Drugs and Rock and Roll
Beginning with the late 1960’s counterculture in San Francisco, music and drugs will forever be inter-linked. Hippie bands such as the Grateful Dead, the Allman Brothers, and Phish are associated with marijuana, mushrooms, and LSD. Modern electronic “rave” , or club music is associated with MDMA or Ecstasy. When one thinks of rock and roll, sex and drugs immediately come to mind. While the use of drugs is not essential for the creation or performance of all new music, it was certainly in important factor for the counterculture music of the late 1960’s. While some of the most important and influential music was made with the help of psychoactive drugs, it was often to the detriment of the artist. Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, and countless other tremendously talented artists had their lives cut short due to drug use. Drugs were most often good for the music, but deadly for the music makers.
The general mindset of the 1960’s San Francisco scene is well summarized by Reebee Garafalo in his book Rockin’ Out: Popular Music in the USA when he states: “For the counterculture, the focus on mind-expanding drugs seemed to offer the possibility of greater self-awareness and consciousness, which would in turn lead to a world without war, competition, or regimentation.” The concept of expanding the mind in order to achieve a peaceful, utopian world naturally lends itself to the consumption of drugs. The image of half naked, marijuana smoking hippies dancing around in the park comes to mind when one thinks of the late 60’s Haight-Ashbury scene. Drugs help tremendously in creating an altered state, making one oblivious to the outside world. A great deal of the music was preaching peace, love, and harmony. Drugs made it feel real. When on drugs, everything feels and seems peaceful and utopian, so naturally drugs were incorporated into the experience.
Psychedelics, and drugs in general became such an important part of life during the 60’s that it’s influence was inescapable. Nowhere can this fact be seen more clearly than in the music of the time. The most obvious influence drugs had on music can bee seen in the lyrics. Drug references abound, be it Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” of marijuana smoke, or the Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”, obviously referring to LSD. Even the names of the bands were drug inspired, as Garofalo points out in reference to the Doors: “The group took it’s name from Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception, a book about the liberating aspects of drug...