It is distinguished by a high-level of original research, including numerous interviews with key characters and material from previously unresearched government documents. The book is well-referenced throughout, has a interesting 16pp black-and-white photo section, and will prove a useful and reliable source to researchers and historians in many fields.Roberts writes from a counter-culture perspective in a readable non-academic style which makes his book also accessible to the general reader.
The book, he says, was written to redress the balance in what he sees as an American bias in previous LSD historical accounts and to restore 'Britain's status as a major crucible of LSD culture.'
He writes: 'In fact, LSD is a European export to America. The drug was discovered in Switzerland, the British pioneered LSD psychotherapy and military tests, and much of the counter-culture's underlying philosophy stems from British expatriates such as Aldous Huxley and Alan Watts. On a more fundamental level, at certain times, the bulk of the world's LSD was manufactured in Britain.'
The author has provided a useful chapter-by-chapter commentary on the book's contents, reproduced below, to which I have added additional thoughts and comments, based on my close reading of the text.
1. Turn on, Tune in, Drop Out: Introduction
The author refers to several interesting books of which I was previously unaware: 'Psychedelia Britannica' by Tony Melechi, 'Acid' by David Black and Paul Devereux's 'The Long Trip: A Prehistory of Psychedelia.'
2. Hofmann's Potion: Albert Hofmann's discovery and the history of LSD worldwide up to1952. Unusual facts about Hofmann's spiritual life prior to the discovery of LSD. Early distribution to the CIA and other military sources.
Sources the origins of the idea of putting LSD in the water supply to a conversation between
3. LSD: The Cure of Souls?: The coming of LSD to
Centres on the above-mentioned interview with Sandison, who became Consultant Psychiatrist to
Chapter also mentions Frankie Howerd's and Sean Connery's experiences with LSD, introduces Ronnie Laing and Syd Barrett.
4. LSD: A Cure for the Common Cold: LSD experiments by the SIS (MI6) in the early 1950s. Continued experiments by the Ministry of Defence in the 1960s. Links with US intelligence.
The fascinating story of the LSD experiments at Porton Down (1953-54), instituted by MI6, and kept secret until 2002. Volunteers were duped into taking LSD without their informed consent. Lab testing resumed in 1961-62 followed by field trials with troops in 1964 and 1966. In March 1971, Porton Down traced soldiers involved in the '60s tests but the details of these follow-up interview have been lost. A detailed police investigation named Operation Antler into a wide variety of experiments carried at Porton (including the LSD tests) was initiated in 1999: its findings were submitted to the Crown prosecution Service (CSP) who concluded that nobody would face criminal charges. Three LSD test veterans waged their own legal compensation battle and settled out of court with the MOD for a reported £10,000 in February 2006.
5. The Joyous Cosmology: Intellectual precursors of the LSD generation focusing on British ex-pats: Aldous Huxley, Gerald Heard as well as David Solomon, Timothy Leary and co. How the counter-culture's philosophy was formed.
Much of the material on Huxley is well-known including his experiences on mescaline with Dr Humphrey Osmond, who later coined the term 'psychedlic. This led to his book 'The Doors of Perception', a line from William Blake. His first LSD trip was in October 1955. Less well-known characters are Captain Alfred M. Hubbard, credited with turning on 6,000 people to LSD and Michael Hollingshead, who similarly made it his mission to spread LSD widely. Huxley introduced Hollingshead to Timothy Leary, who first tripped out with trumpeter Maynard Ferguson and his wife in December 1961 on acid supplied by Hollingshead, who was also present. American writer David Solomon was literary editor for Playboy in the early '60s and published material by Leary and Osmond. Huxley he described as his 'guru extraordinaire.'
6. The Foggy Ruins of Time: Early recreational use of LSD in
A valuable chapter much of which was new to this reader, particular the central role of Scottish writer Alex Trocchi,
best known for the heroin memoir 'Cain's Book', here revealed as one of the first major importers of LSD into Britain. His flat in Notting Hill Gate was one of five main LSD pads of the time, the others being 101 Cromwell Rd (where Syd Barrett lived for a while and where Jagger, McCartney and Donovan visited), the luxurious residence of antqiue dealer Christopher Gibb in Cheyne Walk, and
7. Strangely Strange, but Oddly Normal: LSD in
1966 was the year when police arrests began in earnest and the national press began infiltrating the scene and publishing banner headline scare stories.Britain's first successful legal prosecution of freelance photographer Roger Lewis for LSD possession resulted in a £25 fine. Michael Hollingshead was sent to prison for 21 months, during which he took acid in Wormwood Scrubs with the Russian spy George Blake, who escaped from prison to
8. Senses Working Overtime: LSD in
Largely concerned with the crossover with LSD and the music scene. Documents the Stones' bust at
9. All You Need is Love?: LSD in
This period saw LSD move from being a consciousness changing substance linked to the movers and shakers of the '60s to a cheap and widely available drug. Emphasises the importance of the 1971 Glastonbury Fayre festival, LSD's infiltration into the squatting movement, continued legal prosecutions and the early roots of the Free Festival movement and what was to become the biggest LSD manufacturing business in British history.
10. Bring What You Expect to Find:LSD and free festivals. How free festivals were focussed on and motivated by LSD.
A useful short history of the Free Festival movement, beginning with Phun City in 1970.
11. The Mind Alchemists: Operation Julie. This chapter analyses the Operation Julie LSD manufacturing and distribution ring. Contains recent information given by one of the main participants.A look at the events leading up to the trial, the trail and its aftermath from a counterculture perspective.
Little to add. Roberts points out that those interested in the fine detail of this story should consult 'Operation Julie' by Dick Lee (the head of the police operation) and Stewart Tendler and David May's 'Brotherhood of Eternal Love.'
12. Coming Down Again: LSD in the 80s and 90s. The rise of rave culture and ecstasy
Begins with Julien Cope of Teardrop Explodes and the Liverpool Club Eric's, the further rise of the Free Festival Movement, its untimely end in 1984 at the Battle of the Beanfield, the rise of the Peace Convoy, the emergence of Ecstasy and the rave culture, the Criminal Justic and Public Order Act 1984, the reemergence of blotter acid and the court case brought by participants in LSD medical experiments in the 1950s and 1960s against the NHS, who eventually paid out £195,000.
13. Revolution in the Head: LSD and the future of drug laws.
At the beginning of the new century, public interest was low, legal cases were small, siezure rates falling. Account of the case of the Brighton-based LSD chemist Casey Hardison, who was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. A two -year investigation funded by the
FATHER OF LSD ALBERT HOFMANN DIES AGE 102
LSD and THE BROTHERHOOD
INSIDE DOPE: OPERATION JULIE REVISITED
What the Dormouse Said: Counter-Culture and Computing