 19). Paul McCartney Interview: LSD and Journalism 6/19/1967 - Beatles Interviews Database. Retrieved August 13, 2014, from http://www.beatlesinterviews.org/db1967.0619.beatles.html
The Beatles and drugs | The Beatles Bible. (n.d.). Retrieved August 10, 2014, from http://www.beatlesbible.com/features/drugs/
Dahl, H. (2012, January 1). The Continuous Trip. An Essay on Deadheads. Retrieved August 10, 2014, from http://www.theoaktreereview.com/deadheads.html
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