I love a good bit of colour, nature, music, festivals, a relaxed ambience and a quirky sense of mismatched style – this is why I am very keen on the Hippie Era.
The Hippie Era began in 1966 in San Francisco. It was a response to Lynsey Johnson’s presidency, between the years 1963 to 1968, where she brought domestic progress but also growth of the war in Vietnam. The bombing and violence caused the youth of America to flee to San Francisco to escape from the violence and political system. They did not move to rebuild or even change society they just wanted to escape from it all. Become part of a whole different world of love, peace, and flower power. And with a little help from drugs like LSD, the job became a lot easier.
Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD) is originated from an ergot fungus, discovered in 1968 by a Swiss chemist Dr Albert Hofman and his colleague Dr W. A. Kroll. Five years later, Hofman somehow accidently took some LSD and this was the first time anybody had had an acid trip.
LSD captured a number of scientists’ attention and began experimenting with the drug to help treat illnesses such as schizophrenia, sexual disorders and criminal rehabilitation.
LSD is colourless, tasteless and odourless. It usually comes soaked in blotters and squares or sheets of paper decorated with quirky designs (strawberries sunflowers, rockets). The drug effect is described as a ‘trip’ as it can last up to 8 to12 hours. It alters and expands consciousness and with a high dose it can completely wipe out the outside world with a new colourful one. You become more aware of things (visual, auditory, sensory and emotional) normally unnoticed in the real world. Intricate details on surfaces, richness of sounds, vibrancy of colour and the thoughts in your mind become distorted and exaggerated. Things can overlap and merge until you can actually see sounds and smell colours as if you have synaesthesia. However, it is not always all good. People can sometimes experience a ‘bad trip’ where the high can turn frightening and traumatic. It can be caused by the environment you are in, the mood you are in and the overwhelming feeling of the drug’s power. LSD is actually not at all addictive. It is not physically addictive and not a drug you want to do immediately again. However it can be psychologically addictive like if someone wants to escape reality.
“To fathom Hell or soar angelic, just take a pinch of psychedelic.” – Humprey Osmond
LSD is a mind-altering drug which can cause ‘psychedelic’ effects. ‘Psychedelic’ usually means ‘generating hallucinations’ and relates to distortions of perception. The first time it was used was in a letter written to Aldous Huxley (1956) from the British Psychiatrist Humphrey Osmand, who was experimenting with the drug to find a cure for mental illnesses like schizophrenia. Osmand first spelt the word ‘psychodelic’ but later changed it to ‘psychedelic’ to get rid of the ‘psycho’ connotations it possessed. Two of the main artists who convey psychedelia and their influence of LSD are Andy Warhol and Yayoi Kusama.
This piece by Andy Warhol was the cover for the 1967 Velvet Underground’s album. I think it is visually intriguing and ambiguous as it is simply an ordinary yellow banana. However at the top of the banana there are printed instructions for viewers ‘peel slowly and see’, which revealed a flesh coloured banana inside. I believe this immediately stirred art critiques as well as the general public due to it’s dirty sexual connotations. What a dirty genius.
Marilyn Monroe, 1962.
Warhol created many paintings of Marilyn Monroe after her suicide in 1962. He used a photograph from her film, Niagara. He wanted to mass produce this painting by using the technique called silk screen, involving enlarging and transferring a photo on to silk. Warhol admired Marilyn Monroe as a star and was fascinated by her beauty. He portrayed Monroe as not only gorgeous, but dark and mysterious.
Psychedelic art tries to imitate, introduce, inspire, and convey the effects of the psychedelic experience. It tries to portray a true reflection of the fantasy world whilst experiencing an acid trip. However it is never easy to capture the drug journey in either words or images.
“Like hallucination or dissociative phenomena… But don’t you see? – The visual stuff was just the décor with LSD… The whole thing was… the experience… this certain indescribable feeling” – Tom Wolfe
It was under the Hippie’s two concert venues in San Francisco, the Fillmore and the Avalon Ballroom, where the psychedelic poster art was born. The posters were designed by numerous major artists, the famous five nicknamed: Wes Wilson, Victor Moscoso, Rick Griffin, Alton Kelley and Stanley Mouse.
Between 1966 and 1971, they designed posters to advertise concert groups like the Grateful Dead, the Charlatans, the 13th Floor Elevators, the Doors, the Velvet Underground, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Pink Floyd, and many others.
(Left: Wes Wilson; Right: Victor Moscoso)
‘Rain’ by The Beatles (1966) was the first psychedelic track as it captures the vibrant lucidity of an LSD experience. The heaviness and sonic presence of the track can appear to those under the drug’s influence. It explores LSD-influenced feelings of detatchment of the real world.
“Can you hear me, that when it rains and shines/ It’s just a state of mind?/Can you hear me? Can you hear me?”
John Lennon: ‘When I’m in the middle of a dream/ Stay in bed, float upstream… Please don’t wake me… I’m only sleeping’. Written in a time when Lennon was tripping daily and his sense of self had virtually melted away.
‘A day in the Life’ by The Beatles was first banned from the BBC due to it’s drug references “I’d love to turn you on” which suggests the use of psychedelic drugs. “Found my way upstairs and had a smoke/ somebody spoke and I went into a dream” these lyrics also allegedy refer to drug use, smoking marijuana and going into a high.